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9-1-1 in the age of info power

Written by Tim Burke

Welcome to the age of knowing more stuff than you’ve ever known before. Not only that, but knowing about stuff faster than ever before too. We could call it living in the “Information Revolution” except that the revolution is long over. What we are in now can best be described as the age of information power—and we’re deep into it.

In this “age” you and your public safety department are probably busy trying to, at varying times, understand it, work with it, and also, sometimes, keep up with it. Today we are busy fine-tuning our technology to make it fit our very specific needs. This technology-to-fit-thetask helps us on patrol response and in handling emergency calls quickly and efficiently. In public safety and law enforcement, a mistake and extra time in these cases can mean the difference between life and death.

The 9-1-1 call centers of today are striving to optimize performance, while also increasing staff effectiveness, accountability and professionalism. Clearly 9-1-1 must evolve too and make us better able to help our citizens. Info power, in this case, is in the way we manage emergency calls better, learn from them, respond faster and in doing so, better help the community we serve. But the question is, how do we do this? How do we make our call centers info powerhouses?

Enter Melville, N.Y.-based Verint Systems Inc., which, according to its representatives, in December 2008 was the first company to introduce a workforce optimization (WFO) solution that delivers functionality for voice and screen recording, quality assurance, analytics, scorecards and call taker training, as well as citizen surveys geared to the public safety market.

The solution, which is called Impact 360® for Public Safety, takes the firm’s best-of-breed software from the commercial contact center and caters it to the public safety sector. This next-generation public safety offering is designed to help meet the stringent requirements of today’s Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) and heighten operational efficiency, accuracy and quality.

Kristyn Emenecker, vice president, solutions marketing, for Verint Witness Actionable Solutions, said: “With this software, PSAPs can now move beyond traditional recording for compliance and liability and meet the growing need for deeper insight into calls to help reconstruct incidents, facilitate investigations, and improve operational effectiveness. The solution helps simplify and empower PSAPs’ complex and rapidly evolving 9-1-1 operations, essentially enabling PSAPs to benefit in much the same way commercial call centers have when it comes to WFO technology.”

The newest evolving big thing in the age of info power is called Next-Gen 9-1-1 technology. As with any new tech, law enforcement IT professionals like you will be asking: “Will this really help my agency’s officers do their jobs better and safer?” And, of course: “How much is this new thing going to cost and is it an effective use of my city’s public safety revenue and resources?”

“Next-Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) will mean new systems and processes and will make an already complex work environment even more challenging,” Emenecker noted. “PSAPs,” she explained, “will need enhanced operational visibility, training and quality assurance to assist staff and protect the agency. This will be accomplished by managing the complexity and liability of call taking and dispatching.”

According to Emenecker, “Verint’s Impact 360 for Public Safety solution combines Audiolog ™ multimedia recording, searching, playback and storage with functionality for quality assurance, incident investigation and analysis, speech analytics, workload forecasting, staff scheduling, employee coaching and training, and citizen surveys.” It does this mainly to help agencies and PSAPs enhance performance, minimize liability, and meet new challenges arising from NG9-1-1.

The company’s Audiolog is an advanced, digital multimedia recording, retrieval and quality assurance solution designed to enhance the performance of emergency response, public safety and control room operations.

“For more than a decade,” Emenecker said, “Audiolog has offered superior reliability in mission critical environments, along with flexible, easy-to-use functionality that can help your agency meet the demands of NG9-1-1. It does this by capturing audio, video, text, screen data, telematics, photos, and related data, such as telephone numbers and locations, from a variety of sources; live monitoring of PSAP interactions to help ensure adherence to policies and procedures; reconstructing incident scenarios to understand the chain of events; protecting captured interactions from unauthorized access and tampering; evaluating and enhancing call taker, dispatcher, and manager performance at PSAPs; and documenting and reporting results efficiently.”

For training, Emenecker noted that her company utilizes a network of Verint Authorized Resellers (VARs) to assess the needs of its customers and deliver customized solutions. These highly skilled VARs undergo rigorous training to understand the portfolio of options that are available to end-users. “The VARs deliver customized training with each installation. The depth of training depends on the installation’s complexity. Services are part of our firm’s product and also offered through the partner,” Emenecker explained.

The company’s Impact 360 system is at work at several agencies in the United States. One of those is Denver 9-1-1 and according to Christine Bradshaw, performance manager, Denver 9-1-1, “Automated forecasting and scheduling is helping Denver 9-1-1 take intelligence from the phone switch and use that information to build optimal staff schedules and deliver better, more efficient service to our citizens. Conceptually, it’s like using the dashboard in your car to gather data to make better driving decisions.”

Another agency is Chester County, Penn. “Revolutionary,” is the word Bobby Kagel, assistant director, Chester County Department of Emergency Services in Pennsylvania, used to describe the power of speech analytics after viewing the results of its calls as analyzed by the firm’s software. “We immediately saw the impact, confirming through verifiable data some of the trends we suspected were taking place. One centered around our location verification, which proved to be frustrating both callers and our own telecommunicators. Since then we’ve reengineered the process, leveraging technology the telecommunicators have right at their fingertips. The power and results speech analytics can produce are an exciting development in our market—one we can’t wait to fully maximize.”

In this age of info power, new advances appear almost overnight and it’s up to the IT professionals to sort out what is going to work for them and their public safety team. The key is to find out what benefits the new system would bring and how good the supporting services would be.

“Next-Generation 9-1-1 will entail changes in operational procedures, training, funding models, and state—and possibly federal— regulations and laws,” Emenecker said. “Call-takers will be faced with new equipment, software, databases, systems and processes; new forms of communication or data (such as text messages or telematics); advanced data sharing; and greater communication and collaboration with multiple agencies.”

Emenecker indicated this is where Verint’s software can make a big impression. Impact 360 for Public Safety provides eLearning functionality that can help PSAPs train call takers, communications center personnel and dispatchers. “The solution,” she said, “allows captured interactions to be edited easily into ‘learning clips’ highlighting best practices. These can be e-mailed directly to the call-taker desktop or stored for later review.

“In a profession in which the timeliness and appropriateness of response can literally make the difference between life and death,” Emenecker pointed out, “the value of listening to ‘real world’ examples of best practices can be significant.” According to company highlights, Impact 360 for Public Safety offers coaching functionality that can help supervisors schedule, track, review and report on individual development opportunities. Automating the workflow associated with coaching helps ensure that coaching sessions occur on a regular basis and can help improve staff performance and morale. Supervisors can even attach files to coaching session records, simplifying the administrative tasks necessary for accountability.

“Coaching can extend beyond helping employees enhance their performance,” Emenecker said. “It can provide a pathway for cultivating the supervisors and managers of the future.” Also, she indicated, it helps address dispatcher/call-taker stress and potentially reduce attrition. Stress is inherent to the emergency response field. However, dispatcher and call-taker stress is not always caused by the same things as the stress experienced by police officers, firefighters and EMT/paramedics.

“By building on the interrelationship among quality assurance, training and coaching—as opposed to treating them as discrete activities— Impact 360 for Public Safety can help PSAPs foster a cycle of continuous performance improvement,” Emenecker concluded.

Advances in 9-1-1 calls help law enforcement officers help citizens. Nobody knows that better than IT public safety professionals. Verint’s Impact 360 is one powerful option to manage 9-1-1 call data. 

Timothy R. Burke is a freelance writer, editor, graphic designer and photographer and can be reached at trb4320@yahoo.com. Photo courtesy of Verint Systems.

Published in Public Safety IT, Jan/Feb 2011

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