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AI-Powered ‘Virtual Agent’ Could Help 911 Call Centers

The tool aims to take the load off of understaffed 911 call centers by handling less critical tasks, like routing 311 calls and answering routine queries.

911 dispatchers at work in the Arlington County, Va., Emergency Communications Center.
911 dispatchers at work in the Arlington County, Va., Emergency Communications Center.
(Arlington County)
911 centers are commonly understaffed, making the job more stressful for those doing it and making life more dangerous for those who need immediate attention.

In San Francisco, for instance, the number of full-time 911 dispatchers dropped from 155 to 123 between March 2020 and December 2022. What’s more, according to public safety tech firm Carbyne, 99 percent of emergency communications centers manage both emergency 911 lines and administrative lines, like 311 to support other services such as trash removal.

This compounds the staffing problem, but a new platform from Carbyne could be an answer: An AI-powered virtual agent (AI-V) that can handle routine inquiries including routing calls, answering common questions and filing complaints could help free up staff time so that they can do the critical 911 work.

“AI-V addresses the No. 1 problem facing most emergency communication centers, which is understaffing,” Amir Elichai, Carbyne’s CEO, said in a statement. “They need their personnel to answer emergency calls first. By integrating AI in a cloud-native platform, we’re transforming how communities can meet their citizens’ expectations for smartphone-era service.”

The AI-V service is always learning, according to the company, and provides feedback data that helps agencies improve the coverage of its services and address more needs.

Carbyne is offering AI-V as an add-on service for APEX, its full-featured call management platform, and Universal, an “over-the-top” call management system layered onto the communication center’s existing infrastructure.