The recent deployment of next-generation call handling enables call takers to locate wireless callers faster and deal with emergencies when voice calls are not an option. Nancy MacDonald looks at how the new capabilities will improve emergency response efforts.Earlier this month, the public safety answering point (PSAP) in the Mountain View Sheriff’s Department of Stone County, Arkansas, completed the move to a new emergency call handling solution. The new system will significantly improve the PSAP’s ability to respond to emergency calls from anywhere in the county.
After a careful review of available options last year, the PSAP chose a Solacom Guardian 9-1-1 Call Handling solution with next-generation call handling capabilities, advanced mapping functionality, and support for text-to-911 calls. Less than a few weeks after deployment, the PSAP’s director says call takers are already seeing the benefits of the new system.
“We had an older call handling system that was not able to provide the kind of functionality we needed to support next-generation call management,” says Glen Crymes, Stone County Emergency Management director. “We had moved to an IP-based, computer-aided dispatch system about five years ago and we needed something that would work well with that. The Solacom system has all the features and functions we were looking for. It presents everything for call takers on an intuitive computer screen that makes it easy to see calls coming in and manage those calls quickly because everything is on one screen. And it works very well with the dispatch system that we already had, so it has made the whole emergency call handling and dispatch process more efficient.”
Crymes explains that he and his team handle all emergency calls and dispatch for police, fire, and emergency medical teams, so they were also looking for a solution that could provide more accurate mapping of wireless calls.
Located in the Ozark Mountains, most of Stone County’s approximately 610 square miles is made up of forested hills. With the White River running along the county’s eastern border and six protected areas, in addition the Ozark National Forest that makes up the northern part of the region, the county is a popular destination for hunting and fishing. Tourists also flock to the county to visit Blanchard Springs Cavern, enjoy camping in the Ozark National Forest, and explore the Ozark Folk Center in Mountain View, the area’s largest city.
“All these visitors and a lot of our citizens rely on wireless phones, so it was important for us to have the ability to accurately locate callers wherever they are in the county,” Crymes says. “Before we made the switch to Solacom, if we had an emergency call from a wireless phone, we would have to call the wireless provider and ask them to ping the phone so we could get a GPS location. That added a lot of time to the call management process. Now, with the Guardian Map system that Solacom built for us we can locate callers in the city to the nearest street address and, with most smartphones, we can locate them immediately on screen based on the phone’s GPS location. And we can manage all wireless calls directly from the map screen, so that makes the process faster and more efficient.”
Like most PSAPs today, Stone County was also looking to add text-to-911 and text-from-911 capabilities to its call handling process. The ability to text 9-1-1 allows citizens to communicate with a PSAP when they are not able to place a voice call, or when a voice call is simply not an option.
“In our region, most of the area is forest and the terrain is not very cellphone friendly,” Crymes explains. “So, if you are out there, many times you may have one bar of service available, which is often not enough to make a voice call. But with one bar, you can send a text. So, having text capabilities with the Solacom system allows us to receive text calls and send texts back to callers to determine what the emergency is, where they are, and how best to respond.”
With texting, advanced mapping, and intuitive screen-based call handling features provided by the newly installed Solacom call handling system, the ability of the Stone County PSAP to respond to emergency calls has significantly improved.
“The fact is that 9-1-1 service is ever-evolving,” Crymes concludes. “So, we are trying to bring in the next-generation 9-1-1 services that will benefit our communities the most. The Solacom system has allowed us to do that and has provided a solid base for us to build on.”
To learn more about how a full-featured Guardian emergency call management solution can position your PSAP for future NG9-1-1 requirements, visit our solutions page.
Download the "Guardian Text" product brief to learn more about how the Guardian 9-1-1 Call Handling Solution offers customizable text-to-911capabilities.