This article originally appeared in the Police1 Digital Edition “Empowering Law Enforcement through Data Sharing.” Download the full edition here for strategies to improve investigations and ensure successful prosecutions.
The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated digital transformation – and smartphones and apps suddenly went from being novel to essential.
Now there is no going back. From video calling and streaming apps to delivery notification texts to fitness trackers, these new technologies have brought tremendous benefits to people’s lives. Even in an emergency context – if a smartwatch wearer took a hard fall and became nonresponsive, for instance – the smartwatch could reach out to emergency services with not only the wearer’s exact GPS location, but also their health history, vital signs and emergency contacts stored on their device.
The public expects these modern conveniences to be available to first responders as easily as they are to delivery drivers. However, many 911 centers do not have this technology readily available.
So, when a person needs a police officer, an ambulance or fire truck to respond to an incident that is literally off the beaten path – in the middle of a large campus with a single street address, for example – it can be a challenge to find the precise location without the aid of tools and apps that bridge the gap between analog technology and digital devices.
But what if your CAD system could harness the power of a smartphone in the hands of a consumer to inform emergency response? What if emergency responders could locate a person in need based on location data from the caller’s phone rather than an address? What if, instead of trying to describe an accident or fire, a good Samaritan was able to share video so emergency responders could distinguish a fender bender from a major accident, or a flame from an inferno?
Integrating CAD systems like Tyler Technologies’ Enterprise CAD with technologies like RapidSOS and ECaaS (Emergency Communications as a Service) by Carbyne enables PSAPs and 911 telecommunicators to do just that. These integrated platforms add capabilities like video, voice, messaging and real-time location to existing CAD platforms, giving dispatch the ability to connect callers directly to first responders in the field.
ENHANCED CAD IN ACTION
“Imagine a telecommunicator talking to a 911 caller who says, ‘I see flames,’” said Duane Kietzman, senior manager of product for Tyler Technologies. “The telecommunicator [TC] asks questions like, ‘Are they on the fifth story, the sixth story, the seventh story? Is there smoke? Is the smoke white? Is it black? Do you hear fire alarms?’ What if, instead, the TC could just say, ‘Can you just share a video?’”
That way, instead of critical communications going through the telecommunicator, the battalion chief in the field – someone who knows fire and fire dynamics – can look at the video live and do the fire size-up report, Kietzman explains. Knowing the size, nature, location and severity of the fire will inform what personnel and resources are deployed to combat it.
Getting that information into dispatch and out again quickly to the right people can also cut down on time needed for back-and-forth communications. It also helps avoid the sharing of misinformation from a perhaps well-intentioned but uninformed caller who may have mistaken a methane burn-off for a factory fire. Very different responses would be required, so having correct information from the initial call will lead to a faster, more appropriate response.
What if a person is in danger and lost in the woods? This real-life situation happened in the deep woods near Paducah, Kentucky. When a hunter became trapped in an unstable tree stand, with no ability to get down safely and no idea of his exact location, he called 911. Fortunately, a telecommunicator with Paducah Central Dispatch was able to pinpoint the lost hunter’s location using Tyler’s Enterprise CAD integrated with RapidSOS.
The dispatcher used the GPS in the caller’s device to send automatic real-time location updates to first responders in the field. This location data guided the rescue crew through fields, across a creek and deep into the tree line, where they located the stranded hunter and navigated in equipment for the rescue.
THE PROBLEM WITH TOO MUCH DATA
The volume of data in the world is growing exponentially, giving first responders an unprecedented amount on which to base decisions. But it’s also a problem in determining which pieces of data are impactful and which are noise. The challenge then becomes to surface the most critical data points relevant to the response, while filtering out data that is not only unnecessary but can actually impede a response.
“How do we make sure that the data coming in is really useful in the situations it’s being pulled in on?” asked Kietzman. “How do we take certain bits of data and elevate those above all the other noise?”
This is a problem that Tyler Technologies and its technology partners are seeking to remedy.
CONNECTING DISPARATE DATA DIRECTLY TO RESPONDERS
To illustrate this, Kietzman uses the example of a rollover crash. Many new vehicles have built-in telematics that sense driving information like location, speed, direction of travel, engine information like temperature and oil pressure, and seat sensors that can tell where a passenger is seated and whether they are wearing a seat belt. Some vehicles have automatic crash response systems that send location and critical crash details directly from the vehicle’s telematics to emergency services.
“In these events, the telecommunicators have 30 or 40 seconds of talking with the caller. They don’t have a lot of time to read information like a VIN,” said Kietzman. “But with computer systems, this data can just flow through and now all of a sudden, immediately once an event happens, a responder is dispatched and they have the vehicle information within seconds. They know more than they ever could have about the situation.”
In a rollover crash, some – but not all – of this information can be vital to emergency responders. What was the speed of travel when the vehicle rolled over? Did it collide with another vehicle or object? How many occupants were there and where were they seated? Were they wearing seat belts? This type of information can help emergency responders during the incident response to determine if there was likely a passenger sitting in the crushed back seat or thrown from the vehicle.
“There are about 250 fields of data that come in from a vehicle crash,” said Kietzman. “Sending that out to a first responder is just overwhelming. It’s too much data. But the telecommunicator can easily take priority information and, with a very simple copy and paste, disseminate it out to the first responder.”
TALKING CAD TO CAD
Having a plethora of relevant data come into the first responder is already a tremendous benefit. Even better is the ability to have CAD systems transfer critical data directly to other CAD systems – whether of a neighboring jurisdiction or a private EMS agency.
“We offer fully functional CAD-to-CAD data integration so, for instance, neighboring police departments can share information,” said Kietzman. “You may have a crash that occurs at an intersection at the border of two separate counties. So, you may have both counties responding to that same event, or the call may come into one county and you realize it actually occurred on the east side of the intersection versus the west side, which means it’s actually their responsibility to deal with it.”
Instead of having to transfer the caller to the neighboring jurisdiction – requiring the caller to repeat the entire story – a CAD-to-CAD solution will transfer the CAD data as well as the voice call, saving time and effort while imparting critical information.
In addition to helping the telecommunicator transfer data and voice calls to a neighboring jurisdiction, having that CAD data at hand gives responding officers additional information like estimated ambulance arrival times. Any data about the incident can also be transferred from the responding agency directly to a neighboring agency or private EMS without the need to waste precious moments of time to repeat critical information, like whether CPR was administered and for how long.
Later, during the accident investigation, other data from the vehicle sensors can be valuable in determining what happened and who might be liable. But during the incident response – when seconds count – this extra data needs to be able to be suppressed under more pressing data needs.
DATA IS EVOLVING EMERGENCY RESPONSE
Whether harnessing real-time location information from the device itself, being able to receive information from the public via text, voice messaging or livestreaming video, receiving alerts from connected devices like crash sensors and smoke detectors, or having a CAD system transfer data to another CAD system, the opportunity to use data to inform emergency responses in real time has never been greater.
“Through CAD integrations with powerful platforms like RapidSOS and ECaaS, we are starting to enable that ability to share information, to share data directly from an individual or even a connected device in the field to first responders,” said Kietzman. “We’re putting a lot of investment into trying to make it happen because it really can help improve outcomes, save lives and make things better for responders and the public alike.”