The Expert Guide to Future-Proof Your Emergency Communications Center

Emergency response worker on headset

Emergency communications centers (ECCs) have more responsibility than ever to provide the right quality and level of response to save lives and manage resources effectively. Additionally, keeping up with rapidly advancing technology for many government-led organizations, including ECCs, can be challenging. From budgetary to integration and cybersecurity considerations, upgrading isn't as simple as purchasing the latest software. As a result, supervisors may delay implementing the network, equipment, and software upgrades they need to provide immediate and high-tech emergency services.

With the proper software solutions, supervisors will have the technology they need to allow their facilities to evolve without dramatic budget increases. Better yet, the right technological partner will recognize the challenges supervisors face and provide services and software that help them succeed.

Factors Influencing the Future of ECCs

The rapid introduction of these new technologies in recent years has amplified the need for directors to prepare their centers and take advantage of these new capabilities. The challenge in innovating and progressing, however, is that directors must consider these factors:

1. The Internet of Things

Given most people’s reliance on smartphones and other devices, our society produces a wealth of data every day. The amount of “smart” equipment is enough that in 1999, Kevin Ashton coined the term “Internet of Things” (IoT), which is a system of unique smart devices and sensors that can transfer data over a network without human intervention. Therefore, ECCs with the proper technology can receive and respond to information about a possible crime or emergency without having to make a phone call.

2. Predictive Analytics

The advent of IoT does cause a disruption in terms of the ability of the public safety ecosystem to collect data from multiple sources. Customizable analytics solutions can categorize, sort, and utilize vast amounts of data to discover patterns and trendlines to assist professionals in adjusting their operations decision-making. 

The program could gather additional data concerning the caller, the location, and dynamic data on the site, including weather alerts and traffic conditions. The dynamic data, coupled with static data such as time and day of the week, can predict needed resources down the line.

For example, where an intersection tends to have more accidents from 5 p.m. through 7 p.m. during the week, the center can be prepared to have police and ambulances on standby. Or, knowing that call volume increases towards the end of the month, the ECC could adjust staffing requirements accordingly.

PSAP call operator on computer

3. Cybersecurity

Along with the IoT, AI, and ML come new security issues. If ECCs have access to data such as traffic cameras and the ability to look up the caller's public histories, who else may want those capabilities? Leadership must educate themselves on internal and external security risks, from human errors to malware or distributed denial of service attacks, and update policies to reflect modern times.

4. Weather Analytics

78% of disasters recorded in the United States each year are weather-related, yet public safety officials typically underestimate the number of weather-related disasters that will occur.*

Severe weather can result in downed power lines, trees, and road closures requiring agencies to have the ability to reroute traffic dynamically in order to get first responders to the scene of the incident as safely and efficiently as possible.

These four factors demonstrate the complexity of a center's needs and potential futures. Updating ECCs is no small task for directors who oversee significant upgrades. Directors must keep up with available technologies and consider how to use them to enhance 911 services while managing budget constraints.


Preparing ECCs for the Future

The future for ECCs is one in which each agency’s network, equipment, software, and policies allow operators to take full advantage of massive quantities of data. Unfortunately, too few centers have that ability. That’s the purpose of upgrading to Next Generation 911 (NG911).

NG911 means moving away from legacy systems and migrating to Internet Protocol (IP) based solutions connected to the Emergency Services Internet Protocol Network (ESInet), Next Generation Core Services, and aggregation of additional sources of data.

Aerial view of a city intersection

This upgrade will allow ECCs to:

  • Better manage a high volume of calls during disasters
  • Respond to network outages quickly
  • Create interconnected regional 911 networks
  • Better handle call transfers and oversee local responses
  • Receive and respond to texts, photos, and videos
  • Better communicate with disabled callers
  • Gather location and environmental data from disparate sources
  • Continuously monitor a caller’s location through real-time data
  • Boost situational awareness for dispatchers and first responders
  • More efficiently and swiftly respond to 911 calls.

As of 2019, 33 states reported developing and adopting a statewide NG911 implementation plan, according to the National 911 Annual Report. Fifteen states lacked statewide implementation plans, while eight didn’t offer a response. In some cases, states had regional or sub-state plans for NG911 implementation.

Unfortunately, NG911 implementation can be challenging. The report also uncovered only:

  • Nine states reported 100% of their ECCs have implemented NG911 systems for all service types (wireline, wireless, and VoIP).
  • Eleven states reported 11% of their ECCs can process and interpret NG911 location and caller information.
  • Eleven states reported NG911-capable ECCs serve 100% of their populations.


