An increasing number of organizations are allowing employees to work from home. New technologies like the cloud, mobile apps, virtual private networks (VPNs), and lightning-fast data speeds enable employees to collaborate and access information reliably and securely from almost anywhere.
While many businesses offer remote working for reasons like accessing a larger talent pool or bolstering employees’ work-life balance, it can be an instrumental tactic for any type of organization to maintain continuity during a crisis.
Storms, earthquakes, or other disasters can render physical facilities unstable. Widespread illness, like the coronavirus pandemic of 2020, has already resulted in businesses and organizations temporarily shutting their doors, forcing people from nearly every walk of life to work remotely.
It’s easy to assume those in the public safety sector, particularly call-takers and dispatchers, couldn’t work remotely, but that’s no longer the case. Modern computer-aided dispatch (CAD) systems with web-based interfaces and mobile capabilities make it possible for PSAP operations to seamlessly work from anywhere in the case of agencywide illness or disaster.
Remote working – yes or no?
The decision to let dispatchers and call-takers work remotely isn’t one PSAP managers should take lightly. They must consider several factors, including employee performance, operational effectiveness, and available tools.
Exceptional performance is critical during a time of disaster or mass illness when calls for service increase. Managers must assess whether working remotely offers the agility their PSAPs require. And once deployed, they need real-time insights into demand, workloads, and performance to ensure effective operation and detect emerging issues.
Since dispatchers provide critical and often life-saving information to responders on the scene, can remote dispatchers be just as effective? Mobile apps and web-based interfaces allow vital information to be easily accessed and shared in real-time from any location, ensuring a seamless transition and smooth workflow.
PSAPs may look like a mountain of cables and high-tech equipment, but their base components are a phone and computer. Dispatchers working from home also need a headset with microphone, reliable Wi-Fi network, and a router with the latest firmware. These tools, combined with the ability to remotely access their CAD system via web or mobile app, allow dispatchers to work from anywhere.
Today’s CAD systems are either installed on-premises or in the cloud. While on-premises solutions allow agencies to have total control over their system and system maintenance, the cloud offers security, reliability, and resiliency. Cloud and web-based systems enable PSAPs to quickly share CAD access with additional personnel if a scale-up is needed during an emergency.
Expect the unexpected
Most PSAPs have contingency plans to ensure seamless operations during a crisis or disaster, and – unfortunately – those can sometimes happen directly to a PSAP. For example, a 911 center in Savannah, Georgia, had to be evacuated after the center’s fire suppression system went off during a fire alarm test. The center transferred calls to another part of the building until it could set up a backup center at a separate location.
Browser and app clients mean PSAPs can rapidly establish contingency facilities anywhere with suitable internet and add users and get them up and running with minimal effort. Cloud hosting affords geographic resilience that allows continued operation, even during extreme events.
Web-based tools and mobile apps provide PSAPs the flexibility to be agile in a crisis. A dispatcher working remotely can easily share real-time assessments of active incidents, assuring workflow productivity and facilitating faster and smarter decision-making. If additional responders are required at a scene, web-based tools allow dispatchers to quickly assess the status and location of available units, while real-time analytics can ensure supervisors are aware of any emerging issues.
Mobile apps and web-based platforms also allow users to access and share video and map information, which increases situational awareness of those on the scene. Real-time dashboards and analytics keep supervisors and managers informed of live operations. This ultimately ensures personnel have timely information, which leads to faster, smarter decisions.
One thing is certain – agency leaders can’t predict emergencies, accidents, or disasters. The only way to ensure a PSAP is prepared is to expect the unexpected and plan accordingly. Working remotely might not be the best solution for every PSAP, but it’s worth considering.
Web-based CAD and mobile apps supported by real-time analytics allow first response capabilities to continue their important mission from any location, which should provide peace of mind to public safety agencies and the public. After all, the ability to quickly answer and respond to a call for service is more important than where the call is received.
Let us help you plan ahead. See how our solutions can provide an unprecedented level of preparedness to your PSAP.