Webinar presenter Kevin Morison answered a number of your questions after his presentation, "The Revolution in Emergency Communications." Here are a few of his responses.
Audience Question: Going back to the very beginning of your presentation, does this scenario include text to 911 being received?
Kevin Morison: It didn't. You know, again, you don't really compare traditional phone call to a smart camera, in effect, initiating a call. I think, an in-between maybe, between a text to 911, a bystander to that incident, being able to surreptitiously text and say, "Whoa, if I go on here, now, of course, I create a lot of issues”. And in fact, as we heard from people who have implemented text to 911, really saying is it all possible maybe using text to initiate that call but then transfer that over to a voice communication because the telecommunicators out there will know and the police and the first responders. The call taker can ask questions and get feedback and run through the scenario a lot more quickly. The text really works in a lot of situations where individuals can't you know easily speak or they don't want somebody to see that they're calling 911. But a text could speed that up. But text could be a supplemental, in the second part of the scenario with additional information coming in. That's really the first step in NG911as text 911 I think we're saying more institutes taking that on and that's where we'll see a lot of development in the coming days and weeks.
Audience Question: This would be a great presentation for the national chiefs of police. Do you share your findings, does PERF, how does PERF disseminate its data to other organizations? For example, like Justice Clearinghouse? How do you share the great results that you come up with?
Kevin Morison: We're actually kind of old school. We are asked to put out results on our website and all the more available out there policeforum.org. But we also, we're kind of old school and we actually print out reports and mail them out to all of our members, so, that is twenty-eight, twenty-nine hundred people. We also work with traditional and emerging media outlets like yours to get the word out. The idea of making a presentation at a some of our meetings and other national police meetings is a great idea too, take that under advisement.
Audience Question: Next question, will agencies need to purchase a new CAD system, Computer Aided Dispatch, to be able to benefit or use FirstNet?
Kevin Morison: That's an interesting question and one that is little outside my knowledge. I think the answer is not necessarily, but there may be, depending on what CAD system agencies have now. There may be benefits to upgrading their CAD to be compatible with NG911 and FirstNet, but I really don't know the answer to that and don't want to seem I do and mislead folks on that.
Audience Question: Will FirstNet use standardized interfaces currently being developed by NENA to talk to NG911 agencies?
Kevin Morison: My understanding is yes, and in fact, the point of the authorizing legislation for FirstNet requires that it be integrated with NG911. Again, the whole of the technical details of the standard settings is a little outside my particular expertise, but, generally, yes. The mandate to FirstNet is that they will, in fact, seamlessly integrate with NG911 systems that are being developed.
Audience Question: You talk about that there are certain agencies that are taking the lead, moving forward in terms of adopting NG911 and FirstNet, etc. Do you have any examples of agencies who are doing this exceptionally well, and maybe case studies, places where other agencies that kind of look to and say, "Okay, what are they doing well? What are they doing right? How can we learn from these agencies?"
Kevin Morison: An interesting question because one of the follow-up activities, and we often do this with our reports, we do research, we convene meetings, we issue reports, and then we look and say, how did we help the field move forward. So, one of the things that we're looking to do in the not too distant future is develop some of the case studies and experiences and lessons learned from some of the earlier adopters of FirstNet. And share those with the profession, so, part of the answer is stay tuned. But there are a few examples. For example, there is a county in Texas called Brazos County which has adopted FirstNet. One of the things that there are really focusing on is video transmission. Transmission of videos from body-worn cameras and dash cameras to command centers so that they have good information and pushing that same information out to other people so everyone could be visually looking at what they're doing. So, that is one example of an agency that really moved forward. One other interesting thing that's FirstNet is doing, and there are some interesting case studies around this, is they have a whole program of deployable… I'm blanking out on this, they are basically satellite trucks, they will drop into major events. The Fourth of July celebrations here in Washington DC, I spoke earlier of how we specialize in major events. For that major event they brought in some of their deployables, issued first-aid-enabled devices to members of the Metropolitan Police Department, US Port Police, and I believe DC Fire-EMS, and allowed them to communicate to the network during that big event. What we're looking to do is to document more of those case studies, both how are agencies are using this for their everyday policing and public safety, because you want to look at Fire and EMS as well. But also, how these systems, especially FirstNet's deployable program is supporting these major events like natural disasters, or Fourth of July celebrations in Washington DC, and the like.
Moderator Comment: John just shared with us, he thinks the phrase you're looking for is COWs, cells on wheels?
Kevin Morison: Yes, COWs is one. And SAT pulse, I think is the other one.
