Preparing for the eCall Directive in the UK
We have all seen many TV shows where the emergency services have pinpoint accuracy for your location, yet why it is that when you have an emergency yourself the first question they ask is, “where are you?” Location is a critical variable that determines when and how quickly help can be provided to you, yet it is the one thing that the emergency services do not have.
Fortunately there’s new legislation being implemented that will change this. From October next year emergency services control rooms will have to be ready for Emergency Call (eCall). Under the new law, in the event of a traffic accident an automated message will be sent from the vehicle involved to the emergency services, providing GPS coordinates, and vehicle information. Research suggests that the mandatory use of the system could halve response times, especially in rural areas.
While this is great news, it also presents a huge challenge for emergency services control rooms.
To discuss these challenges and the impact of eCall on public safety bodies in the UK, B-APCO in conjunction with Avaya held a mini conference at its UK HQ last week, with 80 representatives from emergency services, central and local government, Highways England, roadside assistance organisations, and British car manufacturers.
It’s clear that eCall won’t just happen by itself and so one of the biggest topics discussed at the event—and one of the biggest challenges for public safety communications professionals—was around ensuring command and control rooms are ready for the directive.
eCall will add a new dimension to emergency service interactions: it will be the first time these services have access to a Global Positioning System reference that communicates the exact location of the incident. It will also be the first time that they receive enhanced telemetry information in relation to the incident.
Multi-Channel Contact Centres Required
To facilitate this interaction, the UK emergency services need to upgrade their infrastructures and update their existing voice-only contact centres to accommodate this new channel and comply with the first global mandate for the connected car. Using a third-party product Avaya has a solution that is orderable now to address this, creating a true multi-channel contact centre for emergency services and public safety agencies. What’s more it can be implemented as an upgrade to existing command and control centres.
At the same time, control room staff must prepare for the many new service elements they need to deliver. For example, eCall for the first time will require the call take and dispatcher to make a value judgment not only on what they can hear, but also what they can see in terms of data in front of them—and this will require in-depth training.
Both of these are big projects, particularly given the short time-frame, are not something that public safety professionals can complete by themselves. Thanks to our heritage in emergency services communications, our close relationship with BT, and the solution we have created, Avaya is in a very strong position to help the services meet the October 2017 deadline.
While most emergency services in the UK are not yet ready for eCall, last week’s event certainly helped answer a lot of questions. To me it feels like together, we’re now making progress in putting this very worthwhile directive into practice.