California 911 centers access OnStar crash data via RapidDeploy
California 911 centers now can receive vehicle-crash data and injury-severity predictions from OnStar through the RapidDeploy’s RadiusPlus map application that has been installed at the 450 public-safety answering points (PSAPs) in the state, according to an announcement released this week.
Budge Currier, 911 and emergency-communications branch manager for California, said the initiative will enhance the ability for 911 centers to process quickly the considerable amount of telematics information generated by OnStar when a vehicle crash occurs.
“With the existing technology that we have in our PSAPs today, we didn’t really have a way for that to be displayed on the call-answering equipment, which answers the 911 call, or on computer-aided dispatch, which is what they use to dispatch resources,” Currier said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “There was this gap where there was this data that could be used to save lives, but there was no way to display it in every PSAP in California.
“The data’s available, and now you need a way to display it in the PSAPs. That’s where RapidDeploy comes in. We’ve deployed their technology to every PSAP in the state, and they’ve entered into this agreement with OnStar, where OnStar will send that data, and it can be displayed in the PSAP by RapidDeploy. Now you’ve got access to that crash data in every single PSAP in California, through this RapidDeploy software.”
Catherine Bishop, senior manager for OnStar Emergency Services, said this marks the first time that 911 centers will be able to receive crash telematics data directly—something the company has wanted to do since OnStar began collecting the information from vehicles in 2004.
“We’ve done a couple of pilots with NHTSA and the DOT in the past, but in those situations, it’s primarily been just test data,” Bishop said. “So, it’s very exciting to have real-time crash data available when it’s actually going to make the difference.
“Before I came to OnStar, I ran a 911 center. Learning about OnStar, I was thinking that getting this data to public safety was right around the corner, and I’ve been with OnStar now for 17 years … Getting data to public safety is definitely one of my lifetime goals, so I’m glad to see it happening.”
Some of OnStar’s telematics include the speed of the vehicle at the time of a crash, the point of impact, and which passengers were wearing seatbelt. OnStar also uses this information and automatically puts it into an algorithm that calculates the likelihood that one of the passengers in the front seat has suffered a severe injury, so responders can better focus their efforts while on scene.
“For the last decade, we have been able to predict whether there might be a high probability of a severe injury within the vehicle,” Bishop said. “We’re on the third version of that, and we’re fairly accurate with our assertion.
“We have visibility on the front seat, in terms of occupants. We have yet to be able to apply that to the entire vehicle, just because the sensor capabilities are not as sophisticated in the second and third rows. But the PSAPs California will be able to see—at least for the two front-seat occupants—for example, that the passenger is the one with the high probability of injury.”
For 911 centers, being able to receive the OnStar data promises to be much more efficient than having it provided verbally to a telecommunicator, who often is limited in the time they have to devote to the effort.
“Our emergency advisor has the data on their screen, and we attempt to provide the data,” Bishop said. “But in many cases, you know how busy these 911 centers are. To take it all down and have to type it all in takes time. Most of the time, they’re not able to, just because of how busy their centers are.
“This is really going to transform the landscape. My hope is that, as California embraces this and we have some very successful outcomes, we’re going to see other states want to replicate the success. We’re going to be prepared to respond accordingly.”
RapidDeploy CEO Steve Raucher echoed this sentiment.
“This is our first deployment with OnStar, and I would imagine that it would be the first of many,” Raucher said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “California has led the way across the U.S., in terms of next-gen 911 and the interesting things that it does with technology. We’re very, very proud to partner with both OnStar and CalOES to deliver these signals.”
RapidDeploy’s RadiusPlus call-taking map and Eclipse analytics products are available to all 911 centers through a CalOES initiative that resulted in RapidDeploy being installed in all PSAPs in the state. Currier emphasized that each 911 center has to decide whether to activate the RapidDeploy capabilities, including the crash information from OnStar.
“The two pieces that we try to be particularly careful of are, ‘Is the PSAP properly trained on how to use the data,’ and ‘Does the PSAP actually want all of that data?’” Currier said. “That’s a local-agency decision that we honor.
“Any PSAP today in California that’s not using this software yet is in the process yet of saying, ‘Hey, how do I get it? We’ve had nothing but positive feedback on that. Those that hear about it, want it.”
Currier said he has been particularly impressed by RapidDeploy’s ability to adapt to the quickly evolving needs of 911 centers.
“Any feedback that we get on how the technology is performing and what RapidDeploy is doing, we make sure that any feedback we get from the PSAPs is reflected in the software,” Currier said. “They’ve done a really great job of that throughout the life of the project. Whenever we hear of anything, we reach out to them and say, ‘Can you provide this capability, as well?’ and they say, ‘Yes.’
“Last year at this time, we rolled out a text-from-911 capability. From when we first deployed RapidDeploy to when it was deployed statewide, I think it was something like three months, which is remarkable.”
When RapidDeploy entered the U.S. market in 2017, most 911 administrators were wary—if not adamantly opposed—to using cloud-based solutions like RapidDeploy, opting instead to continue relying on on-premise systems. But those concerns about the cloud are virtually nonexistent today, according to Raucher.
“Do you know how many RFPs I’ve seen that have said ‘on-prem’ in the last 12 months?” he said. “One—literally one.”
In addition to California, RapidDeploy has statewide contracts with four other states, including announced deals in Kansas and Arizona, Raucher said. Meanwhile, RapidDeploy’s cloud-native approach makes it easier for its platform to integrate data from new sources like OnStar.
“The data is coming down a pipe, and it’s going to be surfaced directly into our 911 call-taking map, which is called RadiusPlus,” Raucher said. “We’ll be able to bring all of the telematics data that OnStar is famous for visualized directly in the platform.
“So, not only do we have a direct integration with all of the mobile-handset manufacturers, and we’re going to be bringing data down from other telematic sources. But right now, OnStar is leading the way with us in California by surfacing those signals to improve the response times with better visualization and data to 911—the first first responders, who need it most.”
Bishop said the fact that OnStar’s crash information can be displayed on a RapidDeploy screen already used in California 911 centers is critical.
“We were really happy that RapidDeploy already had a presence in California and that their RadiusPlus was already being used by telecommunicators,” Bishop said. “The last thing we wanted to do was to be relegated to some screen over in the corner that no one ever looked at, because then it would be irrelevant. But it’s going to be front and center.
“I think that, if telecommunicators see that there’s a high probability of severe injury or a situation with an electric vehicle, they’re really going to take notice and act upon that, even before our voice call comes in.”
Currier said the level to which the OnStar data is integrated is dependent upon the California 911 center adopting RapidDeploy and having the proper equipment installed.
“With the RapidDeploy solution that we’ve got deployed already at all of the PSAPs, it would display on that screen,” Currier said. “That RapidDeploy screen—in most cases—is running on the machine that’s running CAD for them, but in some cases, it is a standalone machine. It just depends on the capabilities in the PSAP.
“[In those cases,] RapidDeploy is being used in the PSAP, through a web browser, on a screen. It’s different from the call-processing equipment and the computer-aided dispatch. We had to do that, because those two pieces of technology cannot integrate this data. So, we needed something to be able to display this in every single PSAP in the state of California, regardless of where they were in the transition timeline.”