911 Video Calls Coming Soon to Volusia County

by: Andrew Gant

Volusia Sheriff’s Office

The Volusia Sheriff’s Office is preparing to deploy new technology that will make 911 video calling possible for the first time in Volusia County.

The new platform, Carbyne, will also allow VSO dispatchers to share a caller’s video with response units in real time, sending them up-to-date information in seconds, before they even arrive. on site.

In addition to video capability, Carbyne will also provide improved caller location data that is more accurate and available almost instantly.

“Every 911 call comes with strangers, and so much depends on that initial information gathered over the phone,” Sheriff Mike Chitwood said in announcing the new program. “If we can get a video call, it gives us a chance to send better information and even a live view to our first responders in those crucial moments before they arrive on the scene.”

Carriers at the VSO Communications Center practiced on the new platform for weeks in preparation for the launch. The system is not yet operational, but a soft launch on a limited number of calls is planned from May 16.

For callers, participation in a video call is voluntary. The caller’s consent is required. If the caller consents, the dispatcher will send a link to the caller’s cell phone via SMS, which will activate a video call once the caller taps the link.

Video calls will be restricted and will not be used for every 911 call. The option will be offered for calls that meet certain criteria, in accordance with VSO policy developed specifically for the new program.

It’s important to know that the video call feature also doesn’t provide VSO with access to a caller’s phone content or settings in real time or at a later date – it just opens a similar line of communication to Skype or FaceTime, except the dispatcher is not visible to the caller.

Much like a 911 call, video calls will be recorded and retained in accordance with Florida law. This means that your video call could be used as evidence in court and could be subject to public records disclosure with redactions, just like a traditional 911 call. However, Florida law [see Chapter 365.171 (12) (a)] states that any information revealing the identity of a 911 caller reporting an emergency or requesting emergency service is confidential. To maintain this confidentiality, any video, image, or other identifying information that appears in a 911 video call will be removed from the record prior to release under Florida public records law.

It’s also important to note that video callers, much like traditional 911 callers, must be careful not to put themselves or others at risk in order to report information.

The Carbyne platform is used in several other jurisdictions in Florida and across the country. In 2018, Fayette County, Georgia began implementing Carbyne and became fully operational in 2020. In Florida, the Largo Police Department became the first agency to adopt the platform in 2019. The Miami-Dade Police Department has launched a year-long pilot project. program with Carbyne in June 2021.

The Volusia Sheriff’s Office also offers the Text to 911 service, which was launched in 2018 for those who cannot make a phone call or cannot talk safely on the phone.

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