PSAP of the Future, Fantasy or Fact?

So, let’s talk about something that so far doesn’t seem to be getting much attention. So many articles talk about the states opting in or opting out. They talk about how it will improve emergency response for police, fire and EMS, and it will! However, there is group of people that are truly in a world of uncertainty as to what their future holds. They are the men and women that are the true, first, first responders, dispatchers!

These individuals up until now have felt secure in what the job function holds. But there is some talk as to drastic changes coming. Some believe that the communications center, or PSAP, will now change into what might be called Command and Control Center. Some further believe that it will be a room where not only will telecommunicators (dispatchers) answer calls, enter the information into a CAD (Computer Aided Dispatch) system, key up a radio and dispatch emergency personnel, but now will be accountable for monitoring gigantic video walls where live camera feeds are streaming, from not only the first responders body worn camera but also cameras in vehicles, on firetrucks, and even those on every street corner in the so called “smart cities!”

Wow, if that is the case then does the telecommunicator of the future have to multi, multi, multi task? Will they need analytical skills to see, hear, and evaluate whether or not something is a crime? Do the same, as to if one of their first responders is in peril? Will the PSAP’s of the future need additional, differently trained individuals to accomplish what may or may not be expected of them? Yes, there are some who foresee this as what it will look like and what it will take to function as a telecommunicator.

Others believe that once the “path” is available that anything and everything can and should be passed directly to the first responder/supervisor/commander. Medical information should be sent to and from hospitals with zero intervention. Building plans should be sent directly to fireman along with any hazmat information. Telecommunicators won’t know what information the responders have at their disposal and therefore remove the “human” element of response.
In order to address some of these concerns we need to understand how it works now, what’s being considered in the immediate future and the then ultimate, a total IP end-to-end (caller>PSAP>responder) system. It’s important to note that currently the ESInets and FirstNet don’t or can’t directly connect. ESInet being what the calls from the citizens are routed on, FirstNet being the platform for delivery of just about anything to the first responders. Currently there are those working on standards as to how they will connect in the future, but that’s a whole other discussion. (please see ‘Insights’ article posted on this site ‘FirstNet and the Public Safety Communications Center’ dated July 27, 2017.) Currently, the only connection is through a CAD system at most PSAP’s. So, for now, not much will change unless, some entities decide, that regardless of no direct connection, their PSAP’s should accept everything from either side (public and first responders) and find work-arounds to pass whatever is needed.

Let’s talk about some realities. Money, money, money! Technology isn’t free. Some PSAP’s may have plenty of money for technology, however, small one-to-three-person PSAP’s account for over 80% of PSAP’s in this country. Plenty are rural, and some don’t even have enhanced 9-1-1 services today, let alone are capable of doing potential FirstNet application in the near future. If and when that miracle connection is available, what will be the cost? Another reality, todays telecommunicators are operating in a structured environment.

They have been doing it the same way for quite some time. If decision makers decide they should be the Command and Control specialists of the future, will they adapt? Can they adapt? What’s the affect on an already over-tasked dispatcher?

Maybe this article has PSAP personnel at all levels now asking even more questions. Good! Learn all you can and seek answers. Dispatchers should be involved in their state’s discussions about FirstNet. Dispatchers should have a voice should be heard. Somewhere in all the discussion, in all the ideas, in all the possibilities there will be an answer as to what your roll will be.

I hope we have given you a lot to think about and I hope that you more questions. PSAP staff need to work with their management and technology staff so that they are not victim of this new technology. Be engaged, help find the right solution to how the future will include you and the important work you do.


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