If You See Something, Video Something
A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a video is worth so much more. The world that we live in is constantly being recorded by a variety of people and devices. CCTV cameras track movements at airports and public buildings; private businesses always want to keep a close eye on their wares, taxis, trains and buses are always being recorded, and every phone, computer, and even glasses have video cameras embedded. Today, people are surrounded by cameras almost every minute of the day, and we are capable of being recorded multiple times while we do something simple such as walking down the street. This new, video-centric society can herald one of the greatest evolutions in public safety in more than 60 years.
911 dispatchers have a genuinely difficult job whenever they step in front of the microphone. Not only are they having to goad information from people who are having the worst days of their lives but they have to translate that into actionable intelligence for first responders.
Let’s imagine a scenario: A car has lost control on the highway, drifted lanes, and hit another vehicle head-on. People stop, see if anyone has been hurt and contact authorities. The callers are shaken, after all, they’ve either just been in or witnessed a major collision, and aren’t entirely sure what part of the highway they’re calling from.
When the dispatcher gets this person on the phone, then they’re forced to pry crucial information out of them such as the location of the event, how many people are injured, what sorts of injuries people have, and whether or not they need to perform any CPR. All of these questions then have to be forwarded to the first responders racing to the scene so that they can prepare for any eventuality.
Now, imagine what would happen if we added video to the equation.
Suddenly, the call dispatcher would have an instant understanding of the scene. From the moment the call connected she would have the location, down to a few feet radius, and prepare to send EMS on their way. She would be able to determine that two cars had crashed, how many people were seriously injured, whether or not there was a need for multiple ambulances or if traffic police also had to be dispatched. These are all assessments that, in many cases, would be made on the ground by the first responders but can instead be done in the critical moments beforehand.
But what if CPR was necessary? Dispatchers, who often have to deliver CPR instructions over the phone, can now determine via video whether or not their instructions are being followed correctly or if there are further medical issues for the paramedics to know about.
Truly, video is a game-changing technology for public safety and offer a wealth of opportunities to help improve as well as save lives. But what about after the event itself? Well, video presents a fiercely compelling case for both prosecutors and defense attorneys as a way to convict or exonerate a client. Being able to display the moment a 911 call was made, showing the event up close and personal to the jury, can be the lynchpin of any case.
As technologies have shifted over the past two decades, from wired landlines to cell phones, from audio calls and texting, from pictures and eventually to video, the public safety realm has struggled to keep up. With seismic transformation after seismic transformation in such a short period, it’s no wonder that many PSAPs (Public Safety Answering Points) are unable to communicate via basic texting let alone video.
With video calling through Skype, FaceTime, Google Hangouts, or Facebook Messenger becoming far more ubiquitous today it is imperative for the public safety industry to ensure that their PSAPs can handle the upcoming tidal wave of data and new information that is just around the corner. Dispatchers will receive somewhat extra training to accommodate this new visual technology and understand the difference between audio and video. For now, the future of public safety looks bright, colorful, and streaming.