New Emergency Caller Location Information system hailed a lifesaver

A new Emergency Caller Location Information system is considered to be a game changer

Time is of the essence in emergency situations. When someone dials 111 for assistance, it’s critical that emergency services are able to respond as quickly as possible.

Each year, there are more than two million calls to New Zealand emergency services.

Sometimes 111 callers can’t provide an accurate address – making it difficult for emergency services to identify their location.

In 2016, more than 80 per cent of calls to 111 were made from a mobile phone, and Police recorded more than 1,800 incidents where they had to make a special information request to a phone network provider for a caller’s location. This changed in May 2017 with the introduction of the Emergency Caller Location Information (ECLI) system. The system provides emergency services with the best available probable location of a caller when they dial 111 from a mobile device.

A shared vision
Location Services are a common feature of smart phones. This functionality uses of a combination of GPS, Wi-Fi and cell tower information to determine the probable location of a mobile phone.

The challenge was how to provide this information to emergency services in real time, when a 111 call is made from a mobile device.
The ECLI system is the outcome of significant collaboration between the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE), emergency service providers, mobile network operators, Datacom, and Google.

How it works
At the centre of the ECLI system is the Location Area Service (LAS), designed and built by Datacom using leading Microsoft and Google technologies.

When a person dials 111 on their mobile phone the best available location is automatically sent to LAS. LAS processes the location information and sends it to the appropriate emergency service provider. Datacom’s Microsoft Services business unit led the design and development of LAS, drawing upon a wide range of Datacom teams and services across New Zealand.

Datacom’s Agile development and solution delivery approach meant that the joint project delivery teams could collaborate in a positive and progressive manner. Datacom was fully engaged with MBIE business stakeholders for the project, and was empowered to make key decisions when required, resulting in sustained project momentum, and the successful delivery of all the key phases of the project.

Using Datacom’s All of Government Infrastructure and Telecommunications-as-a-service capabilities as well as our messaging gateway service, enabled the rapid provisioning of all the core infrastructure services required for the solution. This allowed us to successfully deliver the solution to MBIE on time, and on budget.

Designing, developing, implementing and supporting LAS, required Datacom to not only work very closely with MBIE, but also with emergency service providers (New Zealand Police, Fire and Emergency New Zealand, St John and Wellington Free Ambulance), and mobile network operators (Vodafone, Spark and 2degrees).

LAS uses a micro-service based architecture and leverages the latest Microsoft C# and .NET Core technology. The micro-service approach provided a more robust, secure and flexible system that ensured changes within any one service did not impact any other part of the system. Microsoft Azure was used to provide quick and easy development environments, with Azure based Visual Studio Team System (VSTS) enabling continuous integration. Continuous automated deployments were provided by Octopus Deploy.

Since going live in May 2017, the system has undergone further development to improve functionality and user experience, incorporating feedback from end users.

Real-world impact
St John Ambulance received a call from a man who was in the forest with a friend, who needed urgent medical attention. They were a few kilometres away from the nearest road and across a lake, and were positioned under a canopy that would have been hard to spot from the air. Using the system, St John Ambulance were able to identify their location for a helicopter. A crew member was winched down to help the patient, who was taken to hospital. Without the system, the helicopter could have been circulating for a long time trying to find the pair. ( – 9th July 2017).

What the frontline workers say
The success of this system has been measured in several ways to understand the reliability of the location information and the user experience. Police, ambulance services, and fire and emergency services call takers were all surveyed and overwhelmingly the response has been positive; 78 per cent of users rated the reliability of data as good or excellent and 96 per cent of users rated the usability as good or excellent.

Datacom team members had the privilege of meeting emergency services call takers and were humbled to hear about how they appreciate the system and its outcomes.