Exploring the Potential of Non-Voice Emergency Services

We all know that public safety is changing faster than ever before. Cities are becoming smarter and more connected. Next Generation 911 (NG911) is evolving how we respond to emergencies, going beyond traditional call-taking to deliver an influx of information via text, video and other types of data. Read on for highlights and insights from a recent “911 Live” seminar.

October 21, 2021

Innovations in technology are happening at all levels, too—from established leaders in public safety like Intrado to start-ups finding new and better ways to keep both citizens and first responders safer. This “911 Live” panel, co-moderated by John Snapp, vice president of technology at Intrado, and Chuck Brady, senior product manager at Intrado, featured four of these innovators, each a partner currently working with Intrado to drive innovation in public safety and beyond. 

“It’s really exciting to see the wide diversity of applications of the folks presenting here and what they’re bringing to help public safety and the safety of individuals,” noted Snapp. “These are valuable ways of getting data all the way to the PSAP in ways we didn’t really imagine 10 or even five years ago.” Meet each of the panelists and learn about their work and where they believe 911 is headed:

Watch the full “911 Live” session, “Exploring the Potential of Non-Voice Emergency Services,” online.

 

Melissa Hart, founder & CEO, eBodyGuard

What I do: “My mission is to provide efficiency around swift due process for the community, all the way from the 911 center and then integrate that through the court process. The one question I always ask is: Are we reducing the time it takes and creating swift due process?”

On paying for personal safety services and devices: “The public has a natural bias towards expecting certain aspects of 911 to continue to be free. From a primal safety perspective, we need to reach emergency responders and have that ingress of data so those responders show up. So safety should be free. That’s why it's great news that Intrado is provisioning [eBodyGuard] all across the country to the PSAPs at no cost.”

On integrating with the existing 911 system vs. providing an over-the-top solution:  “When I put myself in the position of a telecommunicator, I think, what would make their jobs easier? Well, that's to integrate with their current system. And then how can I move the data faster into the law enforcement system and from the law enforcement system into the district attorney's office? So it’s always thinking about the user, whether it's from the community perspective or the telecommunicator perspective or the law enforcement perspective. Eighty-four percent of callers to 911 are calling through a mobile device. So if we need to integrate with other partners, that's what we do.”

On convincing stakeholders to invest in tools that deliver supplemental data to 911: “In this day and age, there are all these new technology vendors coming into this space. Every day, one brand-new app or alarm company pops up. So how do you, as the provider to the 911 community, respond to that? NENA (National Emergency Number Association) is putting together a training certification process so that vendors that come into this field understand the systems of 911 so that -- you all don't have what I'll call ‘vendor fatigue’ -- and there is some sort of standardization.

On data privacy and security: “First and foremost, everyone signs a waiver as they accept the [eBodyGuard] app. So if a crime occurs, they acknowledge that data will be sent on to law enforcement for the chain of custody. We are also FBI-Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS)-compliant. The chain of custody applies to my technical partners as well. The PSAPs carry and hold the FBI-CJIS compliance as well, and they're well aware of that, as does law enforcement. You have data in transit, data in storage and data at rest. There's a certain level of encryption that you need when it comes to all that data related to a crime.”

On the future of 911: “I believe in the next 10 years that the 911 world will be the command center in regards to smart cities.”

 

Kathleen Gallagher, founder and CEO, Safety Chick

What I do: “I was a stalking victim; I was stalked for 15 years. I have a real affinity for 911 people because you saved my life. I helped pass the nation's first anti-stalking laws and then started training law enforcement and got into the worlds of public safety and personal safety. I realized that my calling was to educate the public on how to stay safe from crime. I saw a void in the marketplace for safety wearables and comprehensive, realistic technology that helps a wearer get to 911 efficiently, quickly and effectively.”

On integrating with the existing 911 system vs. providing an over-the-top solution: “I turned around and saw my stalker standing behind me with a knife. So the reason I created a safety wearable and the technology is for that very reason. If you’re in that position, what are you going to do, say, ‘hey, hold that thought, let me just call 911’? Crime happens in a split second. And so my solution is to create something for those moments, because we know those moments happen. I was able to escape unharmed, and he went off to prison. But that rarely happens.

“So the point was to create a safety wearable where you hit a button and it opens the app on your phone and sends an emergency text to the lifelines of your choice. This is using the technology we have right now. Because we know that all PSAPs don't have the same technology; some have text-to-911 capabilities and some don't. With this technology, we’re creating a single point person who’s talking one-on-one with the 911 operator. That avoids bombarding the PSAP with messages; we know that’s not the most efficient way to get that victim help. Then the other members of the group can deliver more information to the point person, without any upgrades and using the technology we have right now.” 

On convincing stakeholders to invest in tools that deliver supplemental data to 911: “People in crisis are not able to think straight. With a solution like SafetyChick, you’re taking the human element out of it. When the point person calls 911, you get all the profile information of the person that’s in crisis, including their vitals and medical information. That saves so much time and could get help to that person help more quickly. I think this will only give the public more confidence in what we're all trying to do.”

On the future of 911: “The younger generation—ages 15 to 35—is my demographic right now. They are very tech-savvy; they're texting, not calling. We have to use what is available to us right now, working with the PSAPs to get the critical information that helps in that moment with what you have available to you right now.  And, again, coordinating with the people that know the victim the best to get you that critical information in real-time. Moving forward, integrating this technology is going to make everyone's life better and will save more lives and money. That's where we're going.”

