BOULDER, Colo. — The City of Boulder just launched a new program designed to help 911 dispatchers get a visual from the person who is calling them.
It's called “Prepared 911,” an add-on application to software dispatchers are already using, which allows the dispatchers to livestream with a caller through the caller’s smartphone. Its an opt-in function, where the caller has to accept the invitation to livestream.
“The idea is, to get more information to our dispatchers, have an extra tool, so they can get the right resources to the right places more efficiently,” said Brad Riggin, the 911 communications manger for the City of Boulder.
“The dispatcher will ask, ’Can I send you a link?’ So we can get some video or a photo of what’s going on. They, the caller, has to click on the link and allow access to a camera. All we’ll see is what’s in their camera, nothing else on their phone.”
Boulder’s first responders – police, fire, EMS, rangers – all see potential for this technology. Examples include early visuals on a wildfire in the foothills, quicker photos for missing children or adults, location services for lost hikers, and real-time crime suspect information more reliable than a verbal description.
“We’re going to have better information on who our suspects are, what they look like,” said BPD Commander Barry Hartkopp. "Because it's always dependent on the accuracy of the information we're getting from the witness or the victim, and that’s influenced by what kind of stress they’re in, and their biases, and it makes it difficult.”
Hartkopp has been in law enforcement for more than 30 years. He said it's hard to comprehend how much technology has changed the job since he first started.
“I’m envious of the young officers just getting on the job, and I saw how much it's advanced over the past few years. I can only imagine what’s going to happen for our young officers moving forward with this great technology.”
The new livestream function allows the dispatcher to switch the camera facing forward or backward to the person holding the phone. If the caller needs to be discreet for safety purposes, they can communicate through text messaging. Dispatchers can also turn the phone screen “dark” – meaning, the livestream is not visible to anyone near the caller, but the phone is still communicating with and sending visuals to the dispatcher.
Dispatchers also have the option to blur the picture on their end of the screen while the recording still captures the true image. This would be an option for a dispatcher to use if the visual is something they would rather not view (as calls can often be very disturbing or graphic).
Boulder says this new program didn’t cost anything, because it was an add-on feature that integrates with a program the city was already using.
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