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For personnel in the field, resilient systems are critical.

Hello, Emergency Services – why do you need recording solutions?

Selecting the right voice and data recording system is vital for the successful management of any organisation that interacts with the public by telephone and is often a fundamental part of any quality system. For the Emergency Services, however, the importance of voice and data recording cannot be over-estimated.

Every day call handlers within the Emergency Services sector are dealing with highly complicated call scenarios, often with life or death implications. Furthermore, they are under huge pressure to perform in a highly regulated environment, with limited resources and budget. Having the right voice and data recording solution in place will support the organisation’s operational needs, improve efficiency, increase positive outcomes and avoid any additional IT burden.

When selecting a recording solution, any supplier you choose must have an in-depth understanding of the specialist, mission-critical needs of the Emergency Services. In addition to operational requirements, aspects such as reliability, lifetime costs and ongoing IT involvement must be taken into consideration. Most importantly, for organisations that are responsible for protecting the public, the recording of voice and data is key for both surveillance and building fast, effective resolution procedures.

Storing and searching data

A key consideration when selecting a recording solution is how data is stored and managed. The Emergency Services are required to store all the audio and associated metadata for every call, so that evidence can be located quickly and will correlate with other points of reference. This makes the storage and ongoing maintenance of stored data critical to a voice and data recording solution.

One approach is the storage of records in two separate locations, for example audio on hard disk, with a centralised database for the metadata. The problem with this approach is that both sets of data need to be backed up and both have to be restored when a requirement arises. Inevitably this requires IT involvement and is extremely time consuming. There is also the danger of essential reference materials being lost, making it extremely difficult to find the required recordings.

It is far preferable to deploy a recording solution that stores audio and metadata in the same location, with a built-in archive and backup process to manage the content and a restore process that can be handled by the system user without involvement from IT.

This is especially important when you consider that an ambulance authority may need to keep its data for a period in excess of 21 years.

A future-proof solution

The ability to find calls quickly and accurately is absolutely essential. It’s also important for the data to be easily migrated – for example to other storage systems – as simply as possible.

The potential problems here are obvious: over time there are likely to have been numerous infrastructure changes (upgrades to phone systems, migration to VoIP, change of operator identification, CRM updates, regionalisation and naming convention changes), plus the need to increase storage volumes, migrate to other storage technologies etc.

Organisations should ensure that the solution they choose is able to manage ongoing changes and allows for easy data migration, hardware updates and developments in technology. Above all, the chosen solution must guarantee that the recordings already made remain safe and offer integrity of the data so that any changes to configuration are not inflicted on historical data. Many systems are unable to prevent this, causing major problems for evidential disclosure.

Authentication of data

All evidence presented requires the originality of the recording to be proven, to prevent tampering or misrepresentation of evidence. To this end, any proposed solution should provide ‘authentication’ – in other words, digital watermarking – of all recordings made at the point of capture. It is advisable to check that it is provided as standard as part of the solution.

One single search and replay screen for radios, phones or consoles helps.

One single search and replay screen for radios, phones or consoles helps.

Reasons to record

Emergency Services have an operational requirement to record and store all emergency and non-emergency calls for a number of reasons:

  1. Evidence – Any communication with the emergency services can be called as evidence in investigations and criminal cases. This means that the clarity and integrity of the recordings is essential.
  2. Disclosure – Anyone who calls an Emergency Service is recorded and these recordings are regularly used to clarify what was said, when, by whom and how.
  3. Protection and dispute avoidance/resolution – Protecting your organisation’s interests by proving ‘who said what’ in a dispute can be vital, saving time, money and credibility. The Emergency Services have a high level of complaints, with potentially serious implications for the organisation and its staff members.
  4. Staff training and development – Recording and monitoring calls is one of the best ways of capturing interaction information for the effective coaching of staff on call handling ability, operational knowledge and soft skills. This is often used as part of the staff development and accreditation programme internally.
  5. Compliance – There are many strict policies and procedures regarding the management of emergency service calls. As a result, staff need to understand and intelligently apply learning to challenging call scenarios that may range from abusive callers, hoax callers and silent calls to potential suicides and dire emergencies.

Simplifying the technology

In the past, traditional voice and data recording systems have been technology-heavy and have required considerable involvement from IT departments. This is bad news for the majority of public sector organisations relying on ever-shrinking IT departments that are already massively overstretched. Voice and data recording technology is so niche that most IT managers will be against investing time and money in ‘understanding the technology’. Rightly so – any technology that requires a lot of manual intervention brings with it time and cost implications.

You should use a system that offers a single, software-based solution that can be implemented in a modular fashion to meet a range of requirements, which provides excellent budgetary control. It is completely web-based for ease of use and fast rollout, and it has been designed in such a way that it can be managed by operational personnel rather than IT specialists. Customers can use their own hardware and operating system to maximise buying power if they prefer, or they can opt for full turnkey systems for simplicity of procurement and support.

Another consideration is the number of servers that are needed for the solution and the resulting effect this has on power consumption, heat and environmental impact, plus the complexity it adds to issues such as backup, support and maintenance.

Event Reconstruct: Place important communications into a custom workplace for evaluation.

Event Reconstruct: Place important communications into a custom workplace for evaluation.

Scaling the system

As with all new capital investment it is important that any solution chosen is as future-proof as possible. Scalability is a must, as your system needs to be able to grow with your organisation and allow for changes of interface as your telephony and radio systems evolve.

The solution should also enable you to add new functionality – for example, Audio Analytics, Quality Management or Screen Recording – as and when you need it. This flexibility will allow you to meet the operational requirements of the different functions across the organisation, with the same core investment.

Future concerns are generally around convergence and the ability to offer evidence based on all types of media – including audio, video, data and GPS – as a single reconstruction for evidential disclosure. For most organisations this is currently a step too far and, in the present economic climate, the cost implications of developing their offerings around this area may be prohibitive.

Final considerations

Whatever your requirements, it is paramount that you choose a reliable and resilient solution that meets the operational needs of your specific service. It should provide total recording across all communications, with instant replay for caller detail verification and fast evidence output and distribution. Ideally find a solution that not only records all communications – telephony, radio, TETRA, Airwave and IP devices – but also integrates with command and control systems (ICCS) to offer additional details relating to radio ID, talk groups and full ISSI information.

And a last word: bearing in mind that the system is largely going to be managed by operational personnel rather than IT specialists, it is important that you partner with a supplier whose solution is intuitive and easy to use, and one which offers comprehensive training coupled with responsive and solid customer support. For those working in the highly pressured Emergency Services sector nothing should be left to chance.

Leading Voice and Data Recorder Provider – Addcom Contact Solutions

ADDCOM Contact Solutions (ADDCOM) has been a key player within the voice and data recording industry in Australia and New Zealand for over ten years.

ADDCOM serves the recording needs of emergency service agencies from a range of sectors including Government Agencies, Public Safety, Security Monitoring, Contact Centres, Rail, to Energy and Financial Institutions covering from one to over forty sites with a central database.

Key Australian clients include Ambulance Victoria, Tasmanian Ambulance, NSW Fire and Rescue, NSW Police, Airservices Australia and NSW Rural Fire Service as well as a number of agencies within New Zealand’s Emergency Services sector.

For more information, go to www.addcom.comwww.redboxrecorders.com/apac/

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Stuart Munro is Regional Sales Manager for Australia and New Zealand for Red Box Recorders.