Iowa County dispatchers use new technology to improve public safety
DODGEVILLE, Wis. (WMTV) - Iowa County Dispatchers use new “Prepared 911″ technology to instantly tap into a caller’s phone and respond to emergencies.
National Public Safety Telecommunicators Week runs until April 15 and is meant to honor dispatchers who often talk with people during their worst moments.
The Iowa County 911 Center is one of 10 Wisconsin entities who started using a free service called Prepared 911 to tap into a live feed with people experiencing an emergency.
Callers in Iowa County can dial 911 on their smartphones, click a link sent by dispatch and give their permission for dispatchers to use the caller’s cellphone camera. If permission is granted, dispatchers can use the front or back cameras on the caller’s smartphone.
“A picture is worth 1,000 words,” Dispatcher Keith Drury said. ”We can send them a text and they will have the ability to turn on the camera on their phones and show us firsthand what we’re looking at or what’s going on.”
Drury said Prepared 911 helped him understand and respond quickly when two children fell off of a cliff at Governor Dodge State Park in March.
”We take the blindfold off of telecommunicators,” Prepared 911 Implementation Lead Sondra Wesley said. “So when you have the average citizen calls in under destress, needing to contact 911, we then allow citizens with their permission, of course, to allow the dispatcher and responders to see what’s happening in live time.”
Drury said the technology is helpful if someone is in a dangerous situation where someone needs to discreetly text with dispatchers rather than speak on the phone.
“If you are involved in a domestic or you have some sort of disturbance going on where you can’t talk on the phone, even if you hang up and we text you back you now have that open line of communication,” Drury said. ”We send them a text, ‘Hey, are you okay?’ They can reply, ‘No I’m not,’ and tell us what’s going on, start their camera up and we can see what’s going on.”
Drury said the technology works in places with minimal cell reception and helps dispatchers identify accidental 911 calls more efficiently.
The Iowa County 911 center started using the free streaming service in January of 2023.
Drury said the video footage is recorded, but not digitally stored at the Iowa County 911 Center. If granted permission, the video is recorded and sent to Prepared 911′s cloud and could be requested if the Iowa County Sheriff’s Office wanted to use the video as evidence in court.
Prepared 911 is a company based out of New York, NY.
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