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Fla. county launches livestream option for 911 calls

Orange County residents dialing 911 will have a text option that will allow them to livestream a video to a dispatcher


An Orange County, Florida, emergency dispatcher demonstrates new 911 video calling technology in a mock scenario.

Orange County Fire Rescue/TNS

By Tayeba Hussein
Orlando Sentinel

ORLANDO, Fla. — Imagine that you’re jogging down a trail and you trip on a rock. You’ve twisted your ankle, and there’s nobody around. So you call 911, but the dispatchers don’t know where you are and neither do you. Well, you’re in luck.

Orange County has implemented a new form of emergency communications technology that allows residents to make video calls to first responders. That means people in need can not only describe their emergencies, but also show them — helping responders to identify locations and assess more precisely the level of danger someone may face.

This technology is the first of its kind in Central Florida and has the potential to save lives in a new and innovative way.

There are many different scenarios in which the 911 video software may be useful, Kimberly Stewart-Horan, Division Chief of Communications for Orange County Fire Rescue, said.

“If someone is lost, I envision it would be an amazing tool. If someone is in a situation where perhaps it’s not safe for them to speak, the video might be very useful for us. Maybe in a hazmat situation, a placard might be visible so we can let first responders know what type of chemical they may be dealing with,” Stewart-Horan said.

In a live demonstration of the technology, a mock scenario was played in which an Orange County resident got lost on a local park trail and used the technology to show the police dispatcher landmarks indicating her location.

The tech was developed by Carbyne, a software company whose mission is to modernize emergency communications.

Orange County Fire Rescue allocated $16,680 toward the planning and implementation of the video software.

Now, when Orange County residents call 911, dispatchers will first ask them a series of questions to gather background information. The caller will then be sent a link via text message that gives them the option to begin a livestream.

After a year of planning and testing the software’s capabilities, Orange County personnel recently put the new technology into use.

Orange County emergency responders receive around 350-400 calls per day, Stewart-Horan said.

“It’s just an enhancement to an already, I think, robust system,” Stewart-Horan said. “As technology changes, so does the industry. Innovation is key, so we want to make sure that we’re able to offer all our citizens and visitors the best that we possibly can.”

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