Text messaging comes to 911
New Orleans is the test bed for Motorola's PremierOne CAD Call Control Client product
The Orleans Parish (La.) Communication District (OPCD) recently installed PremierOne, the latest computer-aided dispatch/records management system (CAD/RMS) product from Motorola Solutions, and will be the field trial location for a new feature, the PremierOne Call Control Client.
The new setup makes their 911 and emergency communications system far more capable than before and will provide for single-point integration, allowing them to do what the public has demanded for a long time: accept information via text message.
A Complicated Environment
OPCD is undergoing an evolution more or less forced on them by Hurricane Katrina. They presently have only 12 employees, but host 130 communications personnel from NOPD, 20 from NOFD, and about 20 from New Orleans EMS.
The OPCD is a “political subdivision of the State of Louisiana,” established by the state legislature to “provide 911 services to the residents and visitors to Orleans Parish,” and therefore isn’t a part of the City of New Orleans or any one of the first responder agencies.
Swivel Chair Integration
Fasold called this “swivel chair integration.” There was some porting of data from one computer to the other, but it was mainly in the form of a text dump of basic call information. The new system uses the Motorola Call Control Client, which is one component of the PremierOne system.
The communications center isn’t taking calls via text message yet, but they plan to start phasing in this feature. The FCC has mandated that cellular network carriers be capable of transmitting text messages to Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) by 2014.
On receipt of a text message, the system will route it to either an idle operator or one who is on a voice call already, in much the same methodology used for voice calls with Automatic Call Distribution. Due to the Call Control Client integration, all information regarding the text messages, including the content with date-time stamps for each message, is included in the CAD incident information.
The key to the FCC mandate is that text messages to 911 will be just that, text messages sent to a destination phone number of “911.”
Just as the existing voice call system routes a call to the appropriate PSAP, so will the text messaging system route a text message to 911 to the correct PSAP.
In any event, it’s unlikely that first responders will be rolling on anything based on a single text message.
Instead, text messages will be more of a conversation, and operators will have preformatted responses ready to send quickly. One of the first prefab responses is likely to be, “Is this an emergency where you can’t call on the phone?” Operators will confirm the circumstances or look for multiple reports before they start emergency personnel to the scene.
“If this is an ongoing conversation, and it turns out to be a fraudulent swatting attempt or report, that’s something the judicial system is going to have to figure out,” Fasold said.
Text messages may wind up being added to call data sent to officers’ mobile data terminals, or read in to be incorporated into the narrative portion of the call.
In the field trial of the PremierOne Call Control Client, Fasold is especially enthusiastic about testing its integrated user interface, which allows an operator to use a single keyboard and mouse, or to forget the mouse and never take their hands off of the keyboard, controlling both the call handling and the CAD client.
“We’re very excited on testing this, as ‘swivel chair’ is very painful and tends to slow getting the information to the field responders,” Fasold said.
“We think this is going to improve our response times considerably toward getting that initial call pushed out, and we’re looking forward to it.”
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