Text-From-911: Saving Lives and Streamlining 911 Operations
by Mary Kate McGrath, Rave Mobile Safety
Rave Mobile Safety Vice President of Customer Success Noah Reiter presented a webinar on how innovative PSAPs across the nation are using SMS texting to resolve abandoned calls. As the former Assistant City Manager of Sandy Springs, Georgia, Reiter knows firsthand the importance of keeping a community safe.
In this webinar, Reiter outlines how PSAPs can leverage this over-the-top application to streamline operations, manage resources, and most importantly, save lives.
In order to understand why Text-to-911 is valuable, Reiter begins by taking a look at the common challenges for PSAPS and first responders.
The Common Challenges
“Being a telecommunicator is a vital position and critical link in the emergency response change, but it’s not an easy job,” Reiter said. “You all know that. You and your staff face many challenges. Some of these challenges are common and some not so common. Suffice to say it’s a stressful job.”
Reiter takes note of these challenges, of which there is a variety. These difficulties include:
- Limited or poor wireless locations
- Non-English speaking callers
- Callers who may be hysterical
- Long hours and high-call volumes
- The stress of dropped calls and lack of resolution
The single theme in this list is that obtaining the information necessary to dispatch the kind of response and assistance the caller needs is difficult. The lack of sufficient or accurate information is the single greatest challenge PSAP operators face. Text-to-911 is helping address these issues.
The primary reasons that Text-to-911 is being used in PSAPs across the country is to aid deaf and hard-of hearing callers, those with speech impairments, and to address emergencies where verbal communication isn’t possible or is unsafe.
Watch clip 1 of 2 to learn more about the common and no-so common challenges for PSAPs today.
Text-to-911 Current Status
Before launching into the best practices for using Text-to-911, Reiter gave an overview of how common the technology is today and how it is being used.
Text-to-911 is of critical importance. It provides the only means of communication for people who are deaf, hard-of-hearing, or those with speech impairment. It also gives a situational advantage for those who are able to verbally communicate but find themselves under duress, such as during a home invasion, someone in a domestic violence situation. It can also help callers who find themselves in a medical emergency that temporarily prevents them from speaking, or even a weak-cellphone transmission that makes a voice-call not possible but SMS text message possible.
However, the nationwide PSAP SMS texting capability is low. Reiter shares some stats on why the option is under-utilized:
- 25% or less PSAPS have SMS Texting capable
- Lack of public awareness
- Industry promotes 9-1-1 as universal number
- Given the choice, people still want to speak with a person during an emergency
Recognizing the powerful capabilities of being able to communicate with the public via text, but the limited availability, low usage or awareness of text-to-911, some of Rave’s partner PSAPs were among the first in the country to ask: “What if the model of Text-to-911 is flipped on its head and our telecommunicators initiated a text session, rather than wait for an inbound text message?” Reiter then shared some examples of PSAPs who have used this functionality to relative success.
Watch clip 2 of 2 to learn more about the differences between text-to-911 and text-from-911.
2017 By The Numbers
Here are the current ways that Text-From-911 is being implemented across the country. Here are the current stats:
There is a significant positive outcome – always eager to recognize staff for great work. Please let us know if this Rave has helped your employees. In 2017, Rave helped public safety partners recognize 31 employees who positively impacted a call using the Text-from-911 resources.
There are cost savings and operational efficiencies. Even though the usage rate is low, Rave’s customers leveraged the Chat feature of the Rave 911 Suite to impact 187,000 incidents in 2017 alone, with an answer rate of 16.5%.
Text-From-911 Best Practices
After giving the background information on the Rave 911 Suite and how the Text-From-911 feature can be leveraged, Reiter transitioned into established best practices. Depending on how a PSAP is using this feature, the best practices can vary. Here are some common situations where Text-to-911 can be successful and how to leverage this technology for these purposes.
Wireless Abandoned Calls
Most Rave customers use the product to manage and resolve abandoned calls. Agencies can expect an abandoned call rate between approximately 10-30% or more, and protocol requires dispatchers to give a follow-up call. The answer rate is typically 1-2% for the voice callbacks, and Rave advises clients to send a text in addition while attempting to call. PSAPS experience a response rate of close to 17% of text follow ups and Text-to-911 allows dispatchers to avoid multiple callbacks or sending law enforcement.
The majority of response texts from residents are to resolve accidental calls, but in many cases the caller is in a situation where they cannot speak, such as a domestic violence situation. Learn more about how Text-to-911 can prove a crucial tool in domestic and home violence:
Learn more about how texting 911 can help victims of family violence.
Read more Smart Save stories here.
Third Party Welfare Checks
Reiter notes that the second most common use for Text-to-911 is third party welfare checks. The most common scenario would go like this: a caller might be concerned for a friend or a loved one, often someone they cannot contact or who may be in distress. This friend or loved one isn’t unlikely to answer a phone call from a stranger, but many PSAP partners leverage Text-from-911 to address these situations. The person in need of help doesn’t always respond, but there are many documented cases where the person did feel more comfortable answering via text and gave 911 their location to allow someone to check on them.
Text-from-911: Emerging Use Cases
While these are the two most common uses for Text-to-911 technology and the Rave 911 Suite, Reiter pointed out that PSAPs continue to partner with Rave to find innovative new uses for the tool. These emerging use cases are largely used to increase efficiency and save resources.
One of these uses is streamlining the non-emergency call process by referring residents to a citizen portal. When PSAPs send a follow-up text that redirects callers to the portal, it can safe dispatchers valuable time that would have otherwise been spent putting the request in themselves.
Here are some other ways that clients are leveraging Text-From-911:
- Non-Emergency Response
- Officer and unit welfare checks
- Follow-up surveys
Why Choose Rave For Text-From-911?
While every PSAP is certain to evaluate its own needs and desired functionality for a Text-From-911 option, there are many reasons to choose a partnership with Rave Mobile Safety. Here are few:
- Best in class SMS text messaging capabilities
- Ease of use
- Over-the-top application
- Access to Text-from-911
The Rave 911 Text Template ensures speed and consistency. It’s available for immediate use and provides an unlimited number of templates. Here’s what it looks like:
Once set up, Rave Customers can use Text-to-911 functionality to:
- Text any wireless number from PSAP station
- Leverage templates for speedy messaging
- Engage with multiple callers
After Noah Reiter wrapped up his presentation, the Rave team fielded questions from the PSAP operators, dispatchers, and managers in attendance.
Here are some of the top questions:
1. When PSAPs use the Text-From-911 tool, will recipients receive the contact information from 911 on their phone device?
The recipient receives the text-message from a short code that Rave Mobile Safety owns. Rave owns the code 22911 – it’s not 911, but it’s close and it looks more official than a random, 10-digit telephone number from which a dispatcher would normally call. Also, through the chat or text template the PSAP dispatch establishes, the recipient sees an official message letting them know the police department is contacting them and asking them to respond if there’s an emergency.
2. Do I have to have Text-From-911 chat implemented to leverage the Rave Text-From-911 feature?
The short answer is no – there are many agencies who send hundreds and thousands of outbound text messages a month through the Rave 911 Suite. These PSAPs have not yet rolled out or implemented text TO 911, so the two can be completely separate.
3. Have customers had instances where residents questioned the validity of the texts?
Rave Mobile Safety isn’t aware of any situations where a resident thought they were being scammed etc. The text message from 911 can be templated in a way that it looks official – because it is official. If a citizen is concerned, they can simply call back at 911 or 10-digit non-emergency number to double check.