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AI / Baltimore / Municipal government

With cloud tech and AI integration, Baltimore plans to enhance its emergency response system

Thanks to a $6.5 million contract with NWN Carousel, Baltimore is improving emergency response with real-time translation for 140+ languages and faster call specialist engagement.

An ambulance. (Photo by Camilo Jimenez on Unsplash)

Baltimore is taking a step toward modernizing its emergency response services with the implementation of an AI-based 911 system.

According to a press release, this solution boasts automatic text translation for more than 140 languages and advanced geo-mapping capabilities that could potentially reduce emergency response times by up to 90% — which were at an average of 16 minutes in 2019.

Baltimore’s AI-driven approach marks a shift away from the previous reliance on third-party human translation services for non-English calls. Previously, the process involved extended wait times to identify the language and secure a translator, resulting in potential delays and varying translation quality. The introduction of a real-time translation service now enables call specialists to swiftly engage and dispatch assistance. This is a stark departure from the previous legacy system, which could take over 20 minutes for the entire process.

Dubbed the “911-in-a-Box” initiative, its aim extends to reshaping the work experience for public safety agents, who manage over a million calls annually. Notably, Open Baltimore data from 2022 notes a staggering 1,690,944 records for 911 calls made during that year. The initiative also seeks to raise awareness of Baltimore’s emergency call system among students and community members.

Spearheading this effort is NWN Carousel, the Rhode Island-based company with whom the city worked. This company developed the system’s capability to proficiently translate more than 140 languages, thereby facilitating seamless communication in critical scenarios.

Tenea Reddick, the City of Baltimore’s 9-1-1 Director, highlighted this multilingual capacity as part of a DEI focus for the city. 

“The ability to communicate immediately with Spanish speakers and other non-English-speaking callers of our ever-growing diverse community will provide a new comfort level for Baltimore citizens who may have been reluctant to call 911 in the past because they felt that we would not understand them,” Reddick said in a written statement. “Baltimore City 911 has joined the DEI movement by now providing the citizens with Diversity, Equity and Inclusion when utilizing 911.”

Additionally, the integration of real-time location services enriches the process of locating callers, offering a precise breadcrumb mapping experience. This involves capturing real-time latitude, longitude and Z-Axis data through a simple one-click workflow, which might prove to be an advantage in densely populated metropolitan areas like Baltimore where accurately pinpointing caller locations within multi-floor structures is paramount. 

Funding for the $6.5 million contract for the next-generation 911 system was made possible through contributions from the State of Maryland. The contract is the latest collaborative effort between the city and NWN Carousel, which have worked together for the past seven years. Although the system is already operational, the partners anticipate complete deployment by the end of the year. 

Companies: City of Baltimore

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