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Mission Critical Partners jumpstarts industrywide effort to address swatting challenge

John Chiaramonte, MCP’s consulting president, leads virtual meeting of public-safety experts to strategize how to combat dangerous and wasteful practice of placing fake 911 calls to elicit an emergency response

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Mission Critical Partners


STATE COLLEGE, Pa. — Mission Critical Partners (MCP) recently gathered public-safety experts at the federal, state, and local levels, as well as representatives of major industry associations, in a virtual setting to strategize best practices for combatting “swatting,” which involves placing a fake 911 call with the hope of eliciting an emergency response.

The virtual meeting is the first step toward an upcoming master class spearheaded by MCP that will involve a cross-section of public safety officials regarding how to identify and mitigate swatting incidents when they occur. With a date and time yet to be determined, the master class will educate emergency-response agencies and their personnel — particularly law enforcement and 911 — regarding how to identify and mitigate swatting incidents when they occur.

The term “swatting” stems from SWAT (special weapons and tactics), a response element of law-enforcement agencies. The fake emergency call often is designed to generate a SWAT team response, for example an active-shooter incident at a school, a bomb threat at an airport, or a hostage situation at a home or office building.

Swatting has been occurring for more than a decade. No reliable data exists to pinpoint how many swatting incidents occur each year, but it is estimated that the total runs into several thousands. Every time a swatting incident occurs, precious emergency-response resources are squandered, and personnel are placed at unnecessary risk.

“This problem needs to be solved because it will only get worse if it isn’t,” says John Chiaramonte, president of MCP’s consulting division and a former first responder.

Potential best practices that were discussed in the virtual meeting included:

Swatting specific-training — Hands-on training based on real-world scenarios would enable 911 telecommunicators to recognize specific clues and determine whether an emergency call is legitimate. Some of these clues include the following:

  • An emergency call — especially one involving a major incident, such as an active-shooter incident — placed on a non-emergency administrative line or by dialing 311.
  • Inconsistencies with the reported incident, mispronunciations of street names, and/or the presence (or lack of) background noises.
  • A major incident, such as one with multiple casualties — that is reported only by a single caller, which would be extremely unusual.
  • An emergency call whereby the caller uses technology to mask their telephone number or voice, a tactic known as “spoofing.”

Improved recognition of swatting calls by telecommunicators would enhance their ability to provide emergency-response agencies with increased situational awareness that would help them make better-informed decisions regarding the type of response they provide. Swatting-specific training, including tabletop exercises, would be a step in the right direction.

Stronger legislation that provides stiffer punishments for those convicted of swatting — Some states have enacted laws that criminalize swatting and at least four — Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Wisconsin — have made swatting a felony if someone is injured or killed as a result. But most states have no such laws. Federal legislation to this effect would still be better, eliminating any inconsistencies that might exist in state laws as they develop — but the last four Congresses have failed to enact such a law.

Universally accepted standard operating procedures and protocols — Large jurisdictions might get hundreds, even thousands of swatting calls in a year, which provides invaluable experience in dealing with them. Still, small jurisdictions might only receive a couple. Universally accepted standard operating procedures and protocols not only would engender a consistent approach from coast to coast regarding swatting, but also would help smaller agencies immediately know what to do if they encounter one.

Leveraging artificial intelligence — It is intuitive to think that artificial intelligence can be used to flag swatting calls via emotion and speech analytics and analyze large amounts of data. Many email systems today flag suspicious emails with a warning; similarly, 911 telecommunicators could leverage enhanced caller-interrogation techniques if they are alerted to a potential swatting call.

Next steps include planning and scheduling the master class, which will be done via a collaborative process. “We need an industrywide, holistic approach to identifying, mitigating and, better still, preventing swatting incidents,” Chiaramonte said.

For more information on MCP’s upcoming master class, click here.

About Mission Critical Partners (MCP)

Mission Critical Partners (MCP) is a leading provider of data integration, consulting, network, and cybersecurity solutions specializing in transforming mission-critical communications networks into integrated ecosystems that improve outcomes in the public safety, justice, healthcare, transportation, and utility markets. Our comprehensive experience and vendor-agnostic approach helps us develop modernized solutions for our clients to maximize value and create optimal efficiency while mitigating risk. Additional information and career opportunities are available at