This week, the Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC) of the city of Portland will start trying a type of Artificial Intelligence (AI) while answering non-emergency calls.
Last week, during the city’s public safety call-sharing work session, BOEC Director Bob Cozzie said they planned to use Case Service Reporting and turn it on for a couple of hours each day to test and improve it.
A Tweet in which Portland’s Bureau of Emergency Communications launches new technologies:-
Portland’s Bureau of Emergency Communications is launching new technology this week, utilizing artificial intelligence to answer calls.
This will start with a test for a few hours a day, limiting the automated response to non-emergency calls.https://t.co/XQJGArYnyQ
— KATU News (@KATUNews) June 19, 2023
People say that if the tests go well, he’ll decide if using AI is possible for people who call 311. People in the neighbourhood can use 311 to learn about local government programs and services. The city is considering using it for all calls that don’t need immediate help. Cozzie said that the system can even send people text messages with information and link them to different websites for web reporting.
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BOEC says that the number of calls has increased yearly since 2011, for a total rise of almost 28%. Redistributing non-emergency calls is one of several ideas the city is considering: there aren’t enough dispatchers to handle all the calls. Mission Critical Partners did a study that the City of Portland asked them to do. The study found that sending all non-emergency calls to 311 could cut BOEC’s call volume by 180,000 calls, or nearly 17%. But city officials said they are far from making that change since 311 is only open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.
In the meantime, Mike Myers, the city’s head of community safety transition, said that something needs to be done to handle the growing number of calls before they overwhelm the emergency response bureaus. That means asking hard questions to set the stage for change in the future.