After the Webinar: Streaming 911 Calls Direct to First Responders. Q&A with the Presenters

Webinar presenters Captain Greg Goreck, Captain Don Redmond, and Captain Fritz Reber (ret) answered a number of your questions after their presentation, Livestream 911 Calls Directly to First Responders for Improved Situational Awareness and Faster Response Times.  Here are just a few of their responses.


Audience Question: Is Text to 911 also incorporated into Live911? 

Fritz Reber: Not yet. Right now, you just have the GPS location of the call on the map, as well as the audio from the caller. Don, you might know more in terms of whether that’s on the roadmap and some of the purpose or value add that might have.

Don Redmond: Yes, it is on the roadmap, from my understanding, from HigherGround,

Fritz Reber: We can add that the map feature with the incoming information is a perfect portal to layer on different additional features down the road. Much like all software, it improves over time, it’s obviously a great product today, but it’ll be much better as development adds text, ShotSpotter technology, other types of alarms, and alerts that can be pushed through Live911, so that officers get that information in real-time.



JCH: As I think you saw from our polling question as we kicked off today’s webinar, we have a number of folks from outside the US, including Canada. One of our audience members is asking, is this available in Canada? 

Tom Goodwin: Yes, it is.



Audience Question: Do officers have the ability to access a Live911 call to a call that they’ve been dispatched on that may be outside their geographic fence? I think I phrased that correctly. 

Greg Goreck: I know from our experiences, as long as the calls are active if we expand our geofence while the calls are active, we’re able to pick that call back up and listen to it. The whole key is, is the caller still on the line?

Don Redmond:  Each user can customize their preferences on their geofence. How big of a geofence or how small the geofence. They can also have 911 calls pop up on the map, but not start live streaming. Users have a number of different ways to customize Live911, just for that purpose.



Audience Question: Is this technology unique to Higher Ground? 

Tom Goodwin:  Yes, it is, today. It is unique to Higher Ground. We are in the process of submitting a patent for the technology and how we’re doing it as a software use case. But yes, currently Higher Ground is the only company that has this.


Audience Question: Can you replay the 911 live 911 call at a slower speed may be able to understand the person more clearly? 

Greg Goreck: It does have a playback feature. You know, that’s actually what I did this morning with the example I gave earlier. I was actually able to play it (a 911 call) back in the car. I was able take the call back to the beginning, and listen to what the person actually said. This enabled me to hear that the caller has said that a person was in their house. You can also rewind or fast forward to certain points. I don’t believe there is a slower speed though.



Audience Question: If the dispatcher is working a radio position, are they able to see an overview of all calls and the location of the units?  

Don Redmond: So, that was one of the benefits of why the dispatchers are using Live911. I know our dispatch supervisors specifically like it because before Live911, they would drop into a call and listen to another dispatcher speaking to the caller. But when they do that, it ties up their phone line. With Live911, they are able to kind of click on different calls especially if there are multiple 911 calls coming in. Maybe you have that traffic collision in an intersection. You see five or six 911 calls cluster on a map immediately that shows all in one location. But maybe you see another one that is an outlier, in a different part of the city. You can click on that 911 call to hear directly that call. So, you kind of pick and choose and see what the different resources are going to be needed. And it’s the same with our supervisors, and our Watch Commander can kind of pick and choose which ones they want it to look at. And I’m not sure if I answered the question on that or not.



Audience Question: Are you saying that this only works if your call-taking system and/or CAD system is integrated with rapid SOS as opposed to using rapid SOS via the SOS portal? 

Tom Goodwin: Yes, they can use the RapidSOS portal. What we found was by actually having Live911 query RapidSOS, we can get that information and location information faster onto the map. Additionally, we can add things like the area of uncertainty. There’s other RapidSOS information that is available, and it displays on the map so that the first responder gets the information immediately, as opposed to having to go through a secondary clicking to go through the RapidSOS portal.



Audience Question: What if multiple 911 calls are coming in from the same area or the geofence radius? But regarding entirely different emergencies, how do you filter the non-emergency 911 calls that are also placed on 911? 

Don Redmond:  Live 911 does not change any operating procedures for dispatch. Dispatchers handle your current method of calls coming in, nothing changes with Live911. This is just a portal for the first responder out in the field to eavesdrop on the different calls for service so they can pick and choose. But the first responder has no control whatsoever over how a dispatcher clears the call answers the call. That remains completely in control of the Dispatch Center.



