Friendlier, more efficient PSAP

Voice analytic technology helps 911 PSAPs examine calls for crime analysis and investigations


   Crime analysis and emergencies, however, are two different animals when it comes to how fast communications must be monitored. Emenecker says these capabilities depend on agency needs as well as the call center’s size. “All audio is typically processed within 24 hours,” she explains. “[Recorded audio] may not always be appropriate for a breaking case, but can be used for incident reconstruction.”

   However, says Emenecker, calls are continuously processed. “It’s not one big batch at the end of a shift. Priorities can be set in a system, so some calls will be processed within the hour, while others may not be processed until the next day.” Currently priorities cannot be set in terms of keywords, but can be the line calls came in on (for instance, 911 as opposed to 311), or even the CAD ID number.

   Overall, the system is less subjective than the calltaker’s perception of what he or she is hearing and the relevance it has. It also means calltakers do not have to be responsible for sharing call information with the goal of uncovering patterns; instead, they can focus on calltaking, their primary responsibility.

   Simplify the call-taking process

   The successful resolution to the Coatesville serial arson case was only a small part of Chester County’s overall Impact 360 Speech Analytics Essentials test. The main outcome: a change in policy based on quantitative data from a qualitative problem.

   “When the county first went to 911, often the caller data that came up on the calltakers’ CAD screens was wrong,” says Kagel. Multiple municipalities had the same street names, for one thing, making it harder to figure out where someone was calling from. Then, around 1997 or 1998, a person died in a house fire after the fire department was sent to the wrong location.

   Whether the delay caused the death wasn’t determined, but the possibility was enough to change policy. Calltakers had to ask callers what Kagel calls “detailed, scripted, regimented questions” about their location, municipality, cross streets, and phone number. This frustrated everyone: the callers who were trying to report emergencies, and the calltakers who had to ask the same questions over and over again.

   Impact 360 Speech Analytics Essentials, set up to retain 911 calls over a six-month period, recorded and analyzed the calls, including speech patterns that indicated emotional stress. That led to a policy change. “Now, we have calltakers use the tools available to them,” says Kagel. “If the CAD screen shows only one location based on what the caller says, the calltaker proceeds with the call. If CAD shows more than one possible location, the calltaker asks which it is.”

   This kind of capability is important in similar situations, such as when 911 callers complain about getting a busy signal the first time they try to call. Impact 360 can ascertain when and how often this happens, so that supervisors and calltakers can adjust work flow.

   Policy changes are just one possible outcome of a call pattern analysis. Kagel says because the system identified 911 hangups as, again, a quantitative measure -- 15 to 20 percent of calls -- the department could conceivably use the data to construct a public education campaign. “Callers don’t know that although we can call landlines back to get a location, if we have to call a cell phone back and get voicemail, we have no way of knowing where to dispatch a unit,” says Kagel. “So we might tell cell-phone callers to stay on the line with the calltaker, even if the call is a mistake, so we can make sure they don’t need a responder.”

   Call analysis is not all Impact 360 can do. Via its “Content Producer” module, it enables administrators to use call data together with recorded console screens for personnel training. Supervisors can edit out callers’ private information and embed screen captures into, say, a PowerPoint presentation. Then they can sit down with new hires and go through a real-life scenario step by step, pausing where necessary -- for example, to ask what should come next.

   Impact 360’s eLearning module, meanwhile, improves performance via on-the-fly training. Not meant to replace in-service “block” training, it’s designed to correct deficiencies and point out strengths as they come up. Calltakers can login to the eLearning system from their desks and take the 5- to 10-minute session between calls. This real-world learning via actual calls, says Emenecker, can be more effective than a supervisor simply telling the calltaker what to do.

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