Can You See Him Now?

Text messaging: Communication choice of this generation. Camera phones: 50% of the 741 million cell phones worldwide. Blackberry® and Video phones: Popular devices with the hearing-impaired. Wireless media continues to improve and upgrade. Is the...

According to Sheehan, ILM benefits many people. The community benefits because their 9-1-1 center has more technology to help people, emergency communications operators have more tools to do their job, and first responders have more information. "With ILM, you are giving more information to help the first responders enter a safer scene," Sheehan states. "If you are going in to capture a dangerous person, it helps to have a picture of what that person looks like." NG 9-1-1 and ILM increase an operator's ability to do his or her job efficiently.

One group of citizens views this technology as a necessity, rather than a luxury. According to the Coalition of Organizations for Accessible Technology (COATS), "there are over 28-31 million persons who are deaf and hard of hearing and several million persons with speech disabilities, many of whom rely on text and/or video to communicate by phone." Although existing laws mandate TTY and telecommunications relay services, pagers, instant messaging and IP and video relay services have become the norm for this population, making the old technology obsolete. PSAPs need to upgrade their systems with ILM technology to provide emergency services to people with disabilities. COATS consists of over 90 national, regional and community-based organizations dedicated to making sure people with disabilities will not be left behind as NG 9-1-1 is implemented and ensuring communication via text and video is incorporated into new emergency technology.

Like all technological changes, ILM brings some disadvantages as well. "The information could become distracting to first responders as well as dispatchers," Coleman says. "Dispatchers will become potentially negatively impacted by scenes they are not used to seeing. They do not typically see destruction or injuries in their line of work." Training to address the added visual stress should be incorporated into agency policy.

In a response to USDOT ITS, the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) states, "We recognize, and advocate, that tomorrow's emergency services network includes all emergency agencies, not just PSAPs. Unlike the past, we need policies, architectures, and standards that address the vital interplay across all emergency professions, across jurisdictional lines, and across public/private boundaries. In the past, PSAPs have been primarily call taking and dispatching centers. In the future, they should be emergency communications nerve centers for the agencies and organizations in their communities which are involved in responding to emergencies." When the next emergency occurs, will we be ready?

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