10 Best Practices to Improve Your 9-1-1 Quality Assurance Program 

Best practices in 911 quality assurance include reviewing prior performance, keeping operators informed of how they are being monitored, including transparent assessment criteria, and ensuring the latest in data analytics technology is used for the most accurate results.

There are a number of things you can do to ensure that your 911 calls are being conducted at the highest standard, but in order to do this, you need to be sure your quality-assurance program is looking at the right data. Here are a few things you can do to improve your 911 quality assurance program.

Here are our 10 best practices to improve your 911 Quality Assurance Program:

#1: Review the whole call, not just the intake piece 

Typically, quality assurance programs that are out there and commercially available only cover  the call intake piece but it is important to cover the whole incident. You want to be sure to  include the call dispatch process into your QA evaluations to not leave any critical information  out.  

#2: How many and which calls to QA 

The standard recommends that PSAPs review a minimum of 2 percent of all calls (including  both call-taking and dispatching components). Don’t just pick out bad calls or zero in on specific  telecommunicators. Everyone involved in handling calls should be monitored, whether full time,  temporary or volunteer telecommunicators. The standard also recommends that all low  frequency calls involving any high acuity or catastrophic events be reviewed, in addition to any  other types of calls the agency deems important.  

#3: How to overcome resistance to your QA program 

The key to overcoming fear and resistance to QA and monitoring is to involve  telecommunicators in the planning process from the get-go, and elicit their input. Explain the  objectives of the program; clarify exactly ow they’ll be monitored, what criteria they’ll be  measured on, how evaluations will be conducted, how the data will be used, and why it matters  to them. Get them involved in QA form design. Allow them to listen to their own calls and self evaluate. Phase the program in over a period of time, soliciting feedback and making  adjustments along the way.  

#4: Setting up forms and scoring calls 

First, your forms should align with your PSAP’s standard operating procedures (SOPs). They  should address the entire intake and dispatch process and focus on three key areas: Adherence  to SOPs/protocol compliance, call quality (customer service), and required telecommunicator  knowledge and skills. 

Law enforcement, fire/rescue, and EMS calls each have different procedures, flows, and  protocol compliance requirements. Therefore, you will want to create a unique QA audit forms  for each of these call types and also for different job responsibilities within each type (e.g. call  taking vs. dispatching). 

#5: Ensure timely reviews and employee notification 

The NENA/APCO American National Standards Institute (ANSI) standard recommends that QA  evaluations be done as soon as possible after the receipt of the call and radio dispatch, but no  later than five days following. Supervisors should never wait until the end of the month to do QA. Calls should be reviewed daily or at a minimum weekly. Waiting until the end of the month leaves the door open for telecommunicators to make the same mistake throughout the month.  By identifying performance gaps and bringing them to the attention of employees sooner you  can remediate them that much quicker through coaching or training.  

#6: Accentuate the positive 

In addition to using the QA process as a way to identify learning opportunities, PSAPs should  leverage it as a way to reinforce good behaviors and recognize excellence. One way to do this  is to include an “exceeds expectations” category on all evaluation forms. A supervisor can then  send a message of appreciation to the telecommunicator and display a team alert to recognize  a job well done.  

#7: Consider adding screen recording to QA reviews 

Telecommunicators handle hundreds of different kinds of calls, all requiring different protocols  and processes, and a host of systems. A single misstep in following a protocol, a single  miscommunication, or a system glitch could all have disastrous consequences. 

When issues do occur, it can be very difficult to get to the heart of the problem. Simply listening  to the audio recordings and accessing the Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) details only paints a  partial picture. On the other hand, recording and synchronizing voice and screen recordings can  provide complete visibility into every facet of call handling.  

Telecommunicators typically have between three to six screens running on their console. This usually includes CAD, GIS mapping software, call handling, 9-1-1 text messaging, and other  applications. Today’s screen capture applications are able to record a telecommunicator’s  interactions with multiple monitors simultaneously.  

#8: Selecting the right Quality Assurance Evaluator 

The responsibility for reviewing telecommunicator work performance and documenting compliance with your agency’s directives and standards through evaluations ultimately falls on  the Quality Assurance Evaluator or QAE. The person or people you select for this key role need  to know your agency’s policies and procedures inside and out, and be thoroughly dedicated to  the advancement of your agency. This person needs to exhibit a professional attitude and be  thorough, consistent and objective. 

#9: Calibrate often for consistency 

Simply using the same criteria to evaluate everyone doesn’t guarantee that QA evaluations will  be consistent and objective. If you have multiple QAEs, each could interpret the evaluation  criteria differently. That’s why its absolutely critical to create and document QA definitions,  review those definitions with your QAEs and telecommunicators, and calibrate reviews on an  ongoing basis. If you have one QAE who’s grading more generously and one who’s grading  more strictly, your QA program will definitely fail, because you’re going to have favoritism  issues. Even if you just have one QAE, its important to calibrate to make sure the QAE is in line  with management’s expectations.  

#10: Let technology do the work for you  

Even today, with the availability of automated QA solutions, many PSAPs conduct their QA  manually, using over the shoulder monitoring, manual call selection, and paper evaluation forms  and reports.  

QA software solutions can eliminate paper and improve efficiency by streamlining every aspect  of the QA process. Here’s how:  

Automated call scheduling rules

Set up rules in the QA systems to detect a specific number  or percentage of calls (for each telecommunicator for a specific time period). Automating this  process means QAEs get a true random sample. You can further refine automated call selection  based on other criteria: call length, time of day, day of week, originating locations, or call type. 

Audio analytics for finding important calls to QA

use the audio analytics engine to  automatically identify and categorize calls containing keywords or phrases relating to specific  incident types; for example, domestic violence, homicides, or heart attacks. For the latter, key  words like “heart attack,” “cardiac arrest,” or “chest pain” would trigger the recording to be pulled  and categorized for review. 

Audio analytics for ensuring compliance

Use audio analytics to listen to 100 percent of 9-1-1  calls and isolate problem calls or to detect the presence or absence of keywords/phrases to  determine if protocols were followed.  

More efficient, streamlines call review

Thousands of PSAPs nationwide now use protocol  driven software, like Priority Dispatch’s ProQA and AQUA, to guide telecommunicators through  response for police, fire, and EMS calls, and to evaluate those calls after the fact. Having call  recording integrated directly into the Priority Dispatch software interface can cut QA review time  in half, because QAEs can automatically pull up all calls and review them in one interface.

Pre-programmed QA templates and form builders

Start from a library of pre-built forms, or  use form builders to quickly create QA forms for different protocols, roles, and incident types,  first setting up form sections and questions, then assigning weighting factors. The QA software  automatically tabulates the scores as evaluations are completed.

Automated reporting

The beauty of electronic scoring is that it also makes it possible to  automatically generate reports that highlight performance metrics and trends. These insights  can then be applied to improving performance via one-on-one coaching sessions or training on a broader scale.