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Call Recorders: Technology Tools For Emergency Management

Author: Bruce E. Thorburn, 9-1-1 Consultant

Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content

Date: 2012-05-21
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With hurricane season fast approaching Emergency Management Agencies are gearing up with planning training exercises for response to local disaster incidents. In conversations with 9-1-1 Coordinators I have found that most are active participants as Emergency Service Function (ESF) Section Chiefs, liaisons, area specialists, or support staffs. The 9-1-1 Community now has mandatory Certification in Florida that includes preliminary and secondary training and coaching. These edicts support a comprehensive program of Quality Assurance (QA) and use of voice and data analytics tools for maximizing training, re-training, coaching and reporting. There is ample reason to extend these technology tools to Emergency Management Operations and Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs) and First Responders from all of the ESNs.

This article will attempt to justify including call recorders fitted with QA and Analytics capabilities in EOCs as a viable technology tool for the preparing for and responding to local disasters, impending or actual. These capabilities can be used for quality assurance on Citizen Information Lines (CIL) for the training and re-training of call handlers and volunteers for both voice and data call handling. They can be used for call data analysis for events prior-to, during, and after for ESN training, re-training, and coaching as well as for reporting capabilities for event diagnosis and costs recovery to The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and/or the State equivalent. 

The National Incident Management System (NIMS) is comprised of several components intended to work together as a system, providing a national framework for preparing for, preventing, responding to, and recovering from domestic incidents.

These components include:

Command Management – in this component the use of QA allows for some degree of comfort that a reasonable level of training is established, and maintained while the use of analytics, both voice and data is proof that the program is reasonably secure with support documentation for review and/or analysis by interested parties.

Prepardness – in this component records from previous training exercises or actual events can be used to prepare for future events. For example, recognition of areas for concern for traffic control, fire, or flooding potential can be diagnosed and established procedures put into place for future planning and implementation for new disasters.

Resource Management – with the accumulation of historical data from analytics Managers and Section Chiefs can pre-determine processes for both manpower and materials for any number of disaster incidents. QA analysis of calling patterns can make a reasonable determination of calling volumes for staffing before, during, and after events that manpower can be available based on the demographics of the entire incident as well as for the designation of the appropriate specific staff or volunteers with the needed expertise in general and specific areas to answer specialized questions from any number of calls from the public or private citizens and/or visitors.

Communications And Information Management - in this component the Emergency Management Agency has, at hand, all of the information both voice and data before, during, and after disaster events for assimilating, compiling, and reporting on the flow of the incident handling as well as for recognizing areas of concern for correction that can be done immediately or for long-term planning and correction. This is important because it can be ‘real time’ collection, analysis, and reporting and not contingent on outside agency resources provisioning. A recorder with QA and Analytics capabilities on the incoming and outgoing circuits independent or on a PABX; analog or digital, and voice or data can save time and manpower for the collection, assimilation, analysis, and reporting of all relevant issues pertaining to the entire disaster event.

Supporting Technology – using this technology enables Emergency Managers the capability of answering not only the impacts of wire line and wireless voice and data technology; but provides a more cost effective means of gathering and reporting on incidents from a self-maintained single control/point-of-contact source. This is entirely critical to Agencies for response to voice-only technologies. Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) persons and an ever-growing population that is turning away from traditional voice-only communications makes this an imperative. The advent of data in the form of text, Short Messaging Systems (SMS) and pictures and streaming video (MMS) and the propensity for their use (upwards of 70% of all wireless users access these features) increases the need for collecting, storing, and reporting this information.

Ongoing Management And Maintenance – as previously discussed, these are technology tools that can be used before, during, and after disaster events for collection, assimilation, analysis, and reporting; for planning and response; and for training, re-training, and coaching of all EOC staffs and other interested/affected parties.

Based on these observations, it would be noteworthy for the emergency response community to consider, evaluate, plan-for implementation of these technologies at the EOCs levels. 

Bruce Thorburn has been in the 9-1-1 Community since 1982, including five years with Orange County, Florida as their Database Manager, and 23 years with Lake County, Florida performing as E9-1-1/Addressing, Telecommunications, and Cable Television Regulatory Authority and Director. Bruce has also been the Legislative Liaison for Florida NENA since 1995 and been on the State Plan Technical Committee for Florida from its inception.

For more information in NIMS, see:


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