AI bots are making strides in assisting 911 dispatch centers

October 20, 2023

Amid a surge in calls to 911 dispatch centers during emergencies, artificial intelligence is stepping in to provide a helping hand, especially for non-emergency calls, according to a recent article by Stateline.

Such systems are transforming the way non-emergency calls are managed in the U.S., allowing human dispatchers to prioritize true emergencies.

Bots manage non-emergencies, freeing up dispatchers

These AI bots, for the time being, handle non-emergency calls which come from non-911 numbers but get answered in the same centers

The integration of this AI tech in 911 centers is in part due to staffing shortages and the pressing need to tackle the mental health challenges that dispatchers face.

However, these systems are not without concerns. There’s an ongoing debate about the possibility that they may make biased decisions or wrongly escalate police responses.

Widespread adoption and efficiency increase

As of now, fewer than a dozen localities across seven states are either using or experimenting with AI in their 911 centers. The overall reception seems positive.

Ty Wooten, director of government affairs for the International Academies of Emergency Dispatch, said: “For me, I think that the use of AI for non-emergency calls is a fantastic idea.

Companies like Amazon Web Services and Carbyne are providing solutions to these centers, offering AI-driven services for managing calls.

In Charleston County’s Consolidated Emergency Communication Center in South Carolina, Amazon Connect assists with non-emergency calls.

With the AI’s help, the center has reduced non-emergency call volumes by 36% since March.

AI bots: challenges remain

Despite the benefits, there are concerns about AI systems’ ability to inadvertently introduce biases.

Daniela Gilbert of the Vera Institute of Justice mentioned: “All AI models are only as good as their developers.”

She pointed out that if developers have biases favoring police responses, AI might overprescribe such interventions.

Apart from bias concerns, there’s also the issue of older 911 systems being outdated and incompatible with new technology.

Many of these systems are still reliant on technology from the 1930s, said Wooten.

This outdated tech infrastructure, especially in terms of call location accuracy, needs to be upgraded before AI can be fully integrated.

FSJA Comment

The integration of AI bots in 911 dispatch centers highlights the increasing reliance on technology to bolster public safety.

While these systems offer potential efficiency gains, especially in a world where emergency services are stretched thin, they also present challenges.

Striking the right balance between human judgement and AI assistance will be crucial.

Furthermore, ensuring the tech is devoid of biases and compatible with existing infrastructures will be vital for its widespread adoption and success.

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