The future of 911 is ancient technology

A multimedia message on a Sony Ericsson mobile...

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Dispatchers are completely under appreciated.  They are the quarterbacks of emergency response.  It’s their responsibility to “call the plays” and ensure that the proper agencies are responding while they give lifesaving instructions over the phone, while talking on the radio, while filling out the run sheets, while trying to sneak in a sip of coffee or bite of something to eat, all at the same time.  It’s not going to get easier either, NextGen 911 is going to add some more things that they will need to juggle during an emergency.

The new system is going to allow for SMS (short message service) and MMS (multimedia messaging service) messaging to find it’s way to the 911 dispatcher.  This is great, except that texting and multimedia messaging is old.  Like really old and a lot of us have moved on from texting and sending pictures via these systems.  Texting is used but now people are using instant messaging programs and communicating via social network sites on their phones because they are faster and allow you to include a lot of multimedia.  Pictures are sent to twitter or facebook rather than using MMS.  And what about the dispatcher?  They can’t be expected to monitor social media in addition to their already hectic jobs when there is no system in place to introduce social media reporting of emergencies in dispatch centers.  We have to adopt technology at the speed society is adopting technology.  NextGen 911 is probably years away from deployment and when it does come out it’s going to be extremely outdated and then NextNextGen will come out and it will probably feature the ability for Myspace reporting and other no-longer relevant social media systems.  It’s critically important that we develop emergency response platforms that are modular.  Dispatch centers cannot be expected to have to overhaul entire systems every time they are going to adapt a new technology.  We need more computer software based dispatch systems that can rapidly expand capabilities and adapt new technology as needed and in turn,  save communities money.  I know how difficult it is to upgrade a dispatch center because I was able to be heavily involved in this process.  It takes years of frustration and bureaucracy and in the end you are stuck with a system that is probably already out of date.


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