MUSCOM offers video option for emergency calls
by Margaret Hurlbert
February 07, 2023

MUSCATINE, Iowa–Whenever the Muscatine County Joint Communications Center, or MUSCOM, gets a call for help, they put all the tools at their disposal to work to ensure people get assistance quickly. To make the process even smoother and more responsive to different emergency situations, MUSCOM introduced a new video calling option this month

Not long ago, Muscatine County Emergency Management Director Chris Jasper heard about video calling for 911 from a friend who directs a 911 call center in Illinois. Intrigued, Jasper arranged to have Prepared, the company that created the video calling software, give a demonstration of it for MUSCOM. Impressed with what he and his colleagues saw, MUSCOM decided to go ahead and give the software, Prepared Live, a try in Muscatine County.

An easy to use system, people experiencing an emergency will still call 911 as usual. Once MUSCOM has taken the call, a caller may request moving to a video call, or the dispatcher may ask if the caller would like to switch to video instead. If the caller would, the dispatcher will text them a link to a secure video chat. Once in the chat, callers will have the opportunity to show the dispatcher the exact emergency. If callers feel endangered by someone at their location, they can make the video screen black so that no one can tell they have called 911. They may also send text chats to the dispatcher if talking would cause a problem. If a video call drops because of poor internet or any other cause, the callers will remain on the phone line with MUSCOM, allowing them to continue to communicate with dispatchers until help arrives.

Dispatchers at MUSCOM now have the software to do video calls with 911 callers. Photo courtesy MUSCOM.

With this new method of communication available to 911 callers, Jasper believes callers will benefit because those experiencing difficult situations like domestic abuse or a break in can show dispatchers their problems even if they cannot talk. Dispatchers will have more information available to them to help assist people experiencing many sorts of emergencies. “Dispatchers will be able to get better and more accurate information about what exactly is happening so we can send the appropriate resources,” he said. This will also benefit all the agencies that work with MUSCOM, as it will allow them to assign first responders to different situations as efficiently as possible.

With Prepared Live now up and running in Muscatine County, Jasper feels pleased that MUSCOM has implemented cutting edge technology to give Muscatine County residents one more way to access the emergency services they need. “I think this is a great new tool for us to have at our fingertips,” he said. “I am excited that Muscatine County can be on the front line of emerging technology in 911 and one of the first centers in Iowa to have such technology.”

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