Michigan PSAP Realizes Benefits from Rave Mobile Safety Two-way 911 Text Solution


Two-way text-messaging functionality from Rave Mobile Safety’s Smart911 platform is helping public-safety answering points (PSAP) address the growing issue of abandoned emergency calls with greater efficiency and effectiveness, according to a Michigan dispatcher.

Ryan Culver, dispatcher for the Ottawa County Central Dispatch Authority in Ottawa County, Mich., said he uses Rave Mobile Safety’s Smart911Chat to connect with any mobile-phone users who have abandoned their emergency call—something that can happen with an accidental misdial or a pocket dial (known by many as a “butt dial”).

“I probably use the Smart911 text feature as much as 15 times per day, with all of those abandoned calls,” Culver said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “It’s in our policy now that we send a text message back, if they do not answer a phone call.

“To be honest, the majority of the replies I get back are, ‘This was an accidental dial. Thank you for responding back. Have a good day.’”

But about 3% of the time, the follow-up text communications have resulted in responses during situations in which the emergency caller was unable to speak—a situation that is common during domestic-violence incidents, Culver said. In one case, Culver received a 911 call from a woman, but a male suspect took the device from her and threw it in the toilet.

“Unfortunately, I had nothing on that phone number, so I could not get a Phase II [caller location] on it,” Culver said. “I tried calling it back, but due to the water damage, the phone was not working properly. I ended up sending a text message. Thankfully, she pulled the phone out [of the toilet] in time, so that texting feature on her phone was still able to work. So, I was not able to communicate with her over the phone orally, but I was able to get the address, situation, names, weapons—everything—through the texting feature.

“It did wonders. We were able to get someone over there in time, and it had a positive result. We’ve had many incidents like that.”

Culver cited another incident in which an emergency caller had a diabetic reaction and was unable to speak. However, by utilizing the text-message capability, the emergency caller was able to communicate and provide the information necessary for Culver to dispatch help.

In another case, the Smart911Chat two-way text solution was used to peacefully resolve a situation in which a man armed with a gun was believed to be considering suicide, according to his wife who had fled the area, Culver said.

“We called him multiple times, and he did not answer,” Culver said. “But he felt he was able to communicate through text message, and he did. Eventually, we were able to get on the phone with him. But, if it wasn’t for that text-messaging feature, we never would have never initiated a conversation; we never would have been able to build a rapport.

“Fortunately, that situation ended positively. We were able to get him to drop his weapon, and everything ended peacefully. But if it wasn’t for that Smart911 feature, we never would have been able to build up that rapport or even initiate a conversation with him.”

Even when the text functionality does not result in a response—as in the case of a pocket dial—the Smart911Chat communication is beneficial to public safety, according to Todd Miller, Rave Mobile Safety’s vice president of public safety.

“Those pocket dials cost money,” Miller said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “If an individual doesn’t respond to a call back, and you don’t have something like Smart911 chat, Ottawa County is going to send an officer, if they have a location.

“In the end, Ottawa County estimates that each one of those unnecessary dispatches costs them about $23—when they look at the officer’s time, time spent from the call-taking side—and that adds up pretty quickly. Those dollars really mean something, especially when all communities are looking at ways to be more efficient and more effective in their public-safety offerings.”

In addition to the financial savings, the Smart911Chat feature that allow pocket-dial callers to dismiss an accidental 911 call can result in better use of precious public-safety personnel, Miller said.

“In many jurisdictions, on an abandoned call, the policy today is, ‘Let’s call them back,’” he said. “Of course, that call comes from a 10-digit number, and people don’t answer the call. Then, protocols in many portions of the country are, if we can’t reach the citizen, let’s send an officer.

“So, with abandoned calls, not only are dispatch centers spending extra time trying to reach these callers that don’t respond, but we’re also wasting valuable first-responder resources—we’re potentially taking them from one location where they are needed to a location where they are not needed, simply because there was a pocket dial.”

Miller said there are many text-to-911 solutions that allow PSAPs to receive emergency texts from citizens, but the Rave Mobile Safety system is the only one that lets PSAP personnel to send an initial text message to a citizen without the citizen needing to download a special application.

“Once the member of the community has elected to proactively text into 911, then 911 can have that two-way conversation [with other text-to-911 solutions],” he said. “But the key piece that is really lacking is putting that power under the control of the PSAPs.

“The PSAPs really need the ability—on their side—to start that two-way conversation, and that’s the biggest difference … Current standards do not address texting the way that Smart911 handles it. Current standards really are focused on that inbound [text] from the citizens.”

Miller also noted that information from text messaging can improve officer safety, particularly when responding to an abandoned call associated with a domestic-abuse incident.

“Domestic-violence situations are some of the most dangerous situations that we can send our officer into,” Miller said. “So, rather than sending one officer with no knowledge of what the call may be about, these agencies are able to have better situational awareness.

“They’re able to recognize that this is a call that requires a different type of response. They can say, ‘Let’s not send one officer with no information; let’s send two [officers], with the knowledge that this is a domestic-violence situation.”

Culver said he believes that Smart911Chat is intuitive for a telecommunicator to use.

“It literally takes me only 5 to 10 seconds to generate a text message to reply back to the caller—it is very user-friendly and easy to use, and it does not take up a lot of time,” Culver said. “So, the second I send that 911 text and I don’t have an exact location—so I can’t send an officer—I can go onto the next call and keep that [text exchange] open. So, when he or she [the emergency texter] does eventually reply back, I can then start working with the call. Until then, I can start working on something else.

“So, it doesn’t take long to use. I can initiate a text really quickly and move on to something else, if I have to. And that’s really important, because it’s got to be quick and easy to use. It’s a very user-friendly program.”

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