Interested in joining the behind-the-scenes world of emergency communications? As with most industries, advances in technology continue to push a demand for innovation in public services. Within a year of my hire date, I learned how to use a two-screen computer-aided-dispatch (CAD) program — and then learn a completely different one when we upgraded! A year later, we all had to learn how to use an entirely new multi-line phone software platform. Within the past year, our agency has begun implementing a new function that connects our CAD system with another agency that sends EMS within our jurisdiction. New, new, new all the time!
Many people wonder about how basic 911 service works – there are a lot of misconceptions about location accuracy and response time. With upcoming text-to-911 type capabilities, there is an even wider spectrum of potential service to citizens, but agencies are not upgrading at the same time. The decentralized nature of 911 services in the United States creates a daunting environment for upgrades to the (often quite outdated) communications infrastructure. As others have put a fine point on it- why does Uber or Domino’s seem to know exactly where I am, but the 911 operator (sometimes) does not?
If you are interested in becoming an emergency telecommunications operator, I would not recommend that you try to learn all about current technologies in use. Why? Because they are likely going to be outdated by the time you get through your hiring process (a little HR humor there, har har). Instead, I would encourage potential applicants to keep abreast of new and up-and-coming technologies that are being developed- they are often in the commercial news as well as internal industry briefings. You don’t need to know exactly how they work, but have some general awareness- be open to the idea that new tech is always coming down the line. Don’t resist it! Change is good, and change is necessary, etc, etc. Even better, try to cultivate a curiosity about what’s possible – you may stumble across an innovative solution for the industry.
Below are several examples of emergency communications centers utilizing new technology within the past year.
San Antonio 911- Cell phones, smart watches
How the Tech Sector Wants To Finally Fix the Broken 911 System
Smart911 service now available in Round Rock
On a similar note, here is an interesting read about a teenager whose iPhone app overloaded a local 911 comm center – giving you some idea of the vulnerabilities of the current infrastructure. (Maricopa County 911)