Category: News & Media

3 Phrases to Watch Out For Before Downloading an Emergency App

3 Phrases to Watch Out For Before Downloading an Emergency App

We’ve heard a lot of conversation about emergency applications that reach 911 on social media platforms lately, especially on places like TikTok. Both influencers and everyday users are sharing 911 apps that make claims about reaching first responders, and though we know about a lot of apps that really can help 911 help you, the industry still relies on phone calls to 911. These third-party emergency apps sometimes make misleading promises or don’t have a full understanding of how 9-1-1 works.

Most 911 public safety answering points (PSAPs) are on an enhanced 911 system, which just means they uses analog technology instead of IP-based technology. That’s sort of like comparing a digital watch to a smartwatch. Both can tell you the time, but a smartwatch can do a whole lot more. To utilize most of the emergency apps advertised, PSAPs need to be on a Next Generation 911 system, which does use IP-based technology. Though the transition to Next Generation 911 is in progress, not every community has access to the technology that makes 911 apps useful.

Unfortunately, many app developers don’t know about the complexities of 911, or they’ve developed workarounds that may or may not assist you during an emergency. This is because too many variables exist to guarantee that an emergency app will get you the help you need. We’ve noticed a lot of misleading information advertised by some of these app developers, so here’s some language we think you should watch out for before downloading an emergency app.

Emergency Apps that claim to connect you “directly to 911 or a first responder”

911 routing is complicated, and to make this claim true app developers would have had to reach out to subject matter experts and organizations like the National Emergency Number Association, the Association of Public Safety Communications Officials, or their local 911 authority.

Most likely, these apps utilize third party call centers before dialing 911, and a lot of the time those third party centers reach out to law enforcement through your local PSAP’s administration lines. That’s the 10-digit number a police department or sheriff’s office uses for administrative purposes. Though these lines do reach 911 telecommunicators, they won’t be prioritized the way a call made through the 911 line would be and they will not have location or call back information. When you’re in a life-threatening emergency, you don’t want to be waiting on the admin line. Plus, sending you to a third party call center adds another step in the emergency response process and that slows things down. Seconds matter during emergencies.

Some of the apps utilize the in-house dialing feature on your phone, so they are calling 911 directly. But that works the same as dialing 911 on your own and it might even be faster for you to dial directly in the first place.

Many emergency apps claim to connect you directly to a first responder, but that’s only if the first responders in your area have downloaded the app as well. There’s no mandate or enforcement to ensure first responders across the country or in your state use a specific emergency app, so double check with your local law enforcement or emergency service providers that they regularly check the emergency app you’re looking to download. Sometimes, first responder services have to pay to use the app and so choose not to, or they are unable to add another variable to their preexisting response policies.

Any “Certified” Emergency App

A certification for a public safety or emergency app doesn’t exist, at least not through any official 911 entity. We’re not sure what certification these apps are talking about, but we do know that the organizations with the authority and knowledge to create a certification for emergency apps haven’t done so yet. These organizations include NENA and APCO.

Both organizations are aware of the rise in popularity for emergency apps and are looking into creating a standardization for developers. Neither of these organizations have released a certification process.

Emergency Apps that “stream live video or multimedia” into 911

There are tools that can stream video or send photos to 911, but not every PSAP has access to them. Most PSAPs can’t accept multimedia at all due to being on an enhanced 911 system.

Some vendors have developed a way for 911 to send a text message containing a link to your device that you can click to send video or your location to the 911 call taker. However, this process does not require you to download anything (though it may be necessary to change your settings). This makes this feature accessible to anyone who dials 911 with a smartphone, rather than limiting it to those who use a specific app.

Emergency apps are on the rise, and the 911 industry is keeping a close eye on them. We anticipate a continued interest from the public, but we encourage you to do your research first and make sure these apps function as useful tools and are not just flashy gadgets. As of today, the best way to reach 911 is with a voice call, but who knows where we’ll be in the future?

Christy’s Corner: Calling All Teenagers . . . We Need To Hear From You!

Christy’s Corner: Calling All Teenagers . . . We Need To Hear From You!

It has been a long time since I was a teenager. Ok I will admit it has been a long time since I had teenagers! This does not mean I don’t value the voice of our teens. In fact, this audience is vital to our research on improving 9-1-1 in an innovative manner. I must really stretch and think (and listen and read) to come up with innovative ideas, as it does not come naturally to me. The teenagers, however, have been raised in a society of digital technology and coming up with new ideas is in their comfort zone. Some even think it is fun!

If I’m being honest, I’ll also admit that 25 years ago we were purposely leaving this age group out of our 9-1-1 public education programs. After all, teenagers “know everything” and didn’t need me to teach them about 9-1-1 or anything else. I concentrated on elementary students, senior citizens, and civic organizations. Well, as we have come full circle in 9-1-1, public education (now called public engagement) has once again become a focus. Now I want to learn FROM the teenagers!

When I did have teens at home, I asked them questions about 9-1-1 all the time. In fact, we were one of those houses that was usually full of teenagers between my two daughters and all their friends. It was not unusual for me to sit around the table (full of pizza and other enticing snacks) and asked these informal focus groups their opinions on how they would want to contact 9-1-1 in an emergency. It was then that I learned many assumed we had features in 9-1-1 that were not actually available. This led our agency to begin educating the public on things you could NOT do with 9-1-1.  I think our first was “Texting is fun, but you can’t text 9-1-1”. Fortunately, we have evolved since then and texting 9-1-1 has been available in our area for years.

