Best Practices for 9-1-1 QA

There are few places where quality service matters more than emergency communications. PSAPs review calls to ensure they’re meeting high service standards and adhering to protocols (a process known as Quality Assurance or QA). Today this involves mainly voice calls. But as NG9-1-1 and public safety broadband come online, PSAPs will become the touch point for handling text-to-9-1-1, video and a whole lot of sensors and data. In this complex environment, QA will be even more essential for identifying and closing knowledge gaps. Given the rapidly changing public safety landscape, I wanted to learn more about what PSAPs are doing today with respect to QA today and how they’re preparing for tomorrow. So I recently launched a series of Public Safety QA Workshops for 911 centers across the U.S. and Canada.

Although almost every participating PSAP did QA differently, they all agreed on one thing – QA is an essential element for any successful PSAP.  In the workshops, participants shared their views on how 911 centers can make their QA programs more effective. Here are some of ideas participants brought to the table:

  • Out of sight, out of mind – The QA process should be done in a non-intrusive way as to not impact the telecommunicator’s performance.

  • Fairness is key – Of course, everyone had their own definition of fairness, but all agreed that random QA is the best approach. Don’t just pick out bad calls or good calls, or zero in on specific operators. Also, it’s important to sit down with the telecommunicator and walk through the evaluation so he or she can see exactly how they were evaluated and what they can do to improve.

  • Peer monitoring – It’s a common practice in commercial call centers, and a handful of truly innovative 911 centers are now embracing the practice of peer monitoring too.  After all, who better to assess a telecommunicator’s performance than someone who performs the very same job!  Peer monitoring helps everyone takes ownership in the QA process and creates a spirit of ‘we’re all in this together.’

  • The rule, not the exception – QA should never be a one-time or sporadic occurrence; rather,  it should be a constant ongoing process, part of standard PSAP operations. Don’t wait until the end of the month to do QA. Make it part of your weekly or daily routine.

  • Be consistent - make sure you use the same criteria to measure everyone, all of the time. Of course, you may need to update evaluation forms occasionally, adjusting the quantity and types of calls, and evaluation criteria, but once you do -- be consistent in how you measure and evaluate them. Make sure your QA is also consistent with standards and guidance from CALEA, APCO P33, and IAED. In the future, QA standard will be even more important, as evidenced by the candidate American National Standard (APCO/NENA 1.107.1-201x).

  • Comprehensive – The pending standard above also points out that QA programs should be comprehensive in nature, and include all call takers and dispatchers, whether full time or part time. Another facet of ‘comprehensive’  involves the type of interaction evaluated. Today, it’s primarily voice communications but as the industry pushes toward NG9-1-1, QA will need to encompass Text-to-911, video and other forms of communications and data.

  • Document results, track progress – In addition to documenting the results of evaluations you should also document feedback given to employees, as well as feedback received from them. Also document any remedial training. Some automated systems also give you the ability to drill down to results for each QA metric, on both a group and individual basis, so you can track progress over time.

Of course, all of the ideas above work better with some degree of automation; and most of the QA workshop participants who I spoke with were doing QA manually today. But I did sense a willingness and openness to work toward automating the QA process. Everyone realized the deficiencies of manual QA.

In fact, automating QA will be an important first step in preparing for Next Gen 9-1-1 and Public Safety Broadband. I’ll be exploring this topic in more depth in a NENA webinar on June 4th on “Next Generation Quality Assurance: Best Practices, Emerging Standards and Solutions.” Joining me for this webinar will be: Janett Wingett, QA Trainer, Seattle Fire; and Eric Parry, Program Manager, State 9-1-1 Program, Department of Public Safety for the State Utah. If you’d like to learn more I invite you to register for the webinar at

I’ll also be conducting more regional QA workshops for 911 centers in the future, so if you’re interested in hosting a workshop in your area, please contact me at

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