While Impactful, 988 Mental Health Hotline Needs to Be Integrated with 911 to Realize Its Full Potential
Several weeks ago, 988, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, went live.
Several weeks ago, 988, the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline, went live.
MCP Insights asked the firm’s subject-matter experts to predict what will occur this year concerning communications technologies, operations, and governance in the public safety sector (law enforcement, fire/rescue, emergency medical, and 911) and the public sector (government and justice). Here’s what they said:
Emergency communications centers (ECCs) — also known as public-safety answering points (PSAPs) —handle an enormous volume of 911 calls, about 240 million annually nationwide. This figure is expected to rise significantly over the next few years, driven by smartphones, alarm systems, and internet of things (IoT) devices (e.g., wearable medical monitors).
As call volumes rise, telecommunicators who already are short/understaffed, undertrained, and under siege in many ECCs will be subject to even greater pressures as they work to send the correct response in the shortest amount of time. Fortunately, ways exist to relieve these pressures, and many agencies are exploring how they can strengthen and diversify how they respond to calls for service, both 911 and non-emergency.
Last week the 911 community received some bad news.
The House recommended just $500 million for Next Generation 911 implementations, a fraction of the $10 billion that it originally recommended. (See the Urgent Communications story.)
We know that $500 million isn’t going to stretch very far. We also know that the $10 billion is right in line with the Next Generation 911 Cost Study that Congress requested in 2012. Three years ago, the National 911 Program published the Cost Study, with support from Mission Critical Partners. Congress had requested a comprehensive investigation into the cost of deploying NG911 service nationwide. It did so in the Middle Class Tax Relief and Job Creation Act of 2012 — the same legislation that authorized the nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN) being implemented under the auspices of the First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) and provided $7 billion in seed money.
Saturday marks the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon, as well as the hijacking of a third commercial airliner that day, United Airlines Flight 93, which crashed in a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after passengers confronted the terrorists. The attacks resulted in 2,977 fatalities and more than 25,000 injuries. It is the deadliest single incident for firefighters and police officers in the U.S., who respectively lost 340 and 72 members that day. It remains the deadliest terrorist attack our history.
The technology ecosystem that exists in the public-safety/justice community is vast, complex and powerful. Because of its vastness and complexity, we developed an infographic to help clients more easily grasp it. Here’s what it looks like:
by Michele Frankovich and Elizabeth Lenz
The ancient philosopher Heraclitus stated that change is the only constant in life. But that isn’t quite right. Another constant is that people generally are reticent to change and will do almost anything to avoid it. That’s because change represents the unknown, which is scary.
Nevertheless, change presents opportunities. Change is how people and organizations evolve. And evolution is necessary—if people and organizations do not adapt to changing conditions, they sooner or later will encounter difficulties. For instance, people need to learn new skillsets if they want to remain competitive in the job market. Similarly, organizations need to react to changing market conditions if they want to continue serving their customers, whose needs and wants continually evolve—or in the case of government entities, their constituents.
The cost of standing up an emergency services Internet Protocol network (ESInet)—which provides the transport architecture that enables emergency calls to be delivered to Next Generation 911 (NG911) emergency communications centers (ECCs), traditionally known as public safety answering points (PSAPs)—is significant. Consequently, the news out of the nation’s capital of late has been encouraging concerning federal funding that might become available to the public safety community for such implementations and much more.
A previous post touched upon the difficulties that emergency medical service (EMS) agencies experience when trying to bill and then collect payment for the services that they provide. Those difficulties are considerable and have plagued the sector for as long as EMS has existed. Hundreds of millions of dollars go uncollected across the sector each year. For instance, an EMS study for one of MCP's clients wrote off $7 million last year because of an inability to bill for EMS services. That’s a big number.
Many EMS agencies across the United States are in similar circumstances. This makes it much more difficult for agencies to maintain their service-delivery models, pay salaries and benefits, ensure that existing equipment is operational, and upgrade or replace equipment that has reached or is approaching end of life.
More and more public-safety agencies are beginning to understand the importance of continuity-of-operations (COOP) planning, which includes disaster recovery—this element focuses specifically on the agency’s information technology (IT) assets—and crisis communications, both to internal and external stakeholders.
When developing COOP plans, agencies tend to think solely about events that are likely to occur that could have a profound effect on their operations. These typically include weather events such as hurricanes, floods and tornados. Also on the list are natural disasters, such as wildfires and earthquakes, and human-induced catastrophes like hazardous-material spills and, increasingly, cyberattacks.
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every aspect of life for most Americans and our nation’s emergency responders particularly have been affected by the disease. Like first responders working in the field, 911 professionals (i.e., telecommunicators, aka call-takers and dispatchers) working in public safety communications also have suffered. Many 911 authorities that are already experiencing dramatic staffing shortages are struggling to keep the coronavirus out of their emergency communications centers (ECCs) through the use of masks, social distancing, enhanced cleaning measures, temperature checks, and quarantining measures.
Cybersecurity continues to be a persistent problem for government agencies, including those operating in the public safety and justice sectors. These entities must be constantly vigilant in their efforts to prevent breaches, a task made incredibly difficult given the ingenuity of cyberattackers, the fact that the number of attacks continues to increase at a dizzying pace, and the reality that attack vectors evolve seemingly by the hour. Nevertheless, while fighting the battle isn’t easy, it is essential.