Now technology is really exploding in the 9-1-1 industry and we are trying to become more data driven instead of exclusively voice centric. There is so much data available these days that could assist 9-1-1 telecommunicators and field responders. It is simply a matter of integration. However, I want to be careful that we are not planning to implement technology on what looks exciting to the technologists and vendors or even what is easiest to integrate. I want to implement the technology that the 9-1-1 telecommunicators identify based on the problems in the centers and that the public identifies based on their expectations developed from other facets of their digital life.

So, let us become a group that asks questions and really listens to the answers provided by our teens. Let’s encourage school resource officers and 9-1-1 educators to get into the high schools and instead of talking or teaching AT them, let’s talk WITH them. We need to know what they expect when calling for emergency services, how they would like to report emergencies and what apps or features they use in their daily lives that might be able to provide 9-1-1 with valuable data. We could even host contests for them to develop some of their ideas. Hopefully, the teens will feel good about providing input that can help save lives and make a difference. Maybe they’ll even share what we talk about on social media!

 

Press Release: North Central Texas 9-1-1 Authority Implements New Tools to Better Locate 9-1-1 Callers

Press Release: North Central Texas 9-1-1 Authority Implements New Tools to Better Locate 9-1-1 Callers

Arlington, TX, April 19, 2021 – North Texas citizens dialing 9-1-1 may soon begin receiving text messages from the 9-1-1 telecommunicator with a link to pinpoint their location. This feature is one of the tools included with a new dispatch map that has been implemented throughout the North Central Texas Emergency Communications District’s 13-county region.   

The NCT9-1-1 Service Area
The counties highlighted in blue will have access to the new 9-1-1 features, as well as the five municipalities featured in Dallas.

The new map provides GIS-based data to 9-1-1 telecommunicators. The map features tools like enhanced location, which sends a link to mobile devices that callers can click to send their enhanced location to the telecommunicatorThe map also includes a 9-1-1 chat feature that translates to over 70 languages, and is integrated with applications like What3Words, which pinpoints the location of mobile device within three meters, and Waze to provide traffic data. 

“Our region is fairly rural, which sometimes makes identifying an exact location of a caller difficult,” said GIS Manager Rodger Mann“The tools provided by this new map gives 9-1-1 telecommunicators another way to better identify a caller’s location, which can save lives by cutting down on response times.” 

The map is available to over 40 Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs), or 9-1-1 call centers, in 13 North Texas counties surrounding the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. This area serves about 1.7 million citizens. 

View the factsheet for these new features.

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About the North Central Texas Emergency Communications District (NCT9-1-1)  

The North Central Texas Emergency Communications District (NCT9-1-1) is responsible for 40 plus Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) in the 13 counties surrounding the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The district supports these PSAPs through maintaining and upgrading 9-1-1 equipment, providing up-to-date mapping information, training 9-1-1 telecommunicators, educating the public on the proper use of 9-1-1, and monitoring PSAP functionality and compliances. NCT9-1-1 serves a population of 1.7 million and 10,000+ square miles. 

Winners of the 2021 Annual 9-1-1 Awards

Winners of the 2021 Annual 9-1-1 Awards

The North Central Texas Emergency Communications Districts (NCT9-1-1) has announced the 2021 winners of the Annual 9-1-1 Awards. These awards are presented to individuals or groups who show an outstanding commitment to the 9-1-1 industry. We are proud to have so many dedicated professionals working with us to help save lives every day. The nominees are submitted by their Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) supervisor or manager and the winners are selected by a majority vote from the supervisors, managers, and NCT9-1-1 staff. The agency of the year, however, is determined by the NCT9-1-1 staff. Congratulations to the award winners!

9-1-1 Telecommunicator of the Year – Ricky Huff, Springtown Police Department

The Telecommunicator of the Year is categorized as an individual who takes command and makes independent decisions relating to the proper emergency response. This individual thinks and responds quickly as the emergency situation dictates while addressing the needs and concerns of the caller.

9-1-1 Agency of the Year – Frisco Police Department

The Agency of the Year is handpicked by the NCT9-1-1 staff for demonstrating a superior commitment to furthering 9-1-1 in North Texas.

9-1-1 Team of the Year – McKinney Police Department

The Team of the Year are a group of two or more individuals who worked well together when handling a call. The individuals on the Team of the Year included:

  • Supervisor: Randi Wiggins Beard
  • Aaron Roberts
  • Amanda Hammer
  • Ashley Beckle
  • Ashely Cooper
  • Emilee Powell
  • Gwen Smith
  • Mallory Ransom
  • Taryn Gray

 9-1-1 Supervisor of the Year – Holly Bicknell and Valerie Hughes, Cleburne Police Department

The Supervisor of the Year demonstrates a positive and professional attitude toward all aspects of his or her roles and responsibilities. He or she is familiar with all operations and functions expected of subordinates and demonstrates that knowledge on a regular basis while monitoring staff performance. He or she creates plans and objectives and offers praise or corrections to staff when needed.

9-1-1 Training Professional of the Year – Caylin Milligan and Chelsea Dyer, Corsicana Police Department

The Training Professional of the Year uses their creativity, initiative, and diligence consistently while assisting callers or coworkers. He or she is knowledgeable of policy and procedure and reliable when informing others.

9-1-1 TDD/TTY Above and Beyond Award – Corsicana Police Department

The TDD/TTY Above and Beyond Award is given to the PSAP that had the most TDD/TTY calls and demonstrated a commitment to serving the Deaf and Hard of Hearing communities.