Perhaps the most important factor in all emergency 911 calls is the time it takes for first responders to arrive at the scene. The speed at which personnel are able to respond and administer the necessary aid depends on how quickly they receive necessary information from dispatch.
However, data accuracy cannot be sacrificed to improve average emergency response times. In fact, improved data accuracy (along with sufficient planning) will actually reduce response times. How?
A Key Benefit of Data Accuracy
The importance of data accuracy and availability in emergency situations cannot be overstated. For example, if a fire department responding to a house fire is given the wrong street name—Greene instead of Glean—the results could be devastating.
Many districts in the U.S still operate with older dispatching methods. In fact, some rural areas lack modern dispatching capabilities. As a result, dispatchers must resort to pen and paper methods of recording details. When a call comes in, they write down the information, and manually relay the details to the appropriate resource. In emergencies, every second counts. Manual dispatch processes consume precious time and delay response—which could mean the difference between life and death for those in need. As technologies advance, outdated dispatch methods diminish the capability to ensure public safety. Safety protocols need to stay current—and that includes dispatch capabilities.
A step above pen and paper, more modern but minimalist dispatch systems allow dispatchers to document and relay basic details, like the category of the incident and the individual involved, but require the information to be recorded in an Excel sheet. This record isn't searchable or easily corroborated by a voice recording. Reporting accuracy is also crucial. If there is a lapse in data associated with a criminal case, the case will be thrown out—a dangerous consequence when related to violent crime.
Computer-aided dispatch (CAD) is the new standard for dispatching systems. The best CAD solutions not only enable dispatchers to record calls but also provide prompts for necessary information. Is the incident in progress? Are there drugs involved or weapons? Newer dispatch software checks these boxes as the call progresses. This information is crucial for the personnel responding to the call.
Responders need as much detail about the scenario they are entering in order to provide the best service and the highest level of care. In medical situations especially, having detailed information about the patient and their condition enables EMTs to respond accordingly and with much more haste. Armed with details about the scenario, EMTs can exit the ambulance with the proper gear, treat or stabilize the patient, and transport them to the hospital as quickly as possible.
The less information first responders have, the more they have to infer when responding to emergency calls. Guessing isn't safe for those in need of response, and it can also be dangerous for the personnel responding. If a police officer doesn't know the call they are responding to is a hostile incident involving drugs and weapons, they will be less prepared to handle and de-escalate the situation.
Dispatchers can provide more thorough information with the assistance of 911 dispatch software that supports this type of data collection and dissemination. Automated systems remove room for error and enable crucial information to be quickly shared with the appropriate agencies. For example, some police chiefs request to be notified whenever there is an assault against an officer so they can respond effectively and properly.
Knowledge is power—and in the case of average emergency response times, information can be safety. In order to facilitate effective communication, dispatch coordinators need to ensure their centers keep pace with the technology the rest of the community is using. Improve the safety of your community and your emergency personnel by providing your dispatchers with the tools to accurately capture information and quickly transfer it to first responders.