police call box

New System Would Let Citizens Text Photos and Videos to Police

With the announcement Friday that investigators will now comb the Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter posts of security clearance applicants, social media has officially graduated from mere child’s play to a valuable character assessment tool. 

To accelerate emergency response time, citizens will soon be able to text photos and videos to public safety teams.

Because the easy and instant communication is just that, officers must be ready to receive an onslaught of information, and in some cases, inaccurate tips.

Companies like Next Generation 911 (NG911) are working to implement a system where the public can send digital information like voice, photos, videos, or text messages through the 911 network and on to emergency responders.

According to NG911, the technology for such system exists, but “transition to NG911 involves much more than just new computers. Implementing NG911 will include activities of many people, who will coordinate efforts to plan and deploy a continually evolving system of hardware, software, standards, policies, protocols and training.”

At Tuesday's APCO Public Broadband Safety Summit 2016 in Washington, DHS director of the Office of Emergency Communications, Ronald Hewitt, said the training for this new system could be significant.

With the introduction of these new communication methods, also comes a shift in job responsibilities for call center staff.

“It’s going from [being] a communications officer to really being a CIO,” Hewitt said in reference to the need for staff to be adept at collecting data and getting it to the proper first responders.

Call center staff must also prepare themselves for upsetting images. Hewitt said there is a big difference between taking a call from a citizen in distress to actually receiving a photo of a severed arm.

Simulation is another concern Hewitt’s office must plan for. “Bad actors” could simulate disasters in an effort to distract or deter public safety officers. While the new technology has numerous capabilities, it also opens first responders up to a wider range of vulnerabilities. 

Posted in General News

Tags: DHS, Emergency 911 call, public safety, call center, text 911

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