Leveraging Artificial Intelligence to Better Support 911 Emergencies

Many public safety agencies are still working to modernize their 911 systems and connecting to citizens in a more digitally friendly way.

Leveraging Artificial Intelligence to Better Support 911 Emergencies

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In a year, around 240 million 911 calls are made in the U.S. That is more than 600,000 calls per day. Emergency call centers are overwhelmed, trying to keep up with staffing shortages while being inundated with calls.

Besides the staffing crisis, many public safety agencies across the country are still working towards modernizing their systems and connecting to citizens in a more digitally friendly way. Some still don’t have the capability to text someone in need or request video.

There has been a lot of progress made in digitizing public safety agencies and there is more data flowing into 911 than ever before, but not from every call.

Outside of the basics such as location and type of sensor or alarm, when it comes to security and safety products, there is other data, including multimedia content and live streaming video, 3D indoor maps and gun detection.

So how does 911 handle all of this data when it comes in? How can it be acted upon? Also, what role can security companies and integrators play in the digitization and future of emergency response?

It Starts with Data

Recent data from analyst firm Frost & Sullivan shows that, by 2027, “IoT-initiated calls will surpass human-initiated calls.”

Most IoT products installed in residential and commercial spaces are now connected to the internet. This allows devices to be part of a home or building network and work with other devices. It also allows them to communicate with smartphones and apps, delivering alerts and updates to individuals, or to security offices and monitoring companies.

The last mile, which many of these devices are already doing, is connecting data directly to 911 during an emergency. This data, which could be from an alarm or sensor or something autodetected via camera, is then delivered directly to CAD and cloud interface systems inside emergency communications centers and integrated into the daily workflow.

This real-time data could be critical in identifying an emergency early and getting the right assistance sent before a 911 call is made.

The digitization of public safety is happening fast, in concert with ever-increasing bandwidth across cellular and broadband networks. The future is near where sensor and alarm triggers can be sent to 911 directly with any other critical information available, such as live video from a connected camera, presence and object sensing and even indoor 3D maps.

As a professional in the emergency response industry, we can play a role in improving security and educating our customers– both commercial and residential–  about products with emergency-forward capabilities and their importance.

The Future of Digital 911 Alerts & How AI Can Help

Further development of the IoT and the expansion of tech devices, sensors, and apps created opportunities and challenges for public safety agencies. On one hand, the wealth of data that can be shared with 911 during an emergency is infinite.

On the other hand, the barrage of information that is coming into 911 at any given time has exponentially increased. This is why creating a viable ecosystem of information that provides additional context to 911 telecommunicators is key, beginning with artificial intelligence.

Think of the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) assistance as the co-pilot of a plane and 911 telecommunicators as the captain. Though the captain is the ultimate authority, the co-pilot is there to assist and plays a significant role in a safe and timely flight.

Artificial intelligence serves this purpose for public safety agencies, helping sort through and learn from every call and making triaging based on patterns or triggers.

This allows human operators to prioritize resources more effectively, potentially dispatching a smaller preliminary response team to verify the situation before committing full emergency resources – a crucial step especially as emergency communications centers (ECCs) are experiencing staffing shortages.

An AI co-pilot allows for billions of data payloads to be integrated into 911 and first responders’ existing software and operational procedures during an emergency.

This helps public safety professionals in three central purposes:

  1. Synthesizing key information from data feeds around an emergency into one unified picture of an incident
  2. Automating the time-consuming, manual processing of alarm calls, making actionable data available faster with less human effort
  3. Extracting key insights from text and video, including sentiment analysis, language translation, keyword alerting, and video object detection

Models such as a large language model (LLM) with retrieval-augmented generation (RAG) set the foundation for AI integration with public safety. Connecting devices to communities works seamlessly with the systems, operating procedures, and human ingenuity to save lives.

What the Immediate Future Holds

AI-powered digital alerts are an essential solution to integrating systems in an emergency and already live inside many existing systems. It’s a seamless and automated feature that anticipates an alarm from a sensor and fuses human intelligence and data-powered strategies to verify an incident and appropriately route the call for processing.

AI can help showcase patterns that may indicate a false alarm and provide real-time decision support. This provides operators with instant access to a wealth of information that might influence their decisions. This layered approach not only improves accuracy but also speeds up the decision-making process for faster help.

AI can use machine learning to continually improve its accuracy over time, learning from each false alarm and real emergency to refine its algorithms, thus steadily increasing the reliability of emergency alerts.

AI will never diminish the life-saving work humans do in an emergency response, but it is the reality of both future call generation and incident response.

Jamison Peevyhouse is vice president of public safety for RapidSOS.

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