Interaction Storage in a Crisis
Updated: May 23, 2019
By Tom Goodwin
Photo by Lt. Zachary West, 100th MPAD, Texas National Guard Licensed with Creative Commons (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/legalcode)
Recently, the catastrophic events of Hurricane Harvey in Houston, Texas have brought to light several important areas of potential improvement for the 911 emergency services industry regarding big data, analytics and interaction storage. It is apparent that first responders and rescue services could have increased their efficiency and capabilities had these data been available. Interaction storage, in the form of call recording, has long been utilized in Public Safety Answering Points. These systems are extremely efficient at receiving and recording all calls that dispatchers receive. However, there was a catch – what do overwhelmed dispatchers have for backup to ensure that the needs of various participants are met? Three examples surfaced during the Hurricane Harvey crisis in which the utilization of Interaction Storage capabilities could have enabled the dispatchers, first responders, and storm victims to have been better attuned to the situation and receive improved outcomes. These examples encompass the systematic collection and analysis of “big data”, which include the harnessing and use of social media. In the first example, when storm victims were unable to reach a 911 dispatcher by phone, they turned to Facebook to get their message out. When it was discovered that people were calling for help via Facebook, some ad hoc procedures were put in place to try to help. While most of these efforts had positive results, imagine if all the requests were captured and analyzed, and action plans/rescue efforts could have been automatically implemented. If the interaction storage solution had been able to monitor and capture appropriate hashtags or phrases through social media monitoring, then responses could have conceivably been quicker and highly organized. Additionally, the interaction storage system provides exceptional value with the ability to capture all the data for incident recreation and evaluation after the event. The second example involves first a responder that resorted to Twitter to coordinate responses. This is a fabulous idea that had an immediate impact in getting volunteers to the right place at the right time. If an interaction storage solution had been able to monitor and analyze the tweets as well as the responses, it would have been possible to provide Situation Reports in real time with graphical representation to the first responder coordinating the effort. It is this type of heavy data influx that FirstNet presumably will deliver to first responders. If interaction storage and analytics could filter, organize and accurately report relevant information, then that influx of data becomes useful and actionable information. The final example is a police department that discouraged use of social media and told the community to continue calling the 9-1-1 system to ensure capture of the call data. In this case 9-1-1 dispatchers were overworked and unable to handle the flood of calls, and people placing calls from their cell phones used up more battery power than if they texted. Since loss of power in Houston prevented many people from recharging their mobile phones, this response had the potential for increasing frustration and desperation. If the interaction storage solution could have collected all the information from social media and then organized it to present key information to dispatchers and first responders, then handling of the tragedy and evacuation could have been greatly improved. The interesting aspect of these examples is that the interaction storage systems could have been useful during the crisis through large scale data capture and analytics, and still maintain their primary objective of ensuring that recordings and data were captured for post-event evaluation. Interaction storage will move beyond call recording and logging as more data is presented to first responders and their support dispatch teams. There is currently a need for this type of system, and it will likely become available the next few years.
About the Author - Tom Goodwin is the Vice President of Marketing at HigherGround. His background in telecommunications and data networking has been augmented with work in data analytics and automated reporting prior to joining HigherGround. Click here for more information on Tom and the rest of the HigherGround team!
HigherGround, Inc. provides best-in-class, reliable data capture and interaction storage solutions that enable clients to easily retrieve critical information. Our interaction recording and incident reconstruction solutions transform data into actionable intelligence, allowing optimization of operations, enhanced performance, and cost reduction.