Gauteng Business News

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TELECOMS: Central Recording Can Boost Efficiency Of Emergency Services


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For emergency services - such as police, ambulance services and 911 call centres - recording their interactions with the person calling in an emergency, as well as any other agencies they coordinate their rescue efforts with, is becoming increasingly critical. Simply put, these recordings provide the only accurate audit of an event, driving responsibility and accountability of all services and personnel - something that is critical to continuously improve services.

Says Kgabo Badimo, MD of Spescom DataVoice: "Cost effective, uncomplicated technologies that comply with global best practices are readily available.

In South Africa, these solutions would enhance coordination between numerous emergency services (e.g., ambulance, fire brigade, air rescue, police, etc) at regional, provincial and even national levels. The recording solutions enable compliance with governance requirements in this sector and facilitate ongoing service improvement - an essential ingredient in the quest to ensure a better, faster response. and save more lives."

The majority of emergency services in South Africa make use of a radio trunking network for communication, with all calls on these networks recorded at the central command centre. Says Badimo: "This network is inexpensive and because it operates on a different frequency to the cellular networks, does not compete with them, making it always available. However, radio networks, especially used in the configurations applied by various South African emergency services, face a number of challenges."

Explains Badimo: "As the various emergency services each make use of their own radio networks, it is difficult to recreate any one scenario. For example, calls from a 911 centre to field personnel may be recorded but calls from the hospital or ambulance services to the same personnel at the site of the emergency may not be recorded. At best, these calls may be separately recorded by each emergency service, making recreation of the situation highly time consuming, costly and complex."

Another challenge is that the range of the radio network is limited.
Personnel onsite may move out of range of the antenna on their vehicle that connects them to the command and control centre. "Since communication at this point can be critical to saving lives, personnel and command centres then switch to the cellular network, continuing their communication via mobile phone," explains Badimo. "These calls usually go unrecorded."

This highly challenging scenario forms the basis for the delivery capabilities and requirements of a suitable technology solution. "The problem is threefold," says Badimo. "Firstly, there is the recording technology to consider. There are few recording solutions flexible enough to deal with the variety of recording requirements across an emergency event.
Secondly, many of the mobile interactions take place on the personal phones of emergency services personnel. And lastly, there needs to be agreement and coordination across the various emergency services operations before the creation of a single all-encompassing record of all interactions - data and voice - per event is possible."

Prioritising is the key to answering these challenges. Says Badimo: "First and foremost is the building of a strong foundation - i.e., implementing an integrated TETRA radio network recording solution that incorporates mobile GSM recording. The next step is to identify and eliminate interoperability challenges."

While the radio communication and recording technologies used by the various emergency services within regions differ, centralising recording at the call centres - via which approximately 70% of all calls are routed - would be a good place to start, he suggests. This information can be harnessed and archived, providing the ability to recreate a scenario if necessary with all the relevant information attached to the call on hand.

Considerations on making existing 10111 centres more efficient and effective are in progress. The resulting standardised infrastructure could provide the foundation for integrating the country's emergency service systems that we so desperately need.

For South Africans, implementing comprehensive recording and integration between emergency services personnel will result in better service, sustained improvement, more lives saved, and less emergency personnel put at risk by ensuring connectivity with the contact centre is maintained and that greater accountability and responsibility is delivered. This is something South Africa with its high crime statistics needs urgently." Badimo concludes.

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