Thirteen states reported 100% of address authorities in their states had geocoded their addresses to a geographic information system (GIS)-ready format.
States are progressing, but far too many ECCs continue to rely on legacy systems and policies. A successful ECC director participates in moving their facility forward in implementing NG911.

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Preparing for the Future is a Priority

Emergency response worker at desk

Directors and supervisors have high-risk, high-reward positions. When they manage ECCs well, they save lives. But they’re also well-aware of the reverse. When their facility isn’t doing well, whether it lacks adequate personnel or the latest technology, it puts first responders and callers at a higher risk of harm.

To be successful in preparing for the future, supervisors should prioritize:

  • Developing a drive for continuous learning;
  • Advocating for the implementation of technologies that enable faster deployment, ability to scale up and down, and reduction in maintenance cycles; 
  • Adopting heightened information security measures and monitoring procedures;
  • Using technology and data analytics to improve call response times and quality; and
  • Supporting employees’ mental health needs.

Continuous Learning

Leaders must determine how their agencies and, in some cases, multiple ECCs will proceed into the future. To effect technological change, they must regularly research emerging technology and weigh the benefits and needs of incorporating them into their operations. Both must focus equally on their employees’ needs and mental health in addition to technological advancements.

The transition to new technologies and protocols can be challenging from both a hardware and software perspective but also for staff members used to legacy systems. Directors will need to lead by example in learning and taking full advantage of new software as well as adhering to new workflows and security measures. 

Advocate for Next Generation Technologies

Cloud technology icon

While leaders focus on saving lives, their budgets continuously demand their attention. For directors, in particular, understanding the cost-benefit analysis of cloud-based technology enables them to make a strong case for adopting NG911 and advanced solutions.

ECCs may benefit from cloud computing because it can reduce the cost of ownership. Cloud computing is the process of securely storing and accessing data over the internet rather than on-premise-based systems. The "cloud" is like a data center's servers - there are 541 hyper data centers and thousands of smaller ones deployed as of mid-2020.

Municipalities can realize true cost savings in lower hardware requirements and the staff required to maintain premise-based systems. Because cloud vendors maintain and secure their servers and data centers, relying on the cloud reduces overhead and information technology (IT) costs.

Training Efforts

Life-and-death scenarios put the importance of staffing and training into perspective.

Many call centers across the country are understaffed, which results in unanswered calls and exhausting shifts for dispatchers. Consequently, ECCs are faced with the task of attracting and retaining dedicated and talented employees. While pay and benefits are fundamental factors, another is providing their employees with the best tools and knowledge.

When dispatchers have access to top-of-the-line equipment and software, they can benefit from true next-generation solutions to consolidate data from multiple sources into a single geospatial layer. As a result, they can quickly gain awareness of the caller’s situation and give first responders as much information as possible to bring about a positive outcome. Telecommunicators feel empowered when they have as much information as possible at their disposal, using best-in-class technologies to deliver the right level of response in the least amount of time required.

Address Cybersecurity

Advanced technology, including situational awareness software, brings with it some concerns, including cybersecurity risks. Physical security measures and 'active' cybersecurity measures must be in place and regularly updated for ECCs that have access to large amounts of data. They have to evaluate how they’ll monitor and address security risks, whether it’s an individual employee’s improper use of a software program or a cyberattack, and how they’ll respond to a breach. Additionally, supervisors should evaluate the process of updating employee policies and security.

Improving Call Responses

Supervisors focus on response time improvement and the quality of call responses. These improvements demand combining the best hardware, software, training, and policies.

ECC response time improvement depends on providing well-trained staff with top-tier tools. Public safety solutions and situational awareness software are key. Dispatchers gather crucial information from callers and improve response times by determining where callers are located and viewing consolidated traffic and weather maps in seconds. Using this data to obtain a Common Operational Picture (COP) allows dispatchers to better coordinate emergency responders’ activities and provide higher quality call responses.

While technology can invariably improve call response, supervisors must determine essential call metrics and data collection. The evaluation of important metrics is a means for supervisors to gauge individual and agency performance. Metrics such as these can also provide supervisors with actionable information to help them make improvements and identify where to make changes.

Supervisors who are unable to gather and visualize relevant metrics may use this disadvantage to justify upgrading to a cloud-based solution that offers analytical and reporting capabilities.

Address Emergency Preparedness

Due to the limitations of legacy 911 systems, service can be impacted or lost during devastating emergencies. Many communities have been impacted by the loss of emergency services during the pandemic and natural disasters as well.

Emergency Response workers at desk

Transitioning to NG911 and cloud-based infrastructure vastly improves an ECC’s ability to continue operations during emergencies. These advancements make scaling up services easier as well as implementing Continuity of Operations (COOP). This could mean distributing calls to other agencies or even responding to emergencies on behalf of agencies who themselves have been negatively impacted by an outage or significant event.

