APCO Public Safety Broadband Summit: Delivering Actionable Incident Information to Field Responders

Image: Rick Schadelbauer

Developing NG911-capable applications that deliver actionable incident information to field responders requires cooperation between developers and the first responder community.

ARLINGTON, VIRGINIA — Next generation 911 (NG911) holds tremendous potential to enhance emergency responders’ ability to deal quickly and effectively with emergency situations. The challenge, however, will be ensuring that emergency personnel in the field are not overwhelmed with data.

NG911 will allow for the transmission of text, images, video and other types of data in addition to traditional voice calls. It will ultimately fall upon application developers to enable first responders to utilize these new capabilities to their best advantage by filtering out data that is not useful or actionable.

At APCO International’s Public Safety Broadband Summit, a panel of technology experts addressed the challenges inherent to delivering actionable incident information to first responders in the field, particularly in the NG911 environment.

Memorable Quotes

Here are some memorable quotes from the panel discussion:

“The technological capabilities of the average consumer’s handset are miles ahead of that available to the first responder in the field. We need to leverage smart phone capabilities for first responders.” – Stephen Okano, Chief Technology Officer, Mark43

“Our challenge is creating standardized apps that don’t create a drain on the 911 system.” – Charles Werner, Chair, National Council on Public Safety UAS

We like to know what users think. We can provide what we think is good, but it’s got to be driven by users and their needs.” – Randy Richmond, Standards and Regulatory Specialist, Zetron

“It’s a fine line between useful data and information overload. The challenge is distinguishing between what’s possible and what’s useful.” – Jay English, Chief Technology Officer, APCO International

3 Key Takeaways

Panelists shared some key takeaways about the challenges inherent to getting actionable information into the hands of first responders as technology continues to evolve.

#1 An influx of data in the NG911 environment must be managed.

NG911 will dramatically increase the quantity and types of data received at emergency call centers. Not only will this input come from impacted individuals at incident sites, but artificial intelligence will enable additional input from sensors and other non-human sources.

Given the need for speed and accuracy in emergency response, it will be critically important that emergency call centers (ECCs) not waste time discerning what information is important versus what is redundant or not actionable. The ability to make these determinations is one of the most important challenges that applications developers currently face.

#2 NG911 will likely result in changes in the way ECCs are staffed.

In light of the dramatic increase in the quantity of data available to ECC, analysts and geographic information specialists will play an increasingly important role in responding to emergency situations. Working alongside of the public safety telecommunicators, these professionals are specifically trained to interpret the various types of data received at the ECC.

By quickly and accurately assessing the significance of data received at the ECC, analysts will be able to ensure that all information passed along to first responders at an incident is useful, actionable and timely.

#3 Users can — and should — play a critical role in helping developers design systems.

System developers require input from end users to insure that the end product meets their needs. ECCs need to let developers know what problems they face that they would like to have solved, and what their operational expectations might entail.

In turn, the vendors need to provide information to the ECC, such as what future updates will look like, and the developer’s vision of the future. Engaging in an open, two-sided discussion from the very start of the project will go a long way toward ensuring success.

About the Author

Rick Schadelbauer is an Arlington, Virginia, based freelance writer who has spent the past twenty years tracking and writing about technical and economic trends in the telecommunications industry.

Read more about the development of NG911 in our previous coverage:

Calling First Responders: Advise FirstNet Coding Challenge (Tech to Protect)

Attention PSAPs: Test NG911 Readiness & Get Resources

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