DENVER (KDVR) — Denver’s testing a new technology that would allow 911 operators to see emergencies live. Callers can stream live video from their cell phones and send it directly to emergency call takers.

“Cell phones have always been a bit of a challenge for 911,” said Andrew Dameron, who oversees Denver’s emergency communication department.

That challenge may be made easier for 911 dispatchers because of new video technology.

“The vast majority, probably close to 80% of 911 calls, come through on a cell phone,” Dameron said. “Having accurate, reliable location information is the most important thing that we can ask for. Having tools like this to provide that, it’s absolutely a game changer.”

The Carbyne 911 emergency live video stream program is demonstrated on a cell phone
The Carbyne 911 emergency live video stream program is demonstrated on a cell phone. (KDVR)

911 video stream pilot up and running in Denver

The pilot program, created by the company Carbyne, has been up and running since June.

In the last four months, emergency call takers have handled about 450 emergency calls with people sending in live video, and 5,000 helped the department with precise locations.

“So the ability to better triangulate a caller’s location if our traditional 911 infrastructure isn’t getting us the information that we need — that has been the primary focus of this pilot is by leveraging the location information,” Dameron said.

The way it works is simple.

When you call 911, the dispatcher sends a link to your phone. That link allows you to use your cell phone camera to show dispatchers your surroundings in real time. It also helps give dispatchers an exact location.

Dameron said the new technology helped out when a call came in from 988, the suicide prevention line. The call did not include the caller’s information.

“988 transferred a call to us from someone who was suicidal and reportedly already attempted. What we were able to do was send the person a link from the Carbyne system. They were able to click the link, and now we have very accurate location information for them. It turns out they were in Boulder,” Dameron said.

“988 serves the entire state of Colorado. They do their best to figure out which 911 centers they need to transfer it to,” Dameron said. But with 86 centers taking 911 calls in the state, “it’s kind of hard for them to get it right 100% of the time. That’s where tools like this help.”

First responders could get access to video streams

The new technology is something the department is considering for permanent use.

“It is kind of new from a 911 perspective, so getting our folks trained — but not just how to talk to people over the phone, but how do I talk to people on FaceTime effectively? — it’s a bit of a shift for us. This gave us some time to test it out and make sure we got a procedure in place so we’re utilizing the tool effectively,” he said.

The city of Boulder already has a program like this.

In Denver, they are also looking at a program called Responder Connect, which would let dispatchers send the video stream to first responders so they can get eyes on the location before they arrive.