Today, we use smartphones to do almost everything — call, email, text, chat with friends or work contacts. The device is also our camera, news source, navigation tool and more.
In this age of pocket-sized communication and real-time information, public safety agencies can’t ignore mobile technology as an effective way to engage and serve their communities, particularly during emergencies. Mobile devices have the power to enhance every step of emergency response and redefine agency operations — from initial reporting to case closure.
Next-gen emergency reporting
Many state and local governments across the United States plan to transition from an aging analog 911 infrastructure to digital, IP-based Next Generation 911 (NG911) systems for emergency call handling. Still, more work is needed to modernize emergency call centers. The upgrade to NG911 is critical to keeping pace with advancements in wireless communications and consumer preferences for mobile computing. It will empower community members to go beyond simple voice calls to sharing multimedia, such as photos, videos and real-time texts, when reporting an emergency. When speaking on the phone may compromise the caller’s safety, multimedia in emergency reporting may prove lifesaving.
For call takers, incoming real-time photos and videos offer a more complete picture of reported incidents to help determine the most appropriate response. It can empower responders with better information about what is happening at the scene so they can take swift action upon arrival. Dispatchers may take advantage of the location tracking capabilities of smartphones, integrating GPS, Wi-Fi and cellular network data to accurately pinpoint where an incident is happening and direct the nearest staff to the scene for a quicker response time.
If your agency hasn’t started planning for the transition to NG911, the time is now to lay the foundation for a successful migration. This migration will require significant infrastructure upgrades to ensure compatibility with emerging technologies, adherence to industry standards, and training for agency staff. To support a seamless upgrade to NG911, consider collaborating with technology vendors that offer critical middleware integrations and with local government to obtain the necessary funding.
Video-enabled incident response
While phone cameras enable reporting parties to capture and share visual information about reported incidents, supervisors can access live video and audio feeds from the field via an internet-based evidence system. Securely installed applications can transform department-issued phones into real-time body or in-vehicle video cameras and provide supervisors with greater situational awareness and oversight of developing events to coordinate a more effective response. A live video feed can prove critical to officer and responder safety if the command center loses verbal contact with a unit.
Smartphones also eliminate the need for docking stations and costly infrastructure upgrades for uploading the captured video, like with traditional body and in-vehicle video systems. Officers can upload all footage from their phones over a cellular network or Wi-Fi connection to a Digital Evidence Management System for use in post-incident analysis, investigations and court proceedings. Next-generation body and in-vehicle video cameras simply require downloading the application to an existing mobile device, making the solution scalable and cost-effective. Smartphone-based cameras offer a way to leverage rapid advancements that help future-proof an agency’s technology.
Engagement that builds trust and transparency
People today expect consistent, transparent communication with every organization they interact with. However, community members historically haven’t had that experience with local law enforcement. Individuals often report an emergency but receive no further information about when to expect responding officers to arrive. Crime victims need to make callbacks to inquire about developments in their cases. When people need to jump through hurdles to receive the service they deserve, it leaves a negative impression of law enforcement.
Just like companies in the private sector, security professionals can automate mobile communications to deliver consistent updates about emergency services and the next steps regarding a case, including the officers’ expected arrival time, officer names, notice of delays, special instructions, or information about additional resources. These communications alleviate the community’s frustration and the number of callbacks that can tie up emergency lines and investigator resources.
Suppose a community member is the victim of a crime. In that case, agencies have the duty — and in some states, the legal requirement — to recognize, deliver and support victim’s rights by providing accurate and timely notice of all case-related information, such as arrests, court proceedings and criminal releases. Automating the delivery of these updates over emails or text messages keeps crime victims in the loop, making them feel informed and empowered at every point in the investigation process.
Community feedback for continuous improvement
Mobile devices provide a quick and easy way to reach your community and gather helpful feedback about recent interactions and attitudes toward your agency’s performance. Consider sending mobile-friendly surveys over text immediately after an incident or interaction with a first responder, dispatcher or staff member while the details remain fresh in their minds.
Survey results provide measurable insights about customer satisfaction and opportunities to improve agency service. Enabling community members to share direct feedback establishes an open dialogue that strengthens their trust in law enforcement. Further, collecting feedback demonstrates your agency’s commitment to service excellence. These insights can also help to recognize exemplary officers based on positive feedback to lift staff morale.
Just as mobile technologies have transformed daily communication, they have redefined how public safety agencies engage and serve their communities. By leveraging mobile connectivity with the latest technology and strategies, you can elevate the service experience at every interaction, empower your agency’s staff in the dispatch center and the field and build safer communities for all.