In times of disaster: More Americans worry that first responders aren’t prepared for crises

A recent study shows the majority of Americans are increasingly worried about emergencies and prompt response from public safety officials.
Americans scared first responders unprepared for crises
Published: Mar. 6, 2023 at 8:52 AM MST
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COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. (KKTV) - A new study shows that nearly three fourths of Americans worry first responders may be overwhelmed when disaster strikes.

The data from Mark43, a public safety company focusing on modern technology, looked into increased fears of both natural and man-made disasters. Co-founder Matt Polega tells 11 News an interesting find was that a large number of survey respondents were also doubtful whether first responders could reach them in dire situations.

It varies place to place what the biggest threat is. Polega says here in Colorado, for instance it’s inclement weather.

But across the board, more than 30% said they don’t think their local first responders are prepared well enough for extreme events, and a big part of this are concerns communication could be cut off.

“So in those times where you would think that a citizen needs that agency most, that’s when agency that’s when citizens are really concerned that those agencies aren’t going to be able to perform,” Polega explained.

Polega says a typical 911 operating system is the computer-aided dispatch, or CAD system. This is what allows various emergency units to go out to different situations. But with power outages or high call volume, the systems may go down, especially if the technology is outdated. Mark43 reported that without this primary CAD, emergency dispatchers typically have to keep track of their city’s public safety personnel on note cards and whiteboards.

“We find that a lot of the technology solutions these agencies are using feel like they were built in the 90s,” Polega said. “... The servers that are running all this technology are in the agency’s basement, they’re plugged into the same outlet that the air conditioning unit is plugged into. And when there is a power outage, some sort of natural disaster or some sort of crisis event, those systems go down.”

The survey found that nearly 40% of respondents were, in fact, worried about interrupted police communications, and that 84% thought updated public safety technology would speed up 911 response times.

“Being worried how they would get in touch with emergency personnel during a blackout, right? That’s a good question,” Polega told 11 News. “If I my phone isn’t working, and there’s a power outage, what does that mean for me? And what does that mean for the agency that needs to deliver services to me?”

Polega says backup dispatch systems, such as their Mark43 Alternate CAD, can be smart investments. The Mark43 Alternate CAD is run entirely through the internet, so as long as the emergency dispatchers have some way to access a hot spot, they can reach you.

“If that’s all you have, you’re able to dispatch a firetruck, a police car, an ambulance and anything else that you need to make sure that you can continue delivering for your jurisdiction for your community and for the people that need it most,” Polega detailed.

He says this concept of a “backup computer-aided dispatch system” is new.

Additionally, the survey found that the man-made disaster Americans worry about include domestic terror and cyberattacks. More than 30% of respondents said they fear communication interruption may come from data breaches.

“One thing that we found that was very common across all 50 states was the risk of cyber threats and hacks and things that from an internal IT and network perspective, could bring a public safety agency to the ground,” Polega told 11 News.