Public safety answering point (PSAP) is a commonly used term to describe a 9-1-1 center or other emergency communications facility. The PSAP acronym can be applied to a wide range of things, including a physical place, as well as an entire system of emergency services infrastructure.
PSAPs essentially serve as critical points where calls must be logged and resources dispatched to respond to events. These could be simple, low priority events such a barking dog complaint from a frustrated neighbor, or the first call reporting a major disaster that may require days or weeks of response coordination and management.
What are the benefits and challenges of PSAPs?
The overall benefits of PSAPs are enhanced public safety and fast emergency response; however, there can be some complexities that negatively impact overall response efforts.
For example, the PSAP may not be the only place where an emergency call is handled. In some communities, calls are transferred, which can happen because of jurisdictional issues – such as a wireless 9-1-1 call arriving at the wrong PSAP that needs to be routed to the correct location.
Job functions may also dictate how calls are answered and transferred; the first PSAP answering point may only handle law enforcement calls, with secondary PSAPs handling fire- and EMS-related calls.
There are also variances in U.S. states, where only one primary PSAP is permitted in each county, while other jurisdictions may have their own primary PSAPs, which may lead to additional call transferring.
These types of arrangements can add challenges to the overall response effort and point to the need for more effective coordination and cooperation between agencies to more quickly and effectively respond to emergent situations.
A new movement called PSAP consolidation aims to have a single PSAP serve an entire county, or even multiple counties, to provide all of the necessary dispatch services within an outlined area. This would minimize the need to transfer calls to secondary PSAPs, potentially saving lives and time.
PSAP consolidation can also help reduce costs. For example, as 9-1-1 systems continue to be modernized through the deployment of Next Generation 911 (NG911), the costs of maintaining multiple PSAPs can become excessive.
PSAP software and solutions
Fortunately, today’s software and solutions allow PSAPs to improve operational effectiveness and better manage workflows in this new consolidated environment.
Hexagon offers many solutions that enhance the effectiveness of PSAPs, aid in data sharing for better consolidation and help break down silos that often exist between agencies.
This includes HxGN OnCall Dispatch, part of the HxGN OnCall Portfolio, a flexible suite of next-generation incident management capabilities that links callers, dispatchers, managers and field officers for faster, more effective response. OnCall Dispatch is available for on-premises, customer-hosted, or Software as a Service (SaaS) deployment. Resulting streamlined workflows reduce operator workload, increase productivity and boost PSAP capacity, while situational awareness and coordination keep responders safe and let teams take effective action sooner for better response and outcomes.
Ultimately, next-generation software solutions can help improve a PSAP’s response times the replacement of voice sharing of information with data sharing paths such as video and SMS text that dramatically enhance response times – pushing PSAPs into a new future.
The future of PSAPs
NG911, which refers to digital or Internet Protocol (IP)-based 911 systems rather than outdated analog systems, is the future of emergency response across the United States. NG911 is being rolled out nationwide to create a faster, more resilient system.
“In contrast to the legacy voice-centric’ E911 network, NG911 will support a more diverse set of IP-based communications including text, data, photos, and video exchanges that will enhance the speed, accuracy, and preparation of first responders,” according to Research and Markets. “The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is currently working closely with key stakeholders in the public safety sector to ensure a seamless and cost-effective transition to NG911.”
The world of PSAPs is undergoing a fundamental change. In fact, there have been discussions about moving away from the PSAP acronym, and the term “Emergency Communications Center” is emerging.
As PSAPs evolve to meet new challenges, the culture of public safety communications has expanded from telephones to computers to cell phones, and now artificial intelligence and other smart city solutions.
For example, there are emerging solutions that allow cities to see and act upon shared data to solve today’s common and not-so-common problems together. For emergency-driven collaboration, these solutions scale and link communities to solve common and uncommon problems together.
With the goal of breaking down organizational silos, these solutions allow PSAPs to access data from the original sources, while retaining full ownership and control of their own data. Theses future-focused solutions also complement organizations’ existing systems, providing a richer unified view of information with messaging and tasking to allow both day-to-day, ad-hoc engagement and ongoing structured collaboration.
No matter the specific functions of a local PSAP, or what the name may end up being, the most important part of this acronym is “P and S,” which will always stand for public safety. And with nearly 6,000 PSAPs across the United States, and countless more around the globe, they will continue to provide critical services needed to keep citizens safe.
Find out more about HxGN OnCall, Hexagon’s next-generation public safety portfolio, including HxGN OnCall Records, HxGN OnCall Analytics, HxGN OnCall Planning & Response and HxGN OnCall Field Mobility.
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