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In the Midst of COVID-19, RapidDeploy Makes Virtualization of 9-1-1 Dispatch a Reality

RapidDeploy, in collaboration with Microsoft, enables PSAPs to maintain operations while telecommunicators work from the safety of their homes.

by Reinhard Ekl, RapidDeploy COO / April 14, 2020

Stuck in the Past: PSAPs During COVID-19

A recent article published by The Hill stated that 90 percent of Americans are now voluntarily or involuntarily staying at home to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus. Social distancing and self-quarantining are essential to flatten the curve of this unprecedented pandemic. However, survey results as part of a NENA report on 911 operations and PSAPs during the first months of the coronavirus pandemic show that telecommunicators don’t currently have the necessary remote capabilities to help them follow these important safety measures. Sixty-four percent of PSAPs responding to the survey report no remote capabilities, while 30 percent report they can work remotely from an alternate government or public safety site. Only 7 percent of PSAPs reported their responders were able to work from home. This means while many Americans can prioritize their personal safety and the safety of others by working at home, the majority of telecommunicators must still report to a physical location, adding additional stress to a profession already burdened by high turnover rates and overwhelming workloads. And although some protective measures are in place at these facilities, NENA reported fewer than half were conducting any health screenings.

RapidDeploy’s Technology Virtualizes the 911 Communications Center

Fortunately, the technology to completely virtualize the 911 call center currently exists. RapidDeploy’s solutions include analytics, mapping, dispatch, and first responder applications and these tools are purpose-built for public safety and emergency communications, enabling the most effective, efficient, and personalized emergency response. RapidDeploy enables PSAPs to maintain high quality service if their physical location must close or if staff cannot report to work. This pandemic is shining a light on the obsolescence of legacy systems and archaic technology found in communications centers that can be improved to better protect and enable PSAPs.

In this time of uncertainty, being able to maintain continuity of PSAP operations remotely is not a nice-to-have, it is a requirement for both operational continuity and community health and safety. When this technology is implemented, systems will be weatherproofed for future crises, whether they are natural disasters, terrorist attacks or pandemics. Virtualization enabled by cloud-based solutions also solves the perennial staffing dilemma faced by any business with a diverse workforce. Employees now forced to take a day off because of a sick child or family emergency can still perform their daily duties if given the means to do so virtually. Thanks to RapidDeploy’s cloud-native technology, the work-at-home flexibility can become standard for PSAPs.

RapidDeploy has been working for over a year on a proof of concept to virtually deploy Telecommunicator Emergency Response Taskforce (TERT) teams across the nation, without having to physically move people or expose them to any dangers. While originally designed for large-scale disasters like hurricanes and earthquakes, this pandemic provides another use case for RapidDeploy’s virtual TERT initiative. In the future, we will be working with Charleston County Consolidated 9-1-1 and Collier County Sheriff’s Office to pilot operations that enable work-from-home and true geographical diversity in our disaster preparedness.

Jim Lake, director at Charleston County Consolidated Dispatch Center who has embraced the need for PSAPs to get ahead of the curve, agrees. “911 centers have always been asked to do more with less or more with the same. PSAPs need to learn how to operate more like businesses. I believe that leveraging the cloud can solve staffing issues as telecommunicators will be able to work from home and still be able to deliver best-in-class service to the communities they serve.”

RapidDeploy Joins Forces with Microsoft to Ensure Reliability and Seamless Upgrades

RapidDeploy is a cloud-native software company and its established expertise enables collaboration and continued workflow without employees being tethered to office desks. Partnering with Microsoft, RapidDeploy makes it just as easy for our customers to maintain the same effectiveness and efficiency. Telecommunicator Emergency Response Taskforce (TERT) teams across the country can now be deployed without physical exposure to danger. RapidDeploy’s technology is built on the reliability and security of the Microsoft Azure Government Cloud, the only cloud platform specifically designed for U.S. federal, state, and local governments.

“Microsoft is proud to partner with RapidDeploy to bring the proven capabilities of the Azure Government Cloud to their customers,” says Richard Zak, director of Justice and Public Safety Solutions at Microsoft. “We understand the importance of RapidDeploy’s virtual TERT initiative and we look forward to Microsoft cloud technology being an integral part of the transition to remote operations for PSAPs nationwide.”

RapidDeploy not only gets responders out of the communications centers and into their homes, but cloud technology makes the need for on-site system maintenance and in-person upgrades by vendors completely unnecessary. Nearly half the respondents in the NENA survey also reported that maintenance and upgrades have been put on the back burner due to COVID-19. Vendor upgrades and necessary maintenance visits have disappeared because of social distancing and non-essential workforce being placed under stay-at-home orders. Missing out on the installation of upgrades “exposes PSAPs to vulnerabilities especially if these upgrades include security enhancements,” the survey noted. Three-quarters of survey respondents also expressed seeing no end in sight to this maintenance freeze. Here is the good news: all telecommunicators working virtually on RapidDeploy’s solutions also get the benefit of real-time data updates and instant system upgrades. All updates are integrated with RapidDeploy’s applications and new features that aid functionality always arrive on schedule and appear with the simple refresh of a browser.

As COVID-19 peaks, a drastic pivot is needed for communications centers to maintain operations and keep staff safe. Let RapidDeploy virtualize your workforce and reduce the unnecessary pressure on administrators, responders and telecommunicators.

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