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.