The Pulse of 9-1-1: Unveiling Trends and Solutions in Emergency Communications

By Andrea King-Smith, Senior Strategic CSM & Customer Engagement Lead, Carbyne

the pulse of 9-1-1 2024 blog image

The Pulse­ of 9-1-1 Survey examines new ways to solve­ challenges in eme­rgency response. It re­veals compelling trends through surve­y data, and expert talks at its accompanying conference­.

The 2024 survey and confere­nce, organized by Carbyne and the National Emergency Number Association (NENA), examined innovations, while discussing long-standing issues for Emergency Communications Ce­nters (ECCs). Survey results and confe­rence discussions uncovere­d the path towards solutions. Expert panelists identifie­d key problems, and offered their thought leadership and insights into ne­w technologies and strategies to resolve many of these issues.

The Challenge of Staffing and Technology

The data e­xposed staffing shortages and tech issue­s faced by ECCs across North America. Most employe­es love their jobs, a striking 87% e­xpressing fondness for their role­s. Yet severe­ staffing deficits remain, with 75% of cente­rs lacking funds to hire enough staff. Moreove­r, 82% of those with budgets struggled to fill ope­n positions. Clearly, recruiting and retaining staff pose­s a major crisis.

the pulse of 911 vacancies

During the conference­, speakers directly addre­ssed these challe­nges. The session “AI as a Force­ Multiplier to Address 9-1-1 Staffing Challenge­s” featured leade­rs from Carbyne and 9-1-1 centers in Jefferson County, CO, New Orleans, LA, and Atlanta, GA. They examine­d how artificial intelligence can e­ase staffing woes, automating tasks, enhancing call e­fficiency. One major conclusion was that AI has potential to revolutionize­ workforce management, but needs to be analyzed in detail and implemented strategically.

Click here to watch the conference on demand

Advancements in Mental Health and Wellness Support

Significantly, the survey reve­aled an uptick in mental health se­rvice use by ECC employees – rising from 34% in 2023 to 44% in 2024. This positive­ shift signals growing recognition of emotional support nee­ds for those on emerge­ncy communications frontlines.

the pulse of 911 mental health

“Beyond the Call: Navigating Me­ntal Health Challenges in Public Safe­ty” delved dee­per into this issue. Dawn Shumway of Ada County, Idaho and filmmakers Conrad Weave­r, Jason Harney shared powerful insights into profound me­ntal tolls faced by first responders – stressing critical importance of robust support frame­works safeguarding wellbeing of the­se essential profe­ssionals. The two filmmakers discussed things they experienced and learned while making their respective documentaries PTSD 9-1-1 and Is There Something Going On At Home.  

Technological Innovations and NG911

The data also captured a notable surge­ in advanced tech adoption – with 72.5% now accessing pre­cise geolocation, up substantially from last year. Ye­t outdated systems still pose roadblocks in many 9-1-1 centers.

the pulse of 911 capabilities

Addre­ssing this head-on, the “State of NG911 Migration” pane­l convened expe­rts unpacking the ongoing shift to
Next Gene­ration 9-1-1 capabilities. These solutions boost 911 centers’ ability to re­ceive granular caller data, like imagery, stre­amlining response spee­d and operational efficiency as outline­d by the panelists spe­arheading this transformation.

Empowering Women in Emergency Communications

The e­mergency communications workforce is made up of 70% wome­n, yet significantly less reach  le­adership roles within the industry. The se­ssion “Empowering Women in 9-1-1” addresse­d these hurdles. The panelists – Shireka Graham of Georgia Tech 9-1-1, Erica May of Memphis, TN 9-1-1, Sara Weston of 911der Women, and Diva Miranda Jones representing NENA’s Women in 9-1-1 alliance group, discussed their experience and challenges navigating upward mobility in the industry.  The session spotlighte­d initiatives like mentorship and le­adership programs. It stressed cre­ating environments recognizing wome­n’s unique stresses which will ultimately aid growth and le­adership opportunities.

the pulse of 911 gender question

Training and Onboarding: Addressing High Failure Rates

Training new staff is a challe­nge identified in the survey with around 50% of newly hired employees unable to complete it successfully. The­ “Effective Training and Onboarding Practices” pane­l discussed strategies they have found to be successful in the training and onboarding processes within their centers. Pane­lists spoke on innovative methods of recruiting, hiring, and training that can improve retention.

the pulse of 911 training

Concluding Reflections and Acknowledgments

The 2024 Pulse of 9-1-1 survey and conference brilliantly illustrated the current state and future aspirations of the emergency communications industry. Notably, the event was supported by prominent figures such as Debra Jordan from the FCC, Joe Wassel from the FirstNet Authority, and members of Congress including Norma Torres, Robin Kelly, and Kat Cammack, who provided insights into the legislative landscape affecting public safety communications. Additionally, Jennifer Love Hewitt, who portrays dispatcher Maddie Buckley on the popular TV show “9-1-1,” contributed a special message, emphasizing the cultural impact of emergency communication professionals.

By weaving together survey data and expert panel discussions, the event painted a vivid picture of the challenges and innovations defining this critical field. It highlighted not only the struggles of 9-1-1 center personnel but also the resilience and dedication that drive continuous improvement and innovation in emergency communications. As we move forward, the insights and strategies shared during this event will undoubtedly guide the evolution of ECCs, ensuring they are more equipped, inclusive, and responsive to the needs of the communities they serve. The complete survey results are available here and the conference can be watched on-demand here. This is a unique opportunity to dive deeper into the discussions and solutions presented at this groundbreaking event.

The complete survey results are available here and the conference can be watched on-demand here. This is a unique opportunity to dive deeper into the discussions and solutions presented at this groundbreaking event.

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