Video 911 calls are coming soon to Volusia County.
Written by Kristen Schmutz
Belden Communications News
The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office announced Wednesday, April 27, that it is preparing to deploy new technology, making 911 video calls possible for the first time in Volusia County.
The Sheriff's Office will utilize Carbyne, an Emergency Communications platform, allowing dispatchers to share a caller’s video with responding units in real-time with up-to-date information before arriving on the scene and providing improved caller location data. The Carbyne system is not yet live, but a soft launch on a limited number of calls, is expected in Volusia County around May 16.
“Every 911 call comes with unknowns, and so much is riding on that initial information gathered over the phone,” said Sheriff Mike Chitwood while announcing the new program. “If we can get a video call up, that gives us a chance to send better info and even a live view to our first responders in those crucial moments before they get to the scene.”
Video calls are limited to calls that meet specific criteria and are not meant for every call to 911.
Implementing the new video call function will not provide the Sheriff’s Office access to the contents or settings of a person's phone before, during, or after the call is placed. Carbyne's goal is to open up a line of communication similar to Skype or FaceTime, except the dispatcher is not visible to the caller. Video calls will be recorded and retained by Florida law, for use as evidence in court, and may be subject to public records disclosure with redactions, just like a traditional 911 call.
According to a release, telecommunicators at the Volusia Sheriff’s Office Communications Center have been training on the new platform for weeks in preparation for the launch. To participate in a video call, a caller must first give consent to the dispatcher, who will then send a link to the caller's cell phone via text message, activating the video call once accessed.
Callers must be careful not to place themselves or others in danger when reporting information, just like with a normal 911 call. The Volusia Sheriff’s Office also offers Text to 911 services, which launched in 2018, for those who cannot make a phone call or who cannot safely speak on the phone.
Several other jurisdictions already use the Carbyne system, like Fayette County, Georgia, which began implementing Carbyne in 2018 and going live in 2020. The Largo Police Department became the first agency in Florida to adopt the platform in 2019, while the Miami-Dade Police Department launched a year-long pilot program with Carbyne in June 2021.
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