Audience Question: Don, to your point, it lets the officer pick and choose a little bit, how do you make sure that everybody doesn’t pick the hottest call, and everybody only responds to the one call if they want to respond and then all the calls are taken care of? 

Don Redmond: So, again, this does not change how an officer is dispatched. Now we recognize that an officer could hear a 911 call and self-dispatch to a call, not knowing there is another call that’s pending. This is just like an officer that does a self-initiated activity such as making a traffic stop or something. When a dispatcher comes on the air, and says, I’ve got a pending hot call for you to go, you need to break. That does not change. I just want to make it clear how dispatch currently operates, it remains the same. We really have had our officers and supervisors work very closely with our dispatchers and there is a huge learning curve. What is very interesting is our officers never knew what the dispatchers did when taking a call They knew they take calls for service and everything. But they did not recognize the challenges that our dispatchers have because the officers never heard it. When the officer would get on the air and ask what direction of travel is that car going? What color is the car? And then they start rapidly asking all these questions on a hot call that’s coming out. Now they are hearing the dispatcher, asking every question already of the caller, but maybe the caller doesn’t know they’re vague or something of that nature. What we found is really reduced airtime radio traffic that we’ve had and a better connection with the officers. The officers are arriving on scene and are protecting our dispatchers. When that they hear the way a caller talks to our dispatcher maybe not in a polite manner, the officer has to explain to the caller that our dispatchers have to ask these questions for this reason. And please do not curse out our dispatchers, we do not like that. It does not help the situation and we want to remain professional in everything that we do.

Fritz Reber: Before Live911, when you drove around, and you didn’t get the information you wanted, you were very frustrated, and officers would naturally just sort of blame the messenger. Any misunderstanding, any conflicts between dispatch and officers seemed to resonate from this frustration and inevitably you’re thinking the dispatchers aren’t doing enough to get you the information. With Live911, officers listening to the incoming 911 calls are realizing that the reason you’re not getting information is probably a caller who is not co-operative, under the influence, has a lot of background noise, or a million different reasons. You get to hear all the questions being asked. So, you’re not having to ask them over the air. It really clears up, and the blame ends up where it lies. And dispatchers and police officers, I think, see things, and realize there are a lot of reasons that they weren’t getting the information out of the caller and none of it was the dispatcher’s fault.


Audience Question: Can officers, so the officers can hear the call, obviously? Can they ask the caller additional questions? or do they need to funnel that question to the dispatcher to ask?

Greg Goreck: I can take that one. It’s one-way communication. I mean, basically, you can hear the caller, but you’re still relying on dispatch to tell the  call taker, to ask your questions. Live911 has allowed us to cut out some of the daisy chain, so the officer can hear the information from the caller as they are saying it.

Don Redmond:  And what we do to add to that, we’ve had officers who will come out on the air and say, “I’m monitoring Live911, can you ask the caller this question?” The dispatcher may not know what they’re talking about, because they’re not the call taker. So, the officer says I’m monitoring live 911, can you ask the caller on Broadway if the person is carrying a backpack? And then hear the response in real-time.



Audience Question: Has this been, or can this be deployed for fire, EMS? 

Fritz Reber: So, I’ll take this. Being a cop, it’s pretty intuitive how to integrate into Police operations. As a part of our DFR Program, we had firefighters in the drone room, and they loved getting the information faster. And they would get all the medical information and have an idea of what to do as soon as that their rig arrives. We have not really figured out a way to integrate it into everyday fire operations as they dispatch differently. They’re not driving around, waiting for the next call, and a lot of them go in and out of different districts. We are still looking into bring Live911 to other operations; however, those use cases aren’t as clear as the law enforcement, police, and deputy use cases.



Audience Question: What kind of financial impact did this have on the budget? So, for example, does Live911, need electronic storage, or is it, is it only live, or, and not kept outside of CAD? What are the financial impacts? I think a lot of agencies. remember body-worn cameras and having to store that video and such. She’s wondering that same question. 

Tom Goodwin: Live911 is designed to be a live streaming application. We do retain the information for a period of time. As Greg pointed out to be able to do some playback, but it’s not long-term storage. It doesn’t change the need for the call recording and logging system. Live911 does require a server in the PSAP for the purpose of being able to capture the audio, as well as the ALI, and ANI information, and  RapidSOS information. That server can be a VM on an existing server network and it does not have to be overly large. For the officers, the web application that would be hosted in the MDC. From a cost point of view, it’s not that high.



