Are We Ready For This? Drones in 911

By Heather Joyner posted 02-13-2017 06:30


In my career of being in public safety telecommunications I am amazed at how far we have come when it comes to technology aiding a Telecommunicator in finding a caller and getting him/her the appropriate help. But, come on, how far is technology going to go before we realize that we simply are not ready?

Up until now, Telecommunicators have never been on the scene to physically see the demands of law enforcement, fire fighters or emergency services personnel, but this is changing as technology is giving them the eyes to see.

In North Carolina, Telecommunicators are now able to receive Text-to-911, and this includes the ability for callers to send images. Today, I attended a webinar, “Drones in Emergency Services,” and was amazed at the prediction that within the next 3-5 years Telecommunicators across the US will be responsible for flying drones to emergency calls of service.

Don’t get me wrong, technology has many great benefits, but what are we doing to prepare our centers and personnel for this new venture? What are we doing to be proactive in the planning for the mental health of our Telecommunicators? Are we ready to face the increasing turnover that this may and possibly will cause for this profession?

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder is becoming a huge concern for me as I manage a public safety answering point in Halifax County, North Carolina. Currently, we have an employee assistance program for employees to have access to counselors 24×7  should they need to debrief or process a traumatic call of service. Many people may think that PTSD doesn’t exist in 911 telecommunications, but it does.

In my experience and in the area in which I live, it takes twelve to eighteen months to train an individual in emergency telecommunications of a consolidated center. Often, this profession poses too much stress and demand that we typically lose trainees early in the training process. I have to admit that this new technology scares me. I am concerned that adding the ability for a Telecommunicator to be exposed to seeing a horrific crime scene, suicide or homicide that this profession will continue to see an increase in PTSD or in turnover.

So, what can we do to prepare?

In Marlene Chism’s third book, No-Drama Leadership, she states, “The more choices we have, the less ability we have to self-manage. This inability to self-manage will have a huge impact on our companies if we do not develop enlightened leaders who light the way in our world of rapid change and uncertainty.”

To my fellow colleagues and leaders in public safety communications, as we prepare for the increasing demands of technology in our centers, let’s take the time and self-manage by becoming knowledgeable about the requirements, expectations and demands that this new technology will bring to our respective agencies. Let’s work on building a policy that addresses the well-being of our personnel. Let’s ensure before launching any new technology that we are ready and have engaged our teams on their thoughts, concerns, and willingness. In conclusion, massive change should not happen without a bridge of expectations and support.

I encourage you to chime in on your thoughts by posting your comments below.

** Article originally appeared on my blog via **