9-1-1; What Is Your Emergency?

Friday, May 9, 2014

Challenges of Mobile Alarm Devices

Taken from Public Safety Communications Magazine, August 2010
Written by Kathy McMahon, APCO Technical Services Manager

Devices designed to automatically signal for help have been available for years.  Many of them are programmed to dial a private call center or alarm company that in turn notifies the appropriate PSAP that emergency response is needed.  Some devices dial 9-1-1 directly.  But until recently, these auto-dial devices or alarms primarily reported only a fixed, registered location for the person needing assistance.

The increasing use of wireless phones and developing wireless technologies provide unique opportunities, allowing mobile alarm devices to automatically dial 9-1-1 when activated by a user or an authorized third party.  Prior to opening a voice connection to a caller, many of these devices provide the calltaker with a recorded message indicating a potential emergency.  Calltakers receiving these alarms are presented with an ANI/ALI screen  representative of the wireless Phase 1 or wireless Phase 2 call.  In some cases, direct contact with the individual in need is enabled, and the calltaker can ascertain incident details directly.  In other cases, calltakers receive a recorded message with instructions to contact a private call center for more details.

Applications are also being developed that will notify citizens if a device fixed to a person under their authority moves outside of a specific geographic zone and to enable a wireless device to call 9-1-1 in cases of the theft of high-risk cargo.

Developing applications that increase the probability that an endangered person or high-risk collateral can be found more quickly has the potential to positively affect public safety and decrease the time it takes to resolve such incidents.  However, the ability of PSAPs to effectively react to these notifications is still uncertain.  In cases in which direct contact is made with a victim and details of an emergency are obtained, the challenges are less.  Scenarios in which direct contact isn't possible make it more difficult for a calltaker to determine the best way to respond.  Open-line wireless calls aren't new to 9-1-1, but many have been attributed to accidental dialing.  If a PSAP can't confirm details from a wireless call's open line, the options for identifying and locating the caller are limited.

Implementing mobile alarm device technologies has the potential to significantly increase the number of calls in which PSAPs won't have direct contact with callers.  These challenges are coupled with the fact that wireless technologies don't offer pinpoint location accuracy for these devices.  The extended amount of time it takes to manage these calls can affect the PSAPs calltaking capability and answering time efficiency.

In addition, marketing for mobile alarm devices, if not executed carefully, could mislead customers into believing that help will be on the way once their device is activated -- even if they are unable to provide further details.  Technologies that require PSAPs to contact a third-party call center for more information require additional steps by the calltaker that may not result in determining the individual's exact location.  It's critical to couple the deployment of such technologies with a strategy to manage the public's expectations of how the technology benefits them.

Many years ago there was a commercial on TV that showed a group of children who were unsure about a new cereal.  Their answer to the problem: "Let's get Mikey.  He will eat it; he eats anything."  Unfortunately, Mikey doesn't work at 9-1-1.  PSAPs are still expected to incorporate these technologies into their operations even though they may be uncomfortable with them.  Vendors deploying new solutions, such as mobile alarm or alerting devices, are encouraged to work with associations, such as APCO, and local PSAPs to better understand how these 9-1-1 calls are handled and how their technology may affect comm center.

No comments:

Post a Comment