When you think about call centers, sure 911 emergency services comes to mind. But, when you specify remote jobs in the call centers, 911 would be situated in last place. And rightly so. This article is about emergency call centers and usage of remote staff.
Emergency call centers lowest share of global market
Financesonline approximates these global call center market share by industry:
- financial services, 26%
- consumer services, 24%
- services, 14%
- technology, media, communications, 13%
- life sciences, health care, 11%
- energy, resources, industrials, 9%
- government, public services, 4%
And, the data shows your gut instinct was right on point. An overwhelming majority of 911 emergency call centers are staffed by agents and dispatchers working onsite.
- Rise of complaints and implications for remote customer service call centers
- Remote administrative and customer support worker trends
- Employee engagement trends for remote workforce
In past emergency call centers relied upon physical location
Accidents. Natural disasters. Crime. Inclement weather. These are typically the reasons why victims and witnesses to a life threatening event calls 911. In the past and up to today, 911 call centers are situated in a fixed physical location. Incoming calls to the 911 emergency center are dispatched and routed to responders closest to the emergency.
911 stands Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP). There are about 8,000 primary and about 1,500 secondary PSAPs in the US. When you call 911 you can tap into firefighting, police, and medical emergency services. Its a pretty elaborate and intricate network.
Emergency call centers fail to use modern cell phone data
Even though the 911 system in the US is pretty complex, it may lack in its ability to keep up with the technological advances of telecommunication. For instance, to receive emergency aid and assistance the caller needs to first make the call right?. But how do we contact first responders?
In a recent Wall Street Journal (WSJ) article titled, “Many 911 call centers ill-equipped to use modern cellphone technology.”
To receive emergency aid and assistance. But how do we contact first responders? The 911 system was introduced about the time in which telephones were perfected. Back then we relied upon fixed land lines to make phone calls. We don’t rely upon fixed land lines to call. Most often, we use our mobile phones. Why, because we are increasingly more mobile. What is the difference you might ask?
Emergency callers use cell phones replete data to request help
A fixed land line, says Statista is one where a telephone stationed in a fixed location transmits signals using metal wire or fiber optic cable that is buried in the ground or posted on telephone. The usage of fixed land lines for telecommunications by the typical caller is a relic of the past. The Washington Post estimates roughly 25% of US residents use phones connected to a land line. The remaining 3/4 use wireless mobile lines instead. And, believe it or not. The transition from wireless to fixed landlines have been a boon to emergency first responders.
Abundance of data can support emergency center calls and service routing
Why? Because so much valuable information can be transmitted that was difficult to verbally communicate before. Think about it. Our mobile phones track our exact location (latitude and longitude), make possible 3D rendition of our physical location and structures within our general vicinity. Concerning our physiology, our phones can provide estimates on the width and speed of our walking/running gait, our heart rate and blood pressure. Our mobile phones can keep a log of our contact list, text messages, voice message, images and keyword searches.
While all of these innovative features can be an intrusion upon our privacy, when we need help we’re so glad the information is readily available. Often from biometric touch of thumb. Or, entering a password or PIN. Even though this data is collected on everyone in possession of a Smartphone, antiquated call center systems used by 911 emergency responder have been slow to adapt. WSJ calculates about 40%-45% of emergency call centers in the US can’t accept SMS texts. Further, citing data from US regulators, WSJ suggest that up to 10,000 lives in the US are lost each year that could have been saved with quicker response times that would have been possible with more accurate location information.
So, we’ve covered the bad. What about the good? How have the advances in telecommunications and telephony improved the lives of others? Particularly the most vulnerable? Those impacted by extreme weather conditions, a natural disaster, crime or just plain risky behavior?
Emergency call center pilots system to use remote dispatchers
This blog is written for hybrid, remote workers working from home, digital nomads working from anywhere and their employers. Is 911 call center services amenable to a distributed remote working team? Definitely!
Police1 profiled an emergency call center in Arlington, Virginia, USA that established one of the first remote work from home telecommunication and dispatch systems. Establishing a remote emergency telecommunication system for use by call center employees and dispatchers was not a easy or inexpensive endeavor. Each dispatcher working from home needed to have:
- a specially designed and installed network connected to the town’s official emergency call center;
- a specially installed cellular hot spot to serve as a backup if there was a connection outage;
- a counterpart (colleague) situated in the in office emergency call center location in case there was a disconnect; and
- six computing devices, monitors and multiple laptop screens.
Even with these failsafe precautions, emergency call center management also utilized Microsoft viewing sessions to enable face-to-face communication. And, the recording of sessions. But enough about government managed call centers. Even if the emergency 911 call centers operated by national, federal and local governments are slow to adopt remote work for staff, innovative companies are filling the gap. Why? Because of business continuity.
Remote inbound business continuity emergency services
Of late, there has been a new service blossoming in the industry of remote call center management. During emergencies, natural disasters, earthquakes and incidents of violent crime with multiple fatalities; businesses still need to operate. Companies still need to provide essential goods and services.
For instance, MCI employs remote call center staff to offer the following business continuity services to its business clientele:
- emergency hotline so employees, contractors, customers, investors can inquire about your business operational status during a crisis,
- urgent, almost real time notifications for instructions on remain in place, lockdown or other procedures in the event of a major incident,
- remote assistance and directions for distributed workforce working from multiple locations,
- 24/7 round the clock telephone support in the event that normal communications are down.
Remote outbound support to distributed workers in emergency
As we close this article, we can’t forget that remote workers distributed around the glob provide essential services. At the same time, they may need emergency services too! Occupational Health and Safety Online recommends to employers to monitor the health and safety of their remote workforce. How?
Much like the 911 emergency call center operated by the government, companies are encouraged to provide emergency numbers and contact information to staff working from home. In the event of an emergency, natural disaster, inclement weather, the remote worker can receive supports. Much like 911, corporations can dispatch the call to responders.
In the end, emergency call centers and remote staff are coming full circle. States and local governments are developing systems to become less fixated on the physical location of its call centers. Further they are becoming more open to the possibility of allowing staff to work from home. At the same time, corporations are introducing their own emergency call centers to meet the needs of its remote and distributed workforce. And, from an entrepreneurial standpoint, innovative companies are meeting an unmet need to help companies ensure business continuity during natural disasters, inclement weather and other unforeseen incidents.