301.519.9237 exdirector@nesaus.org

6.20.23 – KPTV

Officials in Portland, Ore., are testing a new system that uses artificial intelligence to respond to nonemergency calls, with the goal of decreasing response times. Nearly a third of the over 1 million calls the city’s Bureau of Emergency Communications received in 2022 were taken on nonemergency or administrative lines.

The City of Portland is testing a new system called “Case Service Reporting” that uses artificial intelligence to answer some non-emergency calls.

The city will turn on the system for a couple of hours a day next week. It’s one of several options the city is weighing to address slow call response times.

The Bureau of Emergency Communications – or BOEC – answers 911 calls in Portland. In 2022, they took over a million calls. About 32% were on non-emergency and administrative lines.

A new study that the city commissioned shows directing all non-emergency calls to 311 could reduce BOEC’s call volume by nearly 17%. But that’s a long way off.

The city says 311 would need to operate 24/7 like a central dispatch center. Right now, it’s only open Monday through Friday, from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m.

As the city works out a new system to take non-emergency calls, they’re giving artificial intelligence a try this week.

Bob Cozzie, the director of BOEC, explained how it would work during a City Council work session last week.

“An automated attendant will answer the phone on non-emergency and based on the answers, using artificial intelligence, and that’s kind of a scary word for us at times, but using artificial intelligence will determine if that caller needs to speak to an actual call taker or if they can get that referral information directly and transfer that caller to 311,” Cozzie said.

The system can text information to the caller and connect them to websites to report something or provide them with information.

The use of artificial intelligence is just a test run. If all goes well, Cozzie says it could be an option for AI taking 311 calls in the future.

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