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911 operators using AI now

A cellphone user navigating a mobile app. (Tech. Sgt. David Carbajal/U.S. Air Force)
August 10, 2023

Emergency telephone operators may soon receive assistance from an artificial intelligence program that would identify when operators need a mental health break due to the stressful conditions of the job and issues with understaffing.

The daily life of a 911 operator is filled with frantic calls of suicide, harrowing car accidents, or the breathless panic of a parent with a choking child. Most of these professionals rarely get closure on the tragedies they hear, which can take a considerable toll on their mental health.

“They are communicating with people in the worst moments of their lives, and they are in situations that don’t end well and are very traumatic,” Christy Williams, Director of the North Central Texas Emergency Communications District (NCT911), said in a recent phone interview with Fox News.

NCT911 oversees more than 40 emergency communication centers across 14 counties in the Dallas-Fort Worth region. With a firm belief in the power of technology, they’ve turned to artificial intelligence to help bolster their call centers, especially as the majority grapple with understaffing.

Partnering with Amazon Web Services, NCT911 is currently testing a program that would flag when an operator has had successive tragic interactions.

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Williams noted, “As a 911 telecommunicator, you might spend 45 minutes on a suicide call, hang up, and immediately that phone rings and you have to pick it up and say, ‘911 Where’s your emergency’ and start working all over again.”

Over time, such repeated emotional drains without proper closure can lead to severe mental health complications, exacerbating the already high turnover rates in the profession.

However, with the help of artificial intelligence, these professionals might soon get the reprieve they desperately need. The innovative program would monitor calls, focusing on keywords and the tone of the caller. It could then identify whether a call was particularly stressful.

“We want the artificial intelligence to be able to tag any calls that we think might be jeopardizing the mental health of a telecommunicator,” Williams emphasized. With real-time monitoring, supervisors could be flagged, ensuring operators receive a much-needed break or even a quiet moment to decompress.

According to recent statistics from the National Emergency Number Association, a shocking 82% of the nation’s 911 call centers are understaffed, with 75% of operators expressing feelings of burnout.

Williams and her peers believe that integrating artificial intelligence into their systems not only has the potential to aid in operational efficiency but also can play a crucial role in maintaining the well-being of employees.

This news article was partially created with the assistance of artificial intelligence and edited and fact-checked by a human editor.