1. How emergency services are getting digital makeover

How emergency services are getting digital makeover

Communication habits have transformed beyond recognition, starting with the introduction of widely available GSM mobile phone services in the 1990s.

Published: January 11, 2018 1:49 AM
GSM mobile phone services, Communication habits, digital Communication habits have transformed beyond recognition, starting with the introduction of widely available GSM mobile phone services in the 1990s.

Vishal  Agarwal

Communication habits have transformed beyond recognition, starting with the introduction of widely available GSM mobile phone services in the 1990s. Since then, the mobility of the caller has become the biggest driver in how to approach emergency resolution. 3G mobile internet services were introduced in the early 2000s and, after the advent of the smartphone as a mass communications device in 2007, we saw increasing adoption of text-based communication and a decline in voice calls. These were two major paradigm shifts for the communications landscape, and mass mobile adoption changed our expectations forever, redrawing the requirements for emergency services provision. Four main challengeshave emerged throwing a new focus on the automation of communications processes inside and between organisations.

Introducing multi-channel public access to emergency services: A traditional phone is no longer the only option for public communication, considering the massive shift in preference towards text-based and video-enabled communication. New communications technologies, such as text and video, enable all types of caller, especially those with accessibility requirements, to benefit equally from fast emergency response times.  Getting precise information on caller and incident location: Since 70% of all emergency calls now originate from a mobile phone, determining the dispatch address can be time consuming. The introduction of Advanced Mobile Location (AML) as a feature available on mobile phones with Android operating systems has been a big step forward. But the overall approach to mobile phone-supported transmission of location data with satellite precision should be based on the multiple methods available.

This could mean using an HTML5 internet connection through a web browser, or usage of location services from messaging apps, to provide the largest possible coverage for as many mobile phone types as possible. Deciding whether to consolidate public safety answering points: A single incident today will receive multiple calls that all need to be answered by call takers and dispatchers. From a traffic-handling perspective, the public safety answering points (PSAP) islands will always be stretched by managing large number of calls on their own, but if we consolidate their efforts they can manage the volumes more effectively. Networking multiple PSAPs to share high-traffic volumes can solve this, supporting call takers in very busy regions by adding capacity from other regions that face normal conditions.

How to ensure effective multi-agency and cross-border response: Effective collaboration between different emergency response organisations becomes challenging when they belong to different agencies. Cross-country response often happens at national borders, but even more often at the limits of smaller areas of responsibility, regional or even municipal borders. Here also collaboration is often limited to phone calls, written notes and faxes. Overall, more accurate and accessible information about emergency response cases will improve collaboration across borders and agencies.

The writer is managing director (India and SAARC), Avaya

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