“We didn’t want citizens to think the government had shut down,” says Oswaldo Mestre, director of citizen services for Buffalo, N.Y.
“I don’t see a day when all our call-takers come back into City Hall,” he says. “This technology makes us nimbler while keeping us secure. We can scale up and scale down as we need to, and it reduces our carbon footprint. We’ll have operational efficiencies that free us to focus on solving problems for people.”
RELATED: AI and chatbots can help augment government call center capabilities.
Montgomery, Ala., Upgrades Its Computer-Aided Dispatch System
Now the emergency communications director for the city of Montgomery, Ala., Melinda Shonk has three decades of firsthand experience with the evolution of technology in her department. “I started as a 911 dispatcher and have been involved in every level of operations,” she says. “A big part of my job now is to assess and maintain our technology and decide where we’re going in the next few years.”
The city has already taken major steps to modernize its emergency communications center. In 2016, Montgomery 911 upgraded its computer-aided dispatch platform, installed a CineMassive video wall and adopted the state’s P25 radio system to provide interoperability with other emergency agencies.
The upgraded CAD system provides enhanced mapping capabilities along with features such as a direct interface to building alarm systems, which cuts response time to an alarm and frees call-takers to handle other emergencies, Shonk says. Among other features, the video wall connects with traffic cameras around the city, displays a CAD map showing the location of police and fire units, and shows closed-captioned local and national news.
Montgomery has also moved to an IP-based Next Generation 911 system that enhances reliability and adds the potential for new channels — such as text, chat and video — for emergency communications.
EXPLORE: How can real-time data help enhance situational awareness for police?
Johns Creek, Ga., Migrates Contact Center to Cloud
The city contact center for Johns Creek, Ga., once consisted of a single person, who funneled phone inquiries to appropriate municipal employees while also directing walk-in traffic at City Hall.
That changed in February 2020, when Johns Creek moved to an Amazon Connect contact center based in the Amazon Web Services cloud, says Nick O’Day, the city’s chief data officer.
“We needed to increase efficiency and consistency in the way we responded to public inquiries without adding to our head count,” O’Day says. Johns Creek is a suburb northeast of Atlanta with about 84,000 residents.
In choosing Amazon Connect, the city leveraged a previous investment in an Alexa app that provided data about the city and its services through the smart speaker, O’Day says. The most arduous part of the contact center deployment was creating a complex flow chart to map calls to their correct destinations. This was then automated through Connect, which has embedded voice recognition, and linked to the data available on Alexa.
Moving to Connect resulted in more efficient delivery of information to residents and much richer, 24/7 service, O’Day says. Connect also provides the city with valuable data about where calls are coming from and which departments are receiving inquiries. “We want to get information as efficiently as possible to as many people as we can,” O’Day says.