 

Daniel Jue, CTO and co-founder, LiveFreely (buddylife.com)

What I do: “LiveFreely is about helping seniors and their caregivers take control of aging. The journey to create this company started out with taking care of my own father, who went through hip surgery, dementia, heart attacks, and more, and seeing a lack of technology to help seniors get the help they need at the time they need it. We wanted to use technology to automatically detect when things happen, like a fall, but go beyond that to also prevent that fall and predict when it might happen using wonderful devices such as Apple Watch, Fitbit and other consumer wearable devices.”

On the risk of false alarms with safety devices: “The first way is to make sure that the device itself is letting everyone know that something has been detected but not sending the alert right away. I have the BUDDY app on my Fitbit and I’m going to trigger a fall. My Fitbit is now vibrating on my wrist, and it's not going to stop until I do something. With BUDDY, you can choose ‘I'm okay’ or ‘Help me.’ If I click, ‘I'm okay,’ everything stops. But if I press, ‘Help me,’ it'll automatically go to 911. 

“But what if nothing happens? What if I'm unconscious and I can't push anything? We then have a second verification factor: Every single caregiver and relative of that person will get an alert saying "fall detected." And there’s a five-minute countdown that starts. This gives the caregiver time to initiate a call to that person, saying, ‘Hey, are you okay? What's going on?’ If they can't get reach them, they can call 911 right away. These are the ways we're trying to mitigate false positives. We’ve been in beta since October 2020, with about 5,000 users using BUDDY, and so far we've only had one false positive.”

On convincing stakeholders to invest in tools that deliver supplemental data to 911: “We send the person’s name, location, event and heart rate. So as first responders are going to the site, they can know exactly what's going on and be better prepared as they come onto the scene. As technology progresses, we need to get assistance to folks in the non-voice ways most people now use—texting, swiping left and right. It's much more prevalent than actually calling on the phone.”

On the future of 911: “The more data we have, the better we can help save lives. And a lot of the things we do, you can't put into voice. I can't tell you my GPS position right now, but I can definitely send it to you. And we can put more information in a nonverbal way and get it to PSAPs than we can do verbally.”
 

 

Brian Kinne, vice president, PinPoint Life & Safety at RF Technologies

What I do: “I spent over 20 years working in technology and national security, but one thing that was missing are solutions that address the ‘tip of the spear,’ that moment when the incident first manifests itself. At Pinpoint, we focus on creating technologies that people carry with them. By having resources on their person, it allows an individual to, literally, at the click of a button, do a number of things: request assistance, direct that assistance to the appropriate response team, and then also track your location at that moment so the response team knows where you’re at. It’s all about putting those resources into the hands of the people who need it in that moment.”

On the importance of being able to contact 911 using a personal device:  “Think about the things we carry every day—credit cards, phone, keys, different devices. The mobility piece is supercritical, and [Pinpoint] functions in the very same way. The second thing is the ability to have real-time communication coordination with the first responders. And the third feature is ensuring that the person at the PSAP who is local is receiving that call. Obviously, Intrado drives that market across this country. Our solution is a wireless button that hangs on a lanyard or on a belt clip or a master key, depending on how an individual wants to carry it. It is literally your link to that 911 call. It doesn't know anything about your activities, but if the moment comes and you push that button, it kicks off a series of preset, predetermined functions that create awareness that you have an issue. Then you get feedback through vibration and LED light so you know the request for assistance has been activated, and then that it's been acknowledged at the other end.”

On convincing stakeholders to spend resources on tools that deliver supplemental data: “When there's an event such as an active shooter inside a school, it typically lasts about 180 to 220 seconds. So by the time communication goes out to the families and they arrive and you see helicopters overhead and there's a lot of activity, in reality the event's over. It's what happens pre-event that's really critical. Shaving off 10, 15, 20, 30 seconds at the very beginning is critical; that's like 30% of the timeline reduced in terms of getting a response commenced and getting people to that location to eliminate the threat. What we're able to do is to commence that communication path and then supplement that with data that says whoever pushed that button first came in first contact with the threat and pinpoint and track their location. So when the response teams arrive, they'll have real-time data available to them on a device that has real-time, 3D map of your facility or campus. They know where the individual is, what classroom, what corner of the classroom that individual was when they pushed the button and where they are in real time. If you're familiar with what happens when a team shows up, they sweep a building and go room to room. The more data you can supply to those response teams as to where that threat might be, that's shaving more time off that 180-second window.”

On controlling the data flow to deliver what’s truly relevant: “Our role is to capture data at the moment the event occurs or commences. We'll be able to pass the data to the first responders—who pushed the button and where they are in real time. So, again, as the responder enters into a facility they will have real-time information. Our job is to capture that data immediately and then pass it on to the relevant response teams. And obviously, the PSAPs will discern what information they want, but we're capturing it and providing it.”

On the future of 911: “The collage of people on this call, with Intrado as an umbrella providing the ecosystem to enable all of these technologies to converge to present the total picture of what’s happening to the PSAPs and first responders, is critical. There isn’t a single entity that has nailed the total continuum of these events and what’s needed. It really is bringing people together like we have here.” 

 

This session has been condensed and edited for clarity. 

To learn more about Intrado’s partners or work with us on integrating non-voice emergency services into your PSAP/ECC, please contact us.