May 10, 2021
Chad LaBree

(Estimated Reading Time: 3 mins)

One of the most critical functions for a Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) Director is securing funding. But let’s face it, most PSAPs needed real funding yesterday.

Considering all of the innovation in the past decade — like the IoT, backend services and cloud native solutions — many PSAPs operate knowing that there are affordable and easy to implement platforms that can help them save more lives. At the same time, most PSAP Directors know that there are federal, state and private grant programs to help fund Next Generation 9-1-1 technology. Which begs the question, why aren’t all PSAPs using the latest NG 9-1-1 technology?

Asking Tough Questions

Directors are always on the hunt for the next grant opportunity. From my time as a Director, I remember the hours spent behind the keyboard typing narratives, researching data, uploading pictures and working pricing sheets — only to get a negative response or just enough money to purchase a chair. Now don’t get me wrong, call-takers and dispatchers are very passionate about their chairs. But when it comes to grant money, Directors are looking at big ticket items like replacing a Computer-aided Dispatch (CAD) system that is end of life, or maybe not supported by the vendor anymore, forcing them to find a new solution.

In general, most PSAP funding comes from the tax base; however, that typically covers just enough to keep the lights on, phone lines active and below minimum staffing to match the growing need for 911 call takers.

But what happens when you are faced with a catastrophic failure of your legacy systems or key pieces of infrastructure? Or more directly, what if your hardware has hit, or is approaching, end of life? This is when PSAP Directors have to start asking themselves difficult questions like: did I do enough pre planning to build a capital fund for replacement/repair? Did that capital funding we didn’t use entirely get reallocated to another department or agency? Are we now going to have to go out to bond? And most importantly, are we going to be able to continue providing emergency call taking services, without interruption, despite these failures?

When the dust settles after any emergency call, everyone with influence on budgeting and funding should consider if the people behind the calm voices — who exuberate so much care, empathy and compassion — have the tools they need to help emergency callers and first responders stay safe. They should also ask themselves, if we invested more in our emergency call takers, could we save more lives?

Spending Time on What is Most Important

The grant writing and funding activities that consumed hours upon hours of my week as a PSAP Director (just to hit dead ends), was often around the adoption of IoT and more advanced mobile devices in the community and private sector. This meant that my center needed to prepare to receive communication from those devices and help callers take advantage of the new technology. But our legacy call handling solution wasn’t designed with those innovations in mind, and it simply wasn’t possible for us to upgrade our technology without significant grant funding.

So while I was engaged in the year-round administrative grant application activities, I recognized that it consumed so much of my time that the most important part of the agency was not being properly taken care of: our people, the emergency communication specialists.

The heroes under the headset are the first, first responders and each time the phone rings they don’t know what’s waiting on the other side. Each time the radio keys up, these ever vigilant heroes don’t know what they are about to hear, but they’re always ready to calmly and decisively handle the situation. These incredible people deserve hands-on leadership, training/development and care. If PSAP Directors are spending the lion’s share of their time on administrative tasks, emergency communications specialists are missing out on the advanced training from experienced Directors that could help them save more lives.

Getting Help from Experts

I would have done anything to have a vendor partner who could’ve assisted me in writing grant applications just so my time and concentration could’ve been more focused on helping my people take care of first responders and emergency callers more effectively.

Carbyne’s free Grant Assistance Program saves PSAP Directors time by helping them identify, apply and secure grant funding to upgrade their operations. This allows PSAP Directors to spend more time training and guiding emergency communications specialists. Combine that with Carbyne’s NG 9-1-1 features like real-time caller location, live video and instant chat capabilities and emergency communication specialists can more easily connect with their caller, improve situational awareness, and ultimately save more lives.

I encourage all PSAP Directors to let grant experts assist them with the time consuming grant application work so they can focus on the more important things, their people!

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