Making It Easy on Calltakers Is Essential - Collier County Text-to-9-1-1 Saves Lives

When a call for help comes into a PSAP, Calltakers prove time and again their unique ability to help save lives. The mark of these extraordinary professionals is their capacity to handle the many functions of call handling almost effortlessly.

But what happens when new technology such as text-to-9-1-1 is introduced? It’s critical that the new application merge seamlessly into a PSAPs operating environment. And here’s why.

On February 9, 2016 Vanessa Rodriguez, a Calltaker at the Collier County, Florida Sheriff’s Office, demonstrated how important text-to-9-1-1 is in saving lives.

At 2:53 in the afternoon, Vanessa received the text message, “Help”. From the ensuing text conversation, Vanessa learned that a 61 year old man was trimming trees on the side of his house and fell off the ladder, falling about 15 feet. He texted that his back was broken. Emergency personnel were able to locate the gentlemen who was air lifted to the hospital.

During the text-to-9-1-1 session Vanessa asked the man if she could call him. He said that he had fallen on the phone and it was not working – he could not make or receive voice calls but he was able to text. The availability of text-to-9-1-1 provided the life line connecting him to Vanessa and emergency services.

Collier County was one of the first two PSAPs in the country to use the VESTA® 9-1-1 integrated texting solution, VESTA® SMS. When asked what it is like receiving a text 'call', Vanessa answered, “It’s very easy, almost like texting on your phone. I have not had any problems. The pre-programmed questions and statements make the process so easy. The text conversation of the caller and the Calltaker is separated like when you text on a cell phone. It is easy to distinguish between who is texting which keeps you from getting confused.”

According to Vanessa, having text functionality as an additional window on the VESTA 9-1-1 voice call taking screen is a big improvement over the web-based application Collier County had before. “Everything is in one location and using the same process and same system for text and voice calls makes a huge difference.”

Last year Collier County migrated to the VESTA 9-1-1 system and recently implemented the integrated VESTA SMS application. Regarding training on the new application, Vanessa said the way VESTA SMS works, it required very little training. “That is how easy our text-to-9-1-1 is.”

Bob Finney III, Collier County Sheriff’s Office Technical Bureau Manager, when asked about the impact of integrated text-to-9-1-1 for Public Safety, says what is key is having one fluid process. “Having everything on one screen gives Calltakers one process whether they are taking a voice or text call. This ease of use greatly reduces the learning curve and amount of training needed”, said Finney “Managing new technology can be difficult but the seamless integration of VESTA SMS into the VESTA 9-1-1 system makes it much easier for Calltakers to transition between text and voice calls.

Bob adds that we can’t escape implementing new technologies to keep up with the changing environment. “It is a balancing act to ensure the changes we are facing with Next Generation are managed in such a way that we retain good, seasoned people. Making it easy on our Calltakers is essential.”

Thank you Vanessa for all you do to protect your community.

Thank you Bob for your wisdom and leadership in making sure Collier County has a smarter way to keep citizens safe.