Category: News & Media

House Bill 1090 Cheat Sheet

House Bill 1090 Cheat Sheet

As of today, House Bill 1090 has officially been signed by the Texas governor. This bill reclassifies 9-1-1 telecommunicators as first responders, and allows them to be recognized alongside the police, fire, and EMS professionals that they serve with. But how exactly will 9-1-1 telecommunicators be affected by this change? We reached out to the office of Texas Representative Cecil Bell Jr, who wrote HB 1090, to get an idea of the Texas statutes that would change after the bill becomes law on September 1 and made a cheat sheet.

You can download the interactive version of this cheat sheet here.

Famous 9-1-1 Myths and Why They’re Dangerous

Famous 9-1-1 Myths and Why They’re Dangerous

The first 9-1-1 call was made in 1968 by Senator Rankin Fite to inaugurate the new emergency communications system, and since then the 9-1-1 industry has seen many myths and assumptions pop up out of nowhere. Some of these stories are harmless, and some can may have serious or even life-threatening consequences to people who assume they are true. This post will cover some of the more famous 9-1-1 myths, but it’s important to do your research whenever you come across a claim on the internet.

Myth 1: Cell Phones Always Know Your Exact Location

It’s hard to believe with apps like Lyft and Door Dash that 9-1-1 doesn’t know your exact location when you call on a cell phone, but the truth is that the legacy 9-1-1 infrastructure just isn’t able to utilize this kind of technology. Companies like RapidSOS are working to help Public Safety Answering Points integrate this blue dot technology into their systems, but not every PSAP has it yet. To ensure a 9-1-1 telecommunicator can get help to you quickly, you should always be able to confirm your location, whether they have blue technology in their center or not.

All of the NCT9-1-1 region is integrated with blue dot technology, but our telecommunicators will still ask you to confirm your location every time.

Myth 2: Hang Up Immediately When You Accidentally Call 9-1-1

Though telecommunicators might appreciate your intention to avoid tying up the line, you’re actually wasting more time. Telecommunicators are required to call back any hang ups, so when you misdial it’s better to remain on the line and explain the situation. It happens more often than you’d think, and your local call takers will be glad that you didn’t waste more of their time.

Myth 3: You Should Call 9-1-1 to Report Power Outages

Your community’s PSAP doesn’t have any effect on returning power during an outage, and calling them to report it only ties up the line. If you’re looking to know when the power will return, a better option is to call the power company directly.

The only exception to this rule is if you or a family member utilize a life-saving medical device that relies on power. It would be acceptable to call 9-1-1 in this case.

This list could go on, but a better choice is to practice sound judgment. Not everything you read on the internet is true, so always verify the source of new information and do your due diligence and research to confirm its accuracy. Don’t let a 9-1-1 myth stand in the way of getting life-saving help in an emergency.

9-1-1’s Role in a Mass Casualty Incident

9-1-1’s Role in a Mass Casualty Incident

Recently, representatives of the North Central Texas Emergency Communications District participated in a series of Mass Causality Incident (MCI) framework planning sessions. The goal of the sessions was to develop a framework for communities that don’t currently have an MCI plan in place. More than 30 different organizations, agencies, and private partners were on the planning committee, including representatives from hospitals, fire and EMS, local emergency management offices, and advisory committees. NCT9-1-1 was the only representative for 9-1-1.

Both NCT9-1-1 and our district partners have begun to see the need to include 9-1-1 in these type of emergency community planning workshops. In order to assist other communities, we wanted to share our key takeaways to help other 9-1-1 personnel and partners understand 9-1-1’s role in an MCI.

Public Safety Answering Points Could be Utilized More

During the tabletop exercise that tested the final draft of the MCI framework, our staff members on the committee noted that 9-1-1 could be utilized more.

For example, during the exercise it was discovered that the Red Cross had never been contacted. When asked by the event organizers whose responsibility it was, there was no conclusive response from the participating members. Our representatives pointed out that a PSAP can call Red Cross, but only if instructed to do so by the incident commander, as telecommunicators rarely have the authority to make these decisions on their own. Had this been known, incident responders wouldn’t have lost as much time deciding who would physically make the actual calls to request more resources. Emergency management and local government personnel should take the time to understand the reach and limitations of their PSAPs so these kinds of details can be confirmed before an MCI.

