Using live video features for emergency rescue: The eye-on-scene assessment in Italy, the importance of multimedia emergency communications

The modernisation of emergency communications requires a perfect balance of technology and human empathy. As underlined by the Next Generation 112 premises, more and more citizens expect to be supported by the emergency services through easy procedures and familiar tools. Video calls and eye-on-scene technologies have already begun to build this reality, as evidenced by the stories of Patrick, a 2-year-old boy saved from choking, and of Alex, born thanks to remote support via video call.

Both Patrick’s chocking and Alex’s birth involved the Control Room of the Italian emergency services (1-1-8 number) located in the city of Bologna. Here, innovative technologies are used, such as the reverse engagement tool based on sending a link to the mobile phone of the caller that starts a video session between the PSAP and the citizen in an emergency.

On January 2, 2021, the parents of little Patrick called the emergency service because their baby was choking on a piece of food. To manage the parents’ panic and guide them in Basic Life Support before paramedics arrived on scene, the emergency operator – Daniele Celin – started a video chat session with Patrick’s mother’s cell phone. In addition to the normal telephone support, the communication was therefore immediately enriched by geolocation data and a constant video stream which – as confirmed by the parents – was fundamental to save the child’s life.

Source: Newspaper « Il Resto del Carlino »

The convenience of an eye-on-scene assessment is felt by rescue operators, for the obvious advantage of overcoming the limits of only verbal communication during case management. The Italian experience highlights its importance not only for overcoming panic situations, but also for verifying that citizens are following the instructions correctly, for example in the case of CPR. This is not just about Basic Life Support operations, it can also help the operator decide the proper actions to be taken when dispatching help.

Currently implemented technology
Source: Regola

The Multimedia perspective

Clearly, a video chat can be carried out easily by calling the citizen directly from a mobile phone. However, in this way, the contextuality with the intervention data is lost and the possibility of archiving the video within the central systems is no longer possible

The mobile-based support activated by the 118 service in Bologna towards Patrick’s parents, enable the citizen to use a communication means that is usual for them (such as recording a video with his mobile phone), and at the same time the operator can keep an organised, securely stored, and traceable case management. For all these reasons, the technology support is not limited to the creation of the video link – a fundamental but obvious operation – but to the correct setup of a valuable emergency management session. As should always be the case, it is the process and the use case that drive the technology and not vice versa.

The 1-1-8 service of Emilia Romagna is also able to extend the video chat to external consultants, such as a specialist doctor or a simultaneous translator (as required by the principle of equivalent access) and this is the basis for an effective emergency service for deaf people.
Moreover, the video link is also used to connect the Control Room with field responders.

A change that makes news

The need for a more human-friendly communication between people in difficulty and emergency services is felt and very current. This is evidenced by the attention paid by the Italian national media to the case of Patrick and to another episode that occurred in the same period: the birth of Alex, a child born thanks to remote support via video call.

In Alex’s birth, the video stream technology was used by the 118 of Bologna to guide the father-to-be, who improvised as an obstetrician, in assisting the birth and supporting his partner. The birth took place before the arrival of the ambulance and here, once again, technology shortened the distance between the emergency service professional (Elisa Nava) and the citizens in a complicated, albeit happy, situation. “I got this link that immediately started the smartphone camera and together we managed to do everything. It was truly an exceptional thing because we didn’t think we could do it” – said Alex’s father, Matteo.

It is already happening

The stories of Patrick and Alex are just two of the testimonies of how the video connection between the Control Room and the caller’s phone is already transforming the relationship connecting emergency services and citizens.
Here, the concepts of data reception and the inclusion of media used every day by the public are a reality that offers the best perspective to future NG112 implementations and that allows the entire emergency community to start the change even before the technological transformation of communication infrastructures.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of EENA. Articles do not represent an endorsement by EENA of any organisation.

Massimiliano Palma
CEO at Regola srl

Share this blog post on: