Nurturing True Collaboration in PSAP Teams: The Key to a Seamless Emergency Response

By Karima Holmes, VP of Public Safety, Carbyne

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During my time as an executive in Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) across this country,   I learned only too well that in the space of public safety, where every second counts, collaboration among emergency responders is not just beneficial—it’s absolutely essential. PSAPs are the nerve center of the emergency response ecosystem, where effective teamwork can mean the difference between life and death. In this article, I explain the significance of true collaboration in PSAPs and explore strategies to foster seamless cooperation among team members.

Understanding the Importance of Collaboration

Having overseen the performance of a large public safety department for major operations like State of the Union addresses, presidential inaugurations, and even active shooter events, I know that the PSAP almost always serves as the first point of contact in emergency situations, where distress calls are received, triaged, and dispatched to the proper field responders. In such high-pressure environments, teamwork is paramount. Here’s why:

Swift Decision-Making: Emergency situations demand quick, well-informed decisions. For those swift decisions having a team that is collaborative allows them to pool their expertise and perspectives to make accurate assessments and respond promptly.

Resource Optimization: PSAPs are constantly identifying, organizing and deploying resources to emergencies. Those duties require that the team coordinate efforts, internally and externally, to ensure those resources are utilized efficiently. Whether it’s deploying personnel or dispatching equipment alongside neighboring jurisdictions, collaboration helps in maximizing the effectiveness of response efforts.

Comprehensive Support: No emergency scenario is identical, and neither are the people responding over the phone or on the scene. Studies show when a team is truly collaborative  those diverse skill sets and different experience levels are brought to the table, enabling the availability of options to address a wide range of situations effectively.

Challenges in PSAP Team Collaboration

After managing a team of over 400 employees and executing multi-million dollar budgets throughout my 20+ years in the industry, I’ll be the first to tell you that despite its importance, achieving seamless collaboration in PSAPs can be challenging due to several factors:

High Stress Levels: 9-1-1 professionals often work under immense pressure, which can hinder effective communication and teamwork. 

Shift Work Dynamics: PSAPs operate round the clock, with teams working in shifts. Ensuring smooth collaboration across different shifts requires robust communication channels and clear protocols.

Interagency Coordination: PSAPs frequently interact with various emergency response agencies within and outside their jurisdiction. Coordinating efforts and sharing information among these agencies are often challenging and demand effective collaboration mechanisms.

Strategies for Fostering Collaboration

What I learned from being repeatedly recognized for my holistic approach to the public safety landscape, is that to overcome these challenges and promote effective collaboration, PSAPs can implement the following strategies:

Encourage Open Communication: Foster a culture of open communication where team members feel comfortable sharing ideas, concerns, feedback, and asking for help. Regular team meetings and debriefings can serve as forums for discussion and collaboration.

Comprehensive Training: Provide team members with training programs that emphasize the importance of collaboration, effective communication techniques, and conflict resolution skills. This training should take place at the outset of a 9-1-1 professional’s career and continue throughout their time in PSAP positions.

Utilize Technology: Invest in advanced communication and collaboration tools that facilitate real-time information sharing among team members. Ideally tools that automate mundane or simple repeated tasks, to allow the 911 professional to make more critical decisions faster and more accurately. These tools could include unified communication platforms, shared databases, AI, and incident management software.

Establish Clear Protocols: Develop and maintain standardized protocols and procedures for handling different types of emergencies. Ensure that all team members are familiar with these protocols through regular training and drills. Be sure to regularly update those protocols, the emergency communications landscape changes, and this will prepare the team.

Cross-Training Initiatives: Encourage cross-training among PSAP team members and others who interact with them. This will promote a better understanding of each other’s roles and responsibilities proactively. Cross-training also enhances flexibility and enables team members to seamlessly step in to support each other when needed.

Recognition and Feedback: Acknowledge and reward instances of effective collaboration within the team. Constructive feedback to and from your teams can also help identify areas for improvement and foster continuous growth.


In the critical fast-paced environment of PSAPs, effective collaboration is not just a desirable trait—it’s a necessity. By nurturing a culture of teamwork, communication, and mutual support, 911 professionals can enhance their ability to respond to emergencies swiftly and effectively. Through comprehensive training, leveraging technology, and fostering open communication, our first first responders can work together seamlessly to safeguard their communities and continue to save lives.

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