The world of public safety communications is complex and getting more complex every day, with NG9-1-1 and FirstNet right around the corner. Even today, public safety telecommunicators interact with a plethora of systems – everything from computer-aided dispatch (CAD) to computer-based telephone systems, radio systems, databases, and more. They are masters of multitasking. And, unlike other professions where the work is rote and the risk is low, a telecommunicator’s routine is the unpredictable. In their day-to-day work, they must handle hundreds of different kinds of calls, which each require different protocols and processes.
A single miss-step in following protocols, a single miscommunication or system glitch could have disastrous consequences.
When miss-steps do occur, given so much complexity, it can be very difficult to get to the heart of the problem. Was it telecommunicator error? A flawed process? Out of date protocol? A bug in a system? As a PSAP supervisor, unless you’re able to retrace every step, every word, and every telecommunicator action, it can be difficult to say.
That’s why today more and more PSAPs are starting to supplement audio recording with screen recordings. Capturing and synching a telecommunicator’s screens with voice recordings is the best way to isolate a problem. This technology has been around for many years in commercial call centers. Managers have used it to see how well agents navigate and interact with applications, and to identify and troubleshoot system problems.
Granted, screen recording technology is still more in the early adopter phase for PSAPs, but many 9-1-1 centers are giving it a good hard look. NICE’s screen logger, for example, was recognized as one of the 13 most innovative products at the APCO International Conference this year and named an APCO Hot Product.
Here are some examples of how PSAPs can use screen recording to improve telecommunicator performance, ensure compliance and troubleshoot system problems.
- Operator performance – Whether a telecommunicator operates a call taker or a dispatch position, he or she typically has between 3 to 5 screens running on the console. This usually includes Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD), GIS, call handling and other applications. Capturing this screen activity is essential to understanding how the operator managed the response to an emergency call.
- Compliance – Screen recording can also help PSAPs ensure compliance. Every agency has policies and procedures unique to its jurisdiction. For example, an agency may have a protocol that requires telecommunicators to run a check to see whether or not a suspect in domestic violence incident owns a gun. The results of that check would then need to be communicated to the responding officer, and entered into the CAD system as well (so the officer would also see it on his in-vehicle mobile device). Replaying the radio recording would confirm that the verbal communication took place, but the initial weapons check and subsequent entry into CAD could only be confirmed through screen recording.
- System troubleshooting – another valuable, albeit less traditional use of screen recording involves system troubleshooting. CAD is a critical system in every PSAP. Problems with CAD systems can lead to poor emergency response, which in turn can lead to liability claims and other issues. One PSAP that uses NICE technology for screen recording told me that thanks to the screen recording they were able to isolate issues with their CAD system that were subsequently corrected by the CAD vendor.
If you’re considering screen recording for your PSAP, here are some things to consider.
First, look for a screen logger that is able to capture your telecommunicators’ interactions with multiple systems simultaneously. This will give your PSAP better visibility into your telecommunicators’ overall effectiveness and better equip your PSAP to identify and resolve issues related to procedures, training gaps, and discrepancies. Also look for a screen recording solution that has the flexibility to activate with each new event or to record 24/7. The latter capability will allow screen recording to continue uninterupted while the telecommunicator is engaged with dispatch, even if the initial 9-1-1 call has ended.