MCI Personnel Should Understand the Structure of a PSAP

The basic functions of a PSAP are fairly well known to most community leaders, but we discovered that few understood the details of how telecommunicators actually operate.

The most obvious example we found was the difference between police dispatch practices and fire and EMS practices. This MCI exercise lacked significant police representation, which meant that the different structures of dispatching police versus fire were never addressed. A telecommunicator working fire or EMS will experience situations that follow familiar protocols, compared to telecommunicators dispatching for police who must be prepared for a more flexible response and more variables.

This is just one example of PSAP structure that may not be known to community personnel responding to an MCI. And since the first thing a citizen involved in this incident will do is call 9-1-1, it’s important that officials and 9-1-1 professionals take the time to understand what they can do for each other.

9-1-1 PSAPs Should be Brought into the Planning

The purpose of these planning sessions and tabletop exercise was to learn and find gaps that others may not have noticed, and there were more than enough opportunities to grow with other public safety agencies. The most important thing we learned at this event was how necessary it is to involve 9-1-1 during these exercises, but we also have to acknowledge how difficult it is for 9-1-1 personnel to find the time to attend. We hope other communities can begin to solve this problem by starting small. We encourage community leaders to reach out to their local telecommunicators by taking a PSAP tour, sitting in for an hour or two on a few calls, or just talking to the telecommunicators to better understand how they operate. We also think 9-1-1 personnel should look for opportunities to be heard by their communities by asking to be included on notifications for these events and volunteering to sit on these kinds of committees.

9-1-1 has in the past been left out of these kinds of frameworks and exercises, but we’d like to see that change. It’s a two-way street, however, and 9-1-1 professionals and community personnel need to find a way to start the conversation. It’s better to be pro-active than wait until something goes wrong. We appreciate and would like to thank North Central Texas Council of Government Emergency Preparedness for inviting us to weigh in on this framework, and hope that this is the beginning of a closer relationship between 9-1-1 and other public safety entities.

What Is Additional Data and What Does It Have to Do with 9-1-1?

What Is Additional Data and What Does It Have to Do with 9-1-1?

The term “additional data” has been floating around the 9-1-1 industry lately, and it’s important to us at the North Central Texas Emergency Communications District that our telecommunicators and citizens understand what that term means.

Though it sounds complicated, it’s really just about information. One of the next steps in Next Generation 9-1-1 is to provide additional information from devices, systems, and other data-storing tools like apps or smartdevices. This information can assist 9-1-1 telecommunicators in making decisions about what kind of help and how much is needed for a caller. The goal is a better, faster response.

But what kind of information would telecommunicators get?

Picture and Video

This is what most people think when they hear the term “additional data.” Industry professionals have known that picture and video would be coming to the 9-1-1 call center soon, but this is just the tip of the iceberg. Yes, livestreaming video from an emergency or sending photos is a part of the additional data process, but it’s only a small part of a bigger plan.

Home Security

What if fire alarms let a telecommunicator know the temperature and intensity of a fire before responders were dispatched? Additional data could also provide something as simple as the face of the thief stealing Christmas gifts off a porch. With new technologies being applied to home security systems, it only makes sense that public safety should benefit. Plenty of security companies are working toward collaboration with 9-1-1 to create a safer experience for their customers.

Vehicle Information

The details of a vehicle accident are crucial to a first responder. Data like seatbelt sensors, the number of passengers, and information on air bag deployments change how a telecommunicator dispatches responders. Having this information readily available the second the first 9-1-1 call is made allows for a quicker response and more lives saved.

Medical Information

Wearable devices like Fitbits and Smartwatches contain vital medical information. If a citizen chooses to allow emergency services to have access to this info during a crisis, a telecommunicator could one day have necessary medical and contact information at their fingertips.

Though a lot of this technology is still in development, it won’t be too long into the future before we see it. The interconnection of smart devices not only makes parts of our lives more convenient, but it has a huge opportunity of changing how we save them. It will be a long road before additional data is implemented on a large scale, and there are still questions from telecommunicators on the front lines who are concerned about what this means for their role. The goal of integrating additional data into a PSAP is to help telecommunicators, not to overcomplicate their position. That’s why proper training and the creation and application of standard procedures that are individualized to each PSAP will be instrumental in the deployment of additional data.

New technology means industries everywhere have to learn how to adapt, including 9-1-1, but telecommunicators are some of the strongest, most resilient members of the public safety family, and we know that they are up to the challenge.