Smart crisis calls
TRIPLE-0 GOING DIGITAL
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.