How data can improve your PSAP

When the difference between life and death is a matter of moments, agencies must leverage every asset to gain extra seconds. This is especially important in public safety answering points (PSAPs), where everyone continually strives to achieve performance targets and improve services.

While many agencies must meet local and national standards, it’s important to measure more than just these requirements. If activities in a PSAP aren’t measured, it’s impossible to know whether an agency is performing optimally. Questions about peak call time and adequate staffing levels can’t be answered without the proper data.

Common metrics

There is a substantial amount of valuable data in tools like computer-aided dispatch (CAD) and records management systems, but it can be intimidating to determine what to track. Knowing what metrics and key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure can vary depending on what’s important to each PSAP. There are, however, some basic metrics every PSAP should track:

  • Time for answer: How long does it take from the moment a call begins until it’s answered? According to NENA, 90% of all calls should be answered within 10 seconds during peak hours.
  • Time between call to dispatch: How long does it take from the moment the call for service is received to when the first unit is dispatched?
  • Time for dispatch: How long does it take from the moment a call for service is requested to first responders arriving on scene? Major cities average between 5 to 10 minutes per response.
  • Processing time (start to add): How long does it take the call-taker or dispatcher to process and complete the call? This KPI is good for managing the efficiency of a dispatching unit.

Operations data

There are also many types of operations data that provide insight for PSAPs. The following data can be leveraged by agencies to ensure safety and efficiency, enhance resource capabilities and improve operations:

  • Unit coverage: Leveraging automatic vehicle location/global positioning system (AVL/GPS) data enables an agency to ensure proper coverage. This can help an agency do more with less because it allows a PSAP operator to see if there are too many units within an area or if resources are needed elsewhere.
  • Unit utilization: Even if units are properly allocated during a shift, PSAP operators should know if resources are assigned, available, or out of service. Units can also be broken down by dispatch group, beat, and individual units to determine if they’re being effectively utilized.
  • Cross unit dispatch: This metric supports utilization by measuring how many times a unit is dispatched outside its defined group. A high number can indicate dispatch groups should be redistributed.
  • Speed management: Public safety agencies are under increasing scrutiny, leaving no room for potential problems. Speed management data can be tracked against predetermined thresholds to inform a supervisor of officer actions. Relevant data includes whether the officer was on an event, if lights were activated, and/or the officer’s location.

Where to find & track data

CAD and records management systems are goldmines for information. Traditionally, employees have pored through these systems to compile data and analyze the results for insights. However, an advanced analytics solution can easily turn raw, fragmented data into valuable reports for easy consumption.

Through dashboards, PSAP personnel can monitor and supervise ongoing operations. These dashboards also provide continuous measurement of performance versus goals.

Personnel can also share these metrics with supervisors, call-takers, dispatchers, and others in easy-to-process charts, graphs, and maps, allowing them to evaluate progress in real-time. The information can be easily viewed on tablets, workstation desktops, or displayed on wallboards for each shift to see.

Many dispatchers enjoy the visibility of wallboards because they create fun, competitive atmospheres. In some PSAPs, call-takers try to achieve better metrics than their peers. Ultimately, data can motivate employees to work smarter and faster, which benefits the entire community.


The benefits of analytics are numerous, but PSAP leaders must ultimately decide what works best for their operations. Those on the fence about an accurate and reliable reporting solution should consider the adage, ‘Time is money.’ The ability to quickly create dashboards and access clean and comprehensive data reduces data preparation costs and delays and benefits the bottom line.

Finally, analytics provide leaders a glimpse of staffing levels and can be used to justify the hiring of additional personnel. Financial decision-makers need hard-and-fast numbers when considering requests for resources.

Regardless of whether they serve fire, EMS, law enforcement, or multiple disciplines, PSAP operations should perform at their best. The right analytics solution can help ensure PSAPs not only exceed current standards, but also create new benchmarks for measurable performance.

For more information on how data can improve your PSAP, download our free eBook Transform Your Public Safety Agency with Analytics.

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