Needless to say, the past year has been difficult for everyone.  At the top of the list, those most negatively affected by the COVID-19 Pandemic, are the first responders.  They battle every day on the front lines, protecting citizens from out-of-control protests, religious and political harassment, and then of course, from the pandemic effecting millions of people in a multitude of ways.  Dr. John Violanti said it best, “Policing is an essential occupation to preserve the rule of law and those whose serve deserve proper protection from the strain associated with this task”.  First responders are setting aside their beliefs and well-being to fulfill their job requirements as they risk their physical safety and mental status for others.  Meanwhile, police agencies are being defunded, SRO’s are being removed from schools, and the overall respect and backing of the blue is at an all-time low.  

Before reviewing the information presented about IN FORCE911, please understand that the technology is quite easily obtained, implemented at a low cost, and could be instituted at a wide variety of locations; schools, churches, town or city buildings, county offices, warehouses, and hospitals in conjunction with first responding agencies at the municipal, state and/or county level regardless of size, location or existing technology and platforms being used.  IN FORCE911 is a technology exists with both FIPS 140-2 compliance (the FBI standard for encryption and security) as well as CJIS-5 compliance, to run natively across all law enforcement devices (MDT’s and MDC’s) and natively with all CAD and other dispatch console programs to provide interoperability and consistency of information sharing across agencies.  The IN FORCE911 platform is hosted and stored securely in the Microsoft Azure cloud where an uptime of over 99.9% is guaranteed.  Given all that is happening in our world today, an easily deployable and scalable technology like this should be prioritized to keep officer safety top of mind. 

Over the past few years an increase in natural disasters, acts of violence and terrorism have increased significantly and in addition, with departmental budget cuts and personnel reductions there is an increased need for enhancements to be made for first responder safety in any given community. Much like preventing and responding to an incident, taking preventative measures to maintain the proper health and safety of first responders is crucial.   The goal in this article is to highlight how officer safety on a tactical level can be and should be a priority, since responders serving their communities are battling to protect others, but equally as important, battling to protect themselves.

One of the first tactical issues officers are faced with when responding to an emergency is that transferring information from a PSAP or centralized dispatch to a local agency using legacy 9-1-1 systems, causes delays for the responding agency to initiate response efforts.  In addition to collecting the information often more than once, the information provided can be unclear and difficult to disseminate across multiple responding agencies at once.  The principal challenges to safety here, are (one) a lack of information presented to officers (and two) information presented in a timely manner, as they typically are being asked to respond with limited information or resources. Thirdly, the failure of communications, particularly related to technology interoperability, (between police and firefighters, as well as between mutually aided law enforcement agencies) responding to dangerous situations has resulted in death or injury to themselves or those they strive to protect.[1]  In essence, communication gaps during any life threatening emergency (especially those requiring an ‘all hands on deck’ response) would set responders up to fail before they’ve even arrived on scene.  Following this chain of thought: The more information officers are provided with, the better decisions about resolving the emergency they can make.  Better decisions reduce risk, less risk leads to an increase in confidence, greater confidence also reduces fear, anguish, and anxiety, saving more lives during the incident and reduces the overall adverse mental impact after action on responders.

IN FORCE911 can alert and notify all officers regardless of duty status, location, agency or jurisdiction, prompting a more rapid and cohesive response and thus effectively ending emergencies faster and more efficiently while reducing the negative impact on officer’s mental health.  Within the last five years, technologies have been focused on two-way communication between responders and a building under threat to streamline response efforts.  Mission critical details are shared, yielding an exact location of a threat (GPS enablement), identification of who sent the alert, and even images of the assailant.  Simultaneous intelligence sharing between the building under threat with officers, dispatch and the PSAP enables not only a successful deployment of personnel and equipment, but also heightened situational awareness of officers as they approach and enter a building.  In many past instances, responders have not been adequately or properly equipped to confront the challenges with which they were faced.  No longer is there a need for responders to ‘walk in blind’ or be confused of who, what and where a potential threat is.  Heightening situational awareness and communication strategies of responders means that once the threat is eliminated, that reunification, medical triage, evacuations and clearing of the building can happen in a more controlled and systematic manner.  In theory, these factors should reduce chaos, stress, tension and lessen the distress and anguish often associated with traumatic events. Secondly, knowing that the intelligence sharing between a building under threat and between officers of varying agencies is significantly greater with newer technologies, responders are provided with a higher degree of comfort as they approach a situation, trusting that the information they have is accurate and clear.  They can better mentally and physically prepare to put their lives on the line and enhance their chances of survivability. 

Frequently, when multiple agencies are involved in a major event, emergency personnel cannot communicate well with one other due to a lack of interoperability between agencies. Even different organizations in the same jurisdiction have different means of communication. These agencies can be paid or volunteer, fire or police departments, where the law enforcement entities could include urban police departments; sheriff departments; regional FBI; and federal agencies at the federal, state, county, and local town or city level among others.[2]  Enhancing communications both inter and intra-agency, eliminates command and control confusion as well, promoting and encouraging a higher level of teamwork, collaboration, and interoperability between agencies which fosters a more expeditious response to resolve any emergency as successfully as possible. 

Since communication is only effective when there is a consistent method for how/why/when it is used and there is no liaison or policy in place with how multi-agency communications will flow, using a an interoperable platform like IN FORCE911 that functions in real time, would reduce if not eliminate these problems as they arise.  This platform is also device agnostic, meaning that notifications and communications can be sent and received (two-way) on all devices regardless of their operating system and connectivity (Wi-Fi, Ethernet, and Cell Data).  IN FORCE911 is APP based for Android and Apple phones, and software based for desktops, MDTs/MDCs and for dispatch consoles.  With a rise in the capabilities that this technology has available today and knowing that it can provide communication and information sharing as a key to success, why aren’t more agencies providing officers with the modern tools they need to improve their level of safety during emergencies?  Why are we relying on legacy 9-1-1 infrastructure when these men and women are risking their mental health and even their lives so save others?