S.C. 9-1-1 Center Explores Social Media to Improve 9-1-1 Operations
Monday, November 05, 2018 | Comments

Several public-safety entities conducted a pilot project that tested the use of social media data in emergency response in September. The project included collaborators from the Penn State University (PSU) College of Information Sciences’ 3C Informatics: Crisis, Community and Civic Informatics; Charleston County (South Carolina) Consolidated 9-1-1 Center; Mission Critical Partners (MCP); RapidSOS; and RapidDeploy.

The project explored how access to social media data could potentially improve situational awareness during emergencies and its impact on 9-1-1 operations. A key finding of the project was that telecommunicators and first responders universally agreed that social media provides the 9-1-1 community with an increasingly important tool for augmenting emergency response, provided that the data is properly integrated and operationalized.

Following a data collection phase completed in May, PSU, MCP and RapidSOS developed a prototype social media application to determine which types of social media data would be most useful during the call-taking and dispatching processes. This platform searches, maps and filters relevant information from a large dataset of real-world social media posts captured during emergencies and allows telecommunicators to focus on the emergency at hand. The prototype was tested in August using emergency scenarios where a communications specialist shared information with dispatchers to enhance 9-1-1 workflows.

Several other takeaways during the pilot project will be critical elements in developing a solution that allows for improved emergency response when someone is unable to place a 9-1-1 call, a statement said.

Seeing social media data integrated within an existing call-handling or dispatching platform is key. In Charleston, a RapidDeploy cloud-based CAD platform was used to demonstrate how data could be displayed in a CAD user interface. The integration of new data, including social media, into 9-1-1 operations will require new, advanced training for multiple roles, including call-takers, dispatchers, supervisors, managers and technical staff.

While first responders and telecommunicators were enthused about the opportunity to leverage social media, they offered varying opinions regarding the types of information they found most valuable given their specific emergency response role. New roles and skills may be necessary for monitoring, analyzing and operationalizing social media data. For example, a 9-1-1 center might want to add a communications specialist role, which could provide career path progression for call-takers or dispatchers with strong analytical and problem-solving skills.

“Data, and how that data is used to respond to emergencies, is a major component of 9-1-1’s evolution,” said Jim Lake, director, Charleston County Consolidated 9-1-1 Center. “The Charleston County 9-1-1 Center was excited to be part of this pilot project that will pave the way for other 9-1-1 centers nationwide.”

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