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COVID-19: Global recommendations for emergency services

 

The Collaborative Coalition for International Public Safety (CC:IPS) has published a document of global recommendations for emergency services organisations to help them respond and prepare in the best way possible during the COVID-19 outbreak.

The comprehensive document aims to share recommendations for best practices so that countries across the world can learn from each other during these difficult times. It focuses on important challenges which emergency services – including Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) – are or may soon be facing.

These challenges include preparing for an overflow of calls, introducing new helplines, ensuring appropriate care of control room staff and communicating effectively with the public about the outbreak.

You can access CC:IPS global recommendations here.

 

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EENA is a member of the CC:IPS: a pact of public safety organisations launched on 4 November 2019. The other organisations involved are: the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials, Canada (APCO Canada), the British Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (BAPCO), the National Emergency Communications Working Group – Australia / New Zealand, (NECWG-A/NZ), and NENA: The 9-1-1 Association. The organisations involved pledge to promote, support and improve emergency services utilising the most current and commonly accepted technologies, standards, and best practices. This latest document reflects the need for global efforts during challenging times.

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Data and strategies on emergency calls & public warning during COVID-19 outbreak

— This information was presented and discussed on a webinar on 27 March at 15h CET

Important disclaimer:

This information was collected from news and media sources and online advice from governmental services between 19 March-24 March. It has not been validated by the emergency services in each country. The situation and strategies in each country is constantly changing and we will try to update this information as much as possible. This information is intended to help emergency services in each country to learn from each other and to prepare their emergency communications services. It is not intended as a source for the general public.

If you know that the information in your country has changed or you can help us by providing information about your country, please contact Rose Michael at [email protected].

 

The strategies of emergency services to manage the COVID-19 outbreak are constantly changing. Some of the most common strategies include an increase of staff to improve the effectiveness of the line, urging the public only to call the emergency number in case of emergency, and the creation of specific websites and hotlines to answer questions about COVID-19. In order to keep emergency services across the world informed about how their counterparts are managing this outbreak and to help them to be prepared, we have put together some important information below. Please note that this is not exhaustive, and it will be updated as regularly as possible as the situation evolves.

 

Increase in volume of calls

112 emergency call centres are receiving a high volume of calls due to the COVID-19 outbreak.

 

Countries have also seen an increase in calls to non-emergency numbers, health information lines and dedicated COVID-19 hotlines and services:

  • In Portugal (mainland), the helpline of the Ministry of Health (SNS 24) reached a historic number of calls (13,532 calls) on 2 March shortly after confirmation of the first two cases of COVID-19 in Portugal.
  • In the United Kingdom, telephone calls to the NHS non-emergency number 111 were up by one third compared to the same time last year, with an extra 120,000 calls in the first week of March. Alongside, the 111 online service received over one million people between 4 March and 9 March, with enquiries jumping to a record high of more than 210,000 in a single day.
  • In Luxembourg, the COVID-19 hotline was called 2,300 times on March 17 only.
  • In Romania, on 20 March there were 4,950 calls to the COVID-19 information hotline in 24 hours.
  • In Greece, on 9 March, the 1135 line reported more than 15K calls in 24 hours. They also say that the call volume does not seems to reduce. On the contrary, by the end of the week the calls have significantly increased to 20K calls.

 

Strategies used to face the COVID-19 outbreak

Countries have been using various strategies to face this increase in volume of calls and the other challenges of the COVID-19 outbreak.

 

Creation of dedicated hotlines

Some countries have several hotlines according to region:

 

Increasing capacity of call centres

 

Online services

  • The United Kingdom is urging people only to call the non-emergency 111 number if they cannot access the online 111 service. An update to the 111 service was launched on 4 March to help people get quick advice about COVID-19.

 

Accessibility

  • France has provided specific indications for deaf and hard of hearing citizens in order to ensure accessibility.
  • In Italy, Rai, the national public broadcasting, created a spot for the Ministry of Health, in collaboration with the Presidency of the Council of Ministers, to raise awareness of good daily practices that help contain the risk of infection from COVID-19. The spot was also in sign language (LIS).