Audience Question: Is there any technology being created or updated to accurately, quickly, pinpoint somebody calling from a cell phone? Is that still on your bailiwick?
Kevin Morison: Cellphone location has been an issue. Especially the move towards, we saw on that one graphic how the vast majority of calls to 911 are now via cell. That's something that's been perplexing the public safety. I think to the public to, because we can sit there and order a right-sharing car and they know exactly where we are, and yet the pinpoint technology for location hasn't been there. That's certainly being worked on and what we've heard was recently too. The new realm in that is not just XY coordinates where you add a particular location but then as they call it, Z coordination. So, right now I'm in 1120 Connecticut Avenue in Suite 930, the developing technology in the future will be able to say, not only am I in 1120 Connecticut Avenue North West but also, I'm in the 9th floor in Suite 930. That's a major focus in development. It's basically, I don't want to say basically here, but it's very close to solving that issue which has been around for a while.
Audience Question: You talked about training needs. What are some of the most important additional training needs that agencies are going to need when they are moving to these new platforms, either NextGen technologies or FirstNet?
Kevin Morison: Number one, multitasking — being able to handle and vet different types of data. A range of things. I'm trying to look through the report and see. We did have a whole section on training and workforce issues. Sort of handling big data, analytic problem solving, I think the idea is more than receiving and transmitting information. I realize it's more than that right now, and people are engaged with callers there. They're thinking through what's the next question I need to ask. But when you combine all of that, potentially with new sets of information, "The caller's told me this, and I'm seeing this, how do I combine that together to pass on a more complete package to the first responders?". So, I think its training technically on how to manipulate those sorts of systems and how to problem solve and aggregate and do those sorts of things as well. I think the job is going to be more complex, and it's probably going to change as well. That was one of the messages from our meeting.
Audience Question: Given your potential for additional information, are there suggestions how agencies can avoid information overload?
Kevin Morison: That was really a big topic of discussion at the meeting. I think it's an incredibly difficult challenge. Again, when you consider something happens and how many people are taking videos or photos of that incident. That's why I think you may see agencies look to divert that type of information away from their traditional 911 centers and maybe move that more toward a real-time crime center, and there are a lot of examples of this. One that comes to mind is Camden County, New Jersey. For those of you who are not familiar with Camden County, it's across the Delaware River from Philadelphia. A relatively small, but traditionally very high crime community, although their crime numbers have come down substantially. They have a very robust, real-time, crime center. Actually, President Obama visited a couple of years ago and highlighted it. They're drawing it in already. Camera feeds from private and public cameras located around the city and other sources of information. And there was a lot of discussion in our meeting that maybe that's where new streams of information will go because they already have some of the capacity to do that, they have some of the people who know how to do that and perhaps in the better position to integrate that. But the issue of overload is huge and that's clearly something agencies have to figure out. I wish I had an easy answer for that. It's true with the 911 calls now, you don't want to discourage people from calling 911. There are famous examples of times when things have happened and no one called, expecting everyone else to call. But at the same time, the potential for agencies and PSAPs, in particular, being overloaded is great. One of those issues that need to be figured out.
Audience Question: Will the new technology platforms create a need for more dispatchers and call-takers, or will it be the reverse?
Kevin Morison: That's an interesting question. I think it will require more personnel, perhaps different personnel as well. That's one of the messages we heard. I don't want to suggest that voice communication and call-takers, and dispatchers, and land mobile radios are going to go away, they're not. Guessing that as more information comes in, we're going to need more people to process that and maybe different skill sets, different types of people, people located in different locations and integrating all of those will be a big challenge as well. One of the issues we heard, and my hope is that this may come from this whole discussion, is the role, the stature of telecommunicators. I said earlier said that they are often referred to as the first of the first responders, and they really are. When people witness something or need help, they are not calling the police officers, the firefighters, the emergency medical service person, directly. They're calling that call-taker and then transfer that over to the dispatcher and what we heard in our meeting is that traditionally, our telecommunicators have perhaps not been treated with the respect they should in terms of their role and the part they play. The pay probably isn't great, dealing with issues of stress on the job. Regardless of how things play out in the whole NG911 environment I think one important thing is agencies really ought to be looking at their telecommunicators and boosting their role and their stature within the public safety ecosystem, because they play a critical role and the role ought to be acknowledged and pull up their pay grade, and their pay, and their benefits, and things like that. That's my editorial comment for the day.
Click Here to Watch a Recording of "The Revolution in Emergency Communications."