Audience Question: Fritz, you talked about how you came up with the idea for live 911, as a cop, you would hear details in the call that sometimes weren’t being shared. Can you give some examples of those kinds of details that may be just intuitively cops would hear in the caller’s, voices and such that helped as you approach the call for service? 

Fritz Reber: Certainly, the tone of voice, and how serious and urgent it was, was helpful. How time-sensitive it was. Was this something that happened several minutes ago, or was it happening right this second? I don’t have any real-life examples, other than scenarios where you might hear a caller saying, the person’s coming out they’re carrying a backpack, they’d just jumped into a white truck. They’re taking off going around the big tree, and crossing Broadway over towards Wal-Mart. That is a lot of information to put into the CAD. The result is officers might hear that the person leaving now on a white truck and not all the other facts and details. That would come with the caller. When you get that information immediately, you can look where that person’s describing, and if they’re saying, Hey, the trucks crossing the street right now, you realize that. In the old days if you heard it over the radio, the only piece of information you knew was that truck wasn’t was crossing the street right then.

Don Redmond:  I will add that we’ve had a lot of success when a victim might be following a suspect and giving their turn by turn location. When the caller is saying I’m turning right on Broadway, the call taker enters into CAD it gets routed over the dispatcher. The dispatcher puts their turning right on Broadway but since then, they have made two more left turns, because there is that delay. We found that the officers who are monitoring Live911, they’re able to immediately catch up to the caller’s because it’s in real-time, and they can see their location on the map.

Greg Goreck: And just to add to Don and Fritz, you know, whenever you think about reading a book. If you’re reading the CAD screen or even the dispatcher is reading the CAD screen from the call taker, you’re putting your own inflections, your own interpretations on written information. With Live911, we’re hearing that reportee, the tone of their voice, the urgency, the real facts that are coming in. You’re not having to imagine what’s going on. You hear what’s going on!



Audience Question: So, in terms of the metrics, so how has 911, live 911 changed operations? What are some of those metrics or benchmarks that you’ve noticed after implementing live 911? Are people getting to situations, you know, X percent sooner? Are they able to de-escalate situations more effectively? What are some more of those specific pieces of data in terms of how you’ve seen this technology transform your agencies? 

Don Redmond: Okay. We are actually working with HigherGround to try and get statistical information. How do we quantify it? We have got a lot of examples, and we feel like Live911 is helping. For our priority one response times, we are this year for the first time, in 6 or 7 years, are now going to meet our response time parameters, which is pretty incredible. And our priority two response times, we have taken off a couple of minutes. We believe it is in direct response to Live911. But we have to make sure that we quantitate it, we can’t directly tie it to them. But, we have a number of examples of officers arriving on scene and it was interesting when we first rolled this out, our dispatchers are all talking and they knew about live 911, but they couldn’t understand how officers were already on scene, when they dispatch a call, the officers said, “Yeah, I’m already here”. And they were they like, “How did they even know there was a call?” They thought maybe it was just lucky to get there at the exact same time, and now they know that’s not the case that the officers are monitoring. A couple of the officers have told me directly that they have to sometimes slow down and maintain officer safety. You know, they hear it, it’s right down the street, they want to go out and help, but they maintain the officer safety, and sometimes they just have to park and wait for their backup unit to get there and roll in there. But, in the meantime, they are copying and listening to the Live911.

Greg Goreck: I totally agree with Don. The question is how do you quantify how much time you are saving, especially if you are dispatching yourself before the call is actually built in the system, or even dispatched.  We have to look at how we can start recording self-dispatch times and correlating those to the times associated with the call as it goes from caller to call taker to dispatch in the traditional system. We’re having to re-look at those features. But I’m trying to measure our success, benchmarks, and the effect on customer service. Since we have started using Live911, we have seen a quicker response to calls, as compared to when we were not using Live911 I mean when we beat the fire department and EMS to a scene, and how it used to be the other way around; it’s like, wow, somethings changed. As large as our jurisdiction is, it used to always happen that way, since you’ve got more fire stations closer to the calls in the districts. Since we started using Live911 we are able to respond to emergency calls quicker and our response times have shortened.  It’s really turned around and seen a noticeable improvement.


Click Here to Watch a Recording of Livestream 911 Calls Directly to First Responders for Improved Situational Awareness and Faster Response Times


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