 

Communication with the public

As measures taken by authorities are to be applied by everyone immediately, many countries are relying on multi-channel Public Warning Systems. Information is shared by all authorities on TVs, radios, websites, social media, dedicated apps… but some authorities have also decided to send alerts to people’s mobile phones:

  • Cell Broadcast messages have been sent to the population in Netherlands, Greece or Romania to alert them on the specific measures that were taken.
  • Even though these countries do not have for the moment any technology to geo-target localised alerts, France, Portugal and Denmark have sent a nation-wide SMS to all the population.
  • Some Public Warning apps such as KATWARN and NINA have also been used locally by some authorities in Germany or Austria to alert the population of the new instructions to follow.

Advanced Public Warning technologies also help some authorities to get better situational awareness of how many people are located in a specific area or how many nationals are still located abroad. Advanced systems can allow more geo-targeted alerts and interaction with the population.

Many web platforms (social media platforms, streaming platforms, search engines, etc.) are also assisting public authorities in relaying official messages and specific instructions to the population.

Provisions for people in quarantine

Other

 

For more detailed information on the strategies taken by each country, please consult the Appendix.

Access the Appendix here

 

Artificial Intelligence AI

Artificial Intelligence & Emergency services: saving lives on the phone

Detecting out-of-hospital cardiac arrest using artificial intelligence: Report on results of EENA/Corti project now available.

Out-of-hospital cardiac arrest is one of the leading causes of death both in Europe and worldwide. When suffering a cardiac arrest, chances of survival decrease up to 10% per minute. The work of emergency call-takers and emergency respondents is thus key to ensure early recognition and life-saving intervention. As it is so crucial, how to better assist them in their job?

When faced with potential cases of cardiac arrest, time and accuracy are key, which is why Danish company Corti looked into how AI could provide real-time decision support in medical dispatch – and developed a technology that acts as a virtual assistant for call-takers.
In 2018, EENA & Corti partnered to pilot this technology in emergency response centers in France and Italy.

In the report prepared by EENA, Corti and the pilot sites, you will learn about the challenges faced during the project, including data privacy issues and the difficulties of acquiring the necessary datasets.

“The EENA-Corti project was an important learning experience for the use of AI in emergency services, demonstrating not only the potential of the technology, but also how to overcome significant challenges to pave the way for the future of emergency response”, Jerome Paris, EENA Managing Director.

Recommendations & Conclusions from the report:

• Artificial Intelligence does have the potential to assist decision-making of emergency call-takers, by increasing the accuracy of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest detections.
• The pilot project ran in France demonstrated that the AI can also speed up the detections of cardiac arrest over the phone.
• Further training of the AI is needed to keep improving the performance and optimise the models. Wider and good quality datasets play a crucial role to further improving accuracy.
• To ensure maximum efficacy, the AI should be run alongside effective protocols .
• Additional data should be considered an aid to emergency call-takers and emergency response professionals in order to save lives.
• Such data should be presented in a user-friendly manner in order to be effective.

 

Access the report here

“On top of developing preliminary AI models for Out-of-Hospital Cardiac Arrest detection in French and Italian, the results are important because they confirm – despite the challenges – the potential of AI in augmenting call-takers and dispatchers. We look forward to moving ahead and beyond the pilot phases.”, Andreas Cleve, CEO, Corti.

 

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Emergency services call for stronger cooperation with tech companies 

As tech companies are introducing safety features in their products, these well-intended advances are often developed without fully grasping the reality of emergency services.

Many wearables, connected devices and more, now count with special built-in features that can detect emergencies and also communicate with emergency services. But these same emergency services are often not involved in the development of these features, which can result in flawed communications. Data sometimes cannot be processed at emergency response centres, together with an increase of emergency alerts due to false alarms.

This lack of adequate communications is a consequence not anticipated by tech companies, which can hinder the work of emergency services. Without companies being aware of it, there is a possibility that users in danger can be expecting help that will not arrive because the information has not been processed by emergency services.

We believe in innovation and welcome all advances aiming at improving citizens’ safety. That is why we, together with signatories from all over the world, are now calling for tech companies to contact EENA to take part in this dialogue.

Find more in our position paper.