A Preview of the APCO 2023 Cutting Edge Developments Track

Every year, APCO’s Government Relations Office curates the Cutting Edge Developments track for APCO’s Annual Conference and Expo. This track provides attendees with opportunities to learn about a variety of issues and technologies that impact public safety communications. We hope you will join us in Nashville August 6-9 to engage with colleagues and hear from experts on a diverse set of topics.

This year’s Cutting Edge track will feature discussions on emerging technologies to enhance emergency communications center (ECC) operations, such as leveraging artificial intelligence, and innovative solutions for addressing the top issues facing ECCs. The sessions are developed to share new approaches to common challenges within the ECC and generate discussion on how to leverage technology as a solution to these challenges. Several of the track sessions will be presented by ECC professionals who have already implemented unique technologies and programs.

One of the major issues facing ECCs today is recruitment and retention. Cutting Edge track attendees will have the opportunity to explore different strategies for addressing these challenges through technology and operational policies. During one session, ECC professionals will discuss various approaches to leveraging technology to offset staffing challenges, including remote call taking, web-based reporting and artificial intelligence. In addition to addressing staffing and retention challenges, a number of sessions will highlight technology solutions to augment ECC operations, including enhancing internal communications systems and managing unverified alarm notifications.

Several sessions will highlight the growing trend of revising mental health responses in 9-1-1. Public safety agencies are increasingly using alternative dispatch programs to respond to calls for service that may not warrant a traditional police or fire/rescue response, such as mental health crises. These programs generally entail incorporating mental health professionals and/or social services into the dispatch options, but several different approaches have been implemented across the country. Attendees will have the opportunity to learn about mental health diversion programs from ECCs that have implemented such programs in Denver and Tucson, Arizona. These sessions will provide insight into working with local government, technology vendors and mental health experts to avoid pitfalls when implementing alternative response programs.

For those interested in the push for Congress to provide Next Generation 9-1-1 funding, members of the Public Safety Next Generation 9-1-1 Coalition, an alliance of organizations (including APCO) representing 9-1-1, fire, emergency medical and law enforcement professionals, will provide an update on proposed legislation that would establish a $15 billion grant program for NG9-1-1. ECCs must have sufficient resources to deploy new technologies and capabilities. Some areas are making progress, but we need significant federal funding to ensure comprehensive, secure, multimedia-capable, and interoperable implementation and avoid a mix of “haves” and “have nots” across the country. In this session the Coalition will discuss key principles for public safety, growing momentum at the national level and possible next steps to ensure the proposed legislation gets passed into law.

If you have attended past APCO conferences, you might recognize a couple of traditional sessions that include our team from the Government Relations Office. For one session, ECC directors from across the country will share “ground truth” perspectives on the biggest challenges facing the industry and the need for ECCs to achieve advanced emergency communications solutions. A separate session will feature an update on APCO’s top regulatory and legislative priorities, such as reclassifying public safety telecommunicators as “protective service occupations” and securing federal funding for health and wellness programs in ECCs. In addition to providing valuable information, these presentations will be a great opportunity for our team to engage with APCO members and hear about how these policy issues and our advocacy efforts impact them. We encourage you to connect with us and share your thoughts on these issues at the conference or any time throughout the year.

Finally, if you’re interested in the work APCO’s Government Relations Office does, be sure to attend the first general business session, during which APCO’s Chief Counsel will provide a brief update on APCO’s advocacy efforts. We hope to see you in Nashville. If you’d like to learn more about the issues we’re working on, visit APCO’s advocacy page at apcointl.org/advocacy or send us a message at [email protected].

Jeff Cohen ([email protected]) is Chief Counsel and Director of Government Relations for APCO International.

Mark Reddish ([email protected]), Senior Counsel and Manager of Government Relations, and Alison Venable ([email protected]), Government Relations Counsel, also contribute to this column.