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Pa. county 911 adds live video option for better understanding of emergencies

A phone with computer screens in the background.
Sydney Roach
Clinton County's 911 dispatchers now have a live streaming option when helping callers. The monitors in the back show what the dispatchers see, while the phone in front shows what the caller sees.

911 dispatchers in Clinton County can now connect to a caller’s camera to get a better understanding of the situation. Prepared 911 is a growing program throughout Pennsylvania and nationwide.

Emergency dispatchers hear a jingle when the video live stream connects. The caller or anyone texting 911 has to agree to share their camera feed first. Dispatchers then text a web link to the caller’s cell phone.

“And then you accept or allow. Once you hit allow, [it] comes up with the actual live feed. Once it's live, we can see everything that you're seeing," Plessinger said.

Jonathan Plessinger is the director of emergency services in Clinton County. He said this video can help dispatchers give instructions in an emergency.

“When minutes matter when it comes to a cardiac arrest and we need to give CPR instructions, we can actually see the person doing the CPR to make sure they're doing it right. And I think that can help save someone's life," Plessinger said. “There's certain times where some people might be confused on what's going on. Or maybe they just interpreted different than what we see or what we would describe it as. So I think this is going to be very helpful to actually see what's going on to better understand the situation and send the appropriate help.”

Plessinger said that video can also be helpful to police departments. All of the video is backed up and can be subpoenaed for evidence.

"If it's a domestic or some type of situation where you do not want to have someone that knows you're videotaping, or anything like that, we can actually hide [the] camera or [the] phone and make it blank," Plessinger said.

The live stream service is through “Prepared 911.” The company said it is partnered with 50% of the 911 centers in Pennsylvania, but some aren’t using the live streaming part of the technology. This service is free for counties to use, but there are more advanced services such as language translation that does cost a fee.

Plessinger said he hopes to get grant funding in the future to upgrade Clinton County's services.

Other counties already using the 911 live stream service include Cambria, Delaware and Erie.

Plessinger says there are other counties partnered with Prepared 911 that have not implemented its live streaming service yet. Some of those counties include Centre, Cameron, Elk, McKean and Warren.

Read more from our partners, WPSU.