About Transform911 & Workgroups

The information below is borrowed from Transform911’s website. For more information, please visit Transform911.org.

About Transform911

The University of Chicago Health Lab is gathering experts in health care, academia, government, emergency response and public safety—in collaboration with advocates and elected leaders via virtual roundtables and working groups—to examine how to transform America’s 911 system.

Transform911 seeks to evaluate the evidence base surrounding the current 911 system, identify its limitations, and search for opportunities to innovate alternative approaches.

The project will:

  • Establish working groups and roundtables to explore insights and evidence into 911’s current deployment of first responders to assist people in need
  • Convene diverse experts for a national dialogue centered on innovating the nation’s emergency response system to more effectively stabilize crisis scenarios and assess when secondary or follow up interventions are needed
  • Enhance a strong research base that can inform grassroots advocacy campaigns and create a roadmap for transforming the nation’s emergency crisis response system
  • Recommend policies and approaches to improve 911

Transform911’s Goals

Transform911 is an ambitious project that seeks to explore how the nation’s 911 system can better prioritize health and safety and ensure the right responder is dispatched at the right time. Transform911 aims to:

  1. Build a strong and diverse community of practice,
  2. Centralize and evaluate the evidence base surrounding the current 911 system,
  3. Identify the system’s limitations and opportunities,
  4. Spark creativity and innovation in alternative approaches to its use,
  5. Develop explicit policy recommendations for state and federal policymakers,
  6. Build blueprints and implementation plans to achieve local and national system change, and
  7. Pilot and study interventions that aim to improve the 911 system.

The project is informed by current public health professionals and law enforcement practitioners along with a wide array of experts and community stakeholders, resulting in specific proposals for changes in emergency crisis response and practice that are evidence-informed, practitioner-vetted, and practically actionable.

To achieve Transform911’s goals, the University of Chicago Health Lab has begun to employ five interrelated workstreams:

  1. Creating a community of practice and national dialogue;
  2. Launching and maintaining this centralized website;
  3. Producing and disseminating interactive reports and recommendations to improve 911;
  4. Partnering with other institutions and practitioners to pilot and evaluate effective interventions in demonstration sites; and
  5. Assessing and contributing to the knowledge base around emergency crisis response, including 911, 988, and other alternative numbers and practices.

To learn more about the Health Lab’s other work in the fields of health equity and justice, visit the Lab’s website.

Workgroups & Topics

The formal conversations will take the form of facilitated workgroups around six different topics related to 911 – spanning call handling procedures, governance, alternative hotlines, alternative responders, telecommunicator supports, and technology and infrastructure. Two additional groups, one for 911 history and one for research and data, will support and collaborate with the six core topic groups. Each group will be comprised of researchers, practitioners, community advocates, and other subject matter experts. Workgroup members will have the opportunity to share lessons learned from their fields, forge professional connections, and contribute to a new body of knowledge regarding emergency response. Meeting regularly, workgroups will collaborate to generate material for reports that will be sent to changemakers around the nation.

1. ECC Operations

Review all 911 emergency communications center (ECC) operations, including triage of incoming calls, coding, call-taking scripts, dispatch assignment, quality assurance protocols, behavioral economics, and dispatch deployment. Assess whether/how related policies, procedures, and protocols enable valid and reliable information collection about emergencies, and the efficient and effective dissemination of that information to first responders and, where necessary, to others.

2. Governance

Review governance structures and processes (including laws and state, local, budget considerations/resource constraints, agency operational orders, organizational and decision-making structures, and reporting protocols) to ensure proper quality control, oversight, implementation, and operation of standardized 911 and alternative procedures.

3. 911 History

Review the historic role of 911 systems in racially disparate policing and other first responder practices, and how the legacy of inequitable practices, policies, and legislation informs the way in which policing and other first response systems operates today. Examine the impact of the history of policing and other first response on the disenfranchisement and impoverishment of selected communities today.

4. 911 Hotline Alternatives

Review the strengths and limitations of alternative crisis lines or “hotlines,” including 211, 311, 811, 988, and text lines, along with runaway, domestic violence, and suicide prevention hotlines. To what degree are they viable and effective alternatives to 911 in meeting medical, social-service, and community needs?

5. Alternative First Responders

Review successful and promising practices that provide people with appropriate medical, social-service and community resources (e.g., mental health, substance use, DV/IPV, animal control, traffic calls, noise complaints, false alarms) instead of or in addition to police/EMS/fire response. Responses may be in-person or virtual, and include non-law enforcement government actors, mental health clinicians, and staff of contracted community-based organizations and collectives.

6. 911 Professional Career and Supports

Supporting the role of 911 professionals as our first access to emergency response.

Review successful and promising efforts to improve investments in and supports for the 911 profession. Identify and make recommendations for improvements in: 911 professional skillset requirements, recruitment and retention, training and certification standards, occupational supports, opportunities for advancement, and pay and benefit equity; mental health and wellness needs, including identifying and addressing exposure to trauma and preventing burnout; and potential occupational reclassification/title changes that would elevate telecommunicators’ influence in the public safety hierarchy.

7. 911 Technology and Infrastructure

Review how technology impacts the ability and capacity to ensure that callers’ needs are appropriately identified and met, and the right response at the right time is achieved. Explore new and innovative technologies in the 911 and alternative hotline realm. Examine how technology can enhance data collection, coding, data analytics, and performance metrics associated with effective 911 and alternative response systems, including what types of data and reporting formats are most relevant to the kinds of calls police/EMS and fire respond to.

8. Data, Research, and KPIs

Determine the key performance metrics (KPIs) for evaluating 911 call outcomes, categorizing call types, and consolidating information. Review the existing research base on 911 operations and alternatives, identifying gaps and opportunities to expand the evidence base for successful and promising practices, particularly with regards to providing people with follow-up medical, social-service and community resources after a crisis.

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