Support Employee Wellness

Successful ECCs consider their employees’ mental health and wellness. It is estimated that 1 in 4 telecommunicators are impacted by PTSD at some point in their profession. Throughout their shift, they may take dozens of calls, from routine matters to dealing with life-or-death situations. Every second counts, which only adds to the pressure a telecommunicator feels. They have to decipher information quickly from multiple sources while providing reassurance to callers who are often panicked themselves. The situations often lead to intense exchanges. Mental health has always been a relevant factor for 911 dispatchers, but it’s only increased in importance during the COVID-19 pandemic. ECCs are dealing with staff shortages, heightened exposure risk, low morale, and other troubles. Directors can stand out by facilitating employee assistance programs, peer support programs, and access to mental health services.

The Right Technology Creates Opportunities for Improvement

Given their often-limited budgets, ECCs that transition to NG911 need to make the most of their investment. Equally important is the need to adopt technology that allows them to address their current and future priorities effectively.

Next-gen technologies such as cloud, IoT ecosystems, offer massive advantages. To begin with, cloud-enabled software is faster to deploy and more efficient to scale. It also increases reliability and redundancy in their solutions, which is essential for facilities migrating away from hardware-dependent solutions. 

Cloud computing combined with the right software solutions allows ECCs to improve operational efficiencies and quickly make data-driven decisions to improve call response quality.

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Operational Efficiencies

Comtech’s cloud-based solutions help local governments improve their public safety infrastructure and streamline operations and workflows. Municipalities reduce their physical needs by moving away from managing their own servers to relying on the cloud, as the cloud provider maintains its infrastructure, security, and redundancies.

ECC supervisors are keenly aware of the need for additional operational functions, such as accepting various call types and texts and integrating multiple data streams. Cloud-based technologies offer this functionality and scalability, giving centers the ability to add software and access more computing power when necessary. This scalability is also essential during major events when call volumes increase dramatically.

Along with scalability are continuity and reliability. Supervisors are continuously concerned about service interruptions. The cloud offers redundancies to continue receiving and responding to emergency calls when networks are overloaded or go down.

Another benefit of cloud-based technology is the ability to take advantage of artificial intelligence (AI). Even with intuitive data visualization, 911 operators receive a great deal of information. It’s challenging to make snap judgments and decisions. AI programs can assist operators in gathering and monitoring the data, detecting trends, anomalies, and other factors which may be relevant to emergency response.

Enhanced Cybersecurity

While the advent of NG911, IoT, and cloud-based technologies enhance operational efficiencies of ECCs, they also increase the risk of cyber threats in this hyper-connected world. As per Cybersecurity Ventures, the global cybercrime costs are expected to rise to $10.5 Trillion by 2025.

Supervisors have to be on guard against internal misuse and external attacks. Evaluation of the end-end cyber posture is required and thus, the identified need is a comprehensive solution that not only provides a resilient infrastructure but also creates training and awareness at all levels. The most obvious form of protection is a secure software solution using active cyber security measures along with updated policies. Comtech is a leader in cybersecurity training and technology. Supervisors can access training for their teams and be confident each solution offers enhanced security features.

Data Visualization and Situational Awareness

Actionable data is of critical importance to ECCs. Therefore, any technological investments need to strengthen their facility’s ability to visualize data and gain situational awareness for each call. An option is Comtech’s Emergency Suite of public safety solutions.

Comtech’s SmartResponse is a cloud-native location intelligence solution that empowers professional telecommunicators and dispatchers with a true COP. Location of the incident, available resources, traffic, weather, camera feeds and more are available and displayed in a logical and actionable flow that enhances awareness and reduces response times. 

Operators benefit from real-time situational awareness based on:

  • Call location intelligence
  • Traffic, weather, and other third-party data sources
  • IoT safety device tracking
  • A geospatial mapping interface
  • Caller background information.

Screenshot of SmartResponseTM Map

This information, immediately and visually available to operators, enables them to better communicate and prepare first responders for the scene and caller’s needs. Consolidated maps and data sources enable operators to gather critical information quickly and relay it to first responders.

Comtech Maps and Map Portal allow ECCs to develop a mapping solution with custom overlays. These solutions work alongside Comtech’s other SmartResponse™ products, providing ECCs with a customizable and flexible public safety infrastructure.

How ECC Leaders Can Get Started Today

ECC leaders ready to usher their facilities into the future can request a demo of Comtech’s SmartResponse™ and other Public Safety Solutions. We walk facilities through every transition stage, beginning with a site assessment to determine the center’s needs and the best appropriate solutions.