Smart cri­sis calls


The Sunday Times - - News - TREVOR PADDENBURG

WEST Aus­tralians will be able to send texts, up­load photos and stream video to po­lice, fire­fight­ers and am­bu­lance au­thor­i­ties un­der the big­gest re­vamp of the triple-0 emer­gency line in decades.

Cur­rently call­ers can only speak to a triple-0 op­er­a­tor, but a na­tion­wide over­haul will al­low wit­nesses to send triple-0 video of a crime be­ing com­mit­ted, such as an as­sault, van­dal­ism or ter­ror­ist at­tack, help­ing po­lice plan their re­sponse and iden­tify of­fend­ers.

Those de­fend­ing their homes from bush­fire will be able to send pic­tures and video of the blaze to as­sist fire­fight­ers plan how to fight the fire or when to or­der an evac­u­a­tion.

Wit­nesses to a car crash will be able to send photos so am­bu­lance paramedics can plan for the ex­tent of in­juries be­fore they ar­rive at the scene.

And peo­ple who can­not make a ver­bal phone call — for ex­am­ple, if a bur­glar is in the home or for some­one caught up in a hostage drama — will be able to text in­stead.

WA De­part­ment of Fire and Emer­gency Ser­vices com­mis­sioner Dar­ren Klemm said his de­part­ment was ready for the “next gen­er­a­tion triple-0” sys­tem, but it would not go live un­til it was ready to be rolled out na­tion­ally at a date yet to be fixed.

“Let’s say a se­ri­ous car crash hap­pens on the free­way. We’ll get 40 or 50 calls re­port­ing it and we’ll know where they are but no one can send you a video or a pic­ture of what’s ac­tu­ally go­ing on at the scene,” Mr Klemm said.

“Now we’ll be able to have peo­ple con­tact triple-0 and send a video or a photo of what they see. That’s so crit­i­cally im­por­tant to our first re­spon­ders, so they can plan for what they’re go­ing to do and what re­sources they’ll need.”

Mr Klemm ad­mit­ted emer­gency ser­vices were in some cases re­ly­ing on so­cial me­dia to get the de­tails of an in­ci­dent be­cause of the short­com­ing with the triple-0 sys­tem.

“We see things pop up on so­cial me­dia from some­one near the scene who might take a photo. If we’re grab­bing things off Twit­ter or Face­book, wouldn’t it be bet­ter if we were get­ting them di­rectly off triple-0,” he said.

Dig­i­tal emer­gency hot­lines that can re­ceive calls as well as texts, photos and videos are al­ready in place in parts of Europe and the US.

The Aus­tralian roll-out was dis­cussed at the Aus­tralasian Fire and Emer­gency Ser­vice Au­thor­i­ties Coun­cil’s an­nual con­fer­ence held in Perth this week, which brought to­gether hun­dreds of in­ter­na­tional and lo­cal emer­gency man­age­ment ex­perts, re­searchers, front­line work­ers and vol­un­teers, while show­cas­ing the lat­est and great­est equip­ment to com­bat nat­u­ral dis­as­ters.

The Emer­gency Ser­vices Telecom­mu­ni­ca­tions Au­thor­ity, which han­dles more than 1.8 mil­lion triple-0 calls a year, last year re­vealed it was plan­ning a new “world-class, fu­ture-look­ing” dis­patch sys­tem, the most sig­nif­i­cant since triple-0 was in­tro­duced in 1961.

Re­search by the Aus­tralian Com­mu­ni­ca­tions and Me­dia Au­thor­ity shows about 70 per cent of emer­gency calls came from mo­bile phones.

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