Emergency response operators have one of the most stressful jobs: They need to be at peak performance, every day, in order to save lives.

The same can be said for the technology they use.

The right technology helps emergency response operators respond more quickly to situations, which in many cases can be literally life-saving.

AV technology, in particular, plays an important role in an emergency response operator's work. Video is incredibly helpful for situations where a phone call isn't enough to describe what kind of response is needed. Further, audio always needs to be as clear as possible to avoid misunderstandings in situations where people must think and act quickly.

But not every piece of AV technology is created equally. Bad AV setups can lag or cut out, leading to critical or even fatal misunderstandings.

Here is why AV over IP, or networked AV, is the best choice for helping emergency response operators do their jobs efficiently and effectively.

What Emergency Response Operators Need

Picking out the right AV equipment for an emergency response operating station is no easy feat. “To save lives and minimize property damage to the best of their ability, emergency personnel need reliable emergency response AV,” says Commercial Integrator.

But what exactly does reliable mean? For emergency response operators, it means a system that works as intended every single time. Malfunctioning tech is unacceptable for emergency responders. Imagine calling 911 and getting an out-of-order tone — it would be terrifying.

The tech also needs to be scalable. During major emergencies like earthquakes or hurricanes, emergency response operators need tech that can handle all of the calls coming in from residents.

This goes beyond phones, too. “VoIP is a modern way to more efficiently process and respond to phone calls. In an emergency response center, the automation and ease of use of a VoIP system makes it an important asset,” notes the team at AV installation firm AVS.

How AV Over IP Helps

Video plays an increasing role in emergency response communication, too. This is why more emergency response operators are turning to integrators that offer AV over IP.

How does networked AV help emergency services?

For one thing, output quality is improved when compared to other systems. “Compressing video is a crucial method for managing bandwidth requirements, but everyday users will experience the pleasure of AV-over-IP as a noticeable reduction in latency,” notes Annelise Fasnacht, director of marketing at AV solutions provider Solutionz.

Latency can be incredibly detrimental to emergency response. For this reason, AV over IP offers a very real benefit for responders and those who need to get in contact with them.

Quality doesn't have to mean expensive, either. “An AV over IP can distribute dynamic content in different formats to multiple displays and speakers,” says Alex DeToro at Wisconsin installation company Techteriors. “Simple architecture means easier maintenance. This translates to lower hardware costs and fewer maintenance needs in the future. When you need to expand your system, you can easily integrate new equipment and technology.”

Finally, AV over IP solves the issue of needing a solution that can handle big emergencies. “The encoders and decoders are all connected to standard Ethernet switches. As a result, we're no longer limited to a finite number of inputs and outputs, and theoretically we can connect as many encoders and decoders as our network design allows — with the ability to scale up at lower costs,” says

And as AV consultant Mike Tomei points out, AV over IP allows integrators to scale up a system at marginally lower costs. Each subsequent input or output costs less than the one before it. This is one of the biggest pros of AV over IP.

AV Over IP Systems Are Flexible, Too

AV over IP is both scalable and flexible. That's crucial for emergency response because most emergencies tend to be unpredictable. As such, response coordination needs to be as flexible as possible to accommodate any and all possible scenarios.

As Creston explains, this scalability and flexibility comes because “switching configurations are not confined to matrix switches.”

This will help emergency response stations prepare for any scope of emergency — without having to worry about drastically changed costs.

Case Studies: AV over IP in Action in Emergency Response Situations

Already, AV over IP integrators have been able to help emergency response operators do their jobs faster and more efficiently.

Matrox, for example, had a client, a regional command center for a fire department, that handles more than 115,000 interventions annually. This was far too much information to sift through in real time, which made it difficult to assess in time to act on it. In response, Matrox suggested video walls — though the integrators knew it would take a special sort of solution to meet the very specific needs of their client.

The integration included fire detection cameras, HD video from aerial forest surveillance cameras, Sony IP cameras and video conferencing. Then, there were the non-proprietary data sources. These included weather maps, “data from virtual private networks, and video from remote PCs would need to be easily accessible.”

With all of these specifications in mind, Matrox offered a powerful IP solution for the video walls that was able to update in real time. The client specifically praised the flexibility of the solution and its ability to handle the large workload.

Matrox isn't the only integrator offering powerful AV over IP solutions to emergency response teams. Fluid Sound found themselves in a unique position when hired to do work on the American Red Cross' Emergency Operations Center in San Diego, which is responsible for disaster response coordination for the entirety of San Diego County.

The challenge Red Cross faced was as simple as it was complicated: They needed a solution that allowed them to be prepared. No matter what situation came up, they needed to be ready to spring into action.

Fluid Sound helped them achieve this with a number of solutions, including a touch-sensitive map table that helps the team monitor impending disasters. The tech is powered by a Creston DigitalMedia Control System, which delivers high-quality video and audio over the IP network. This was a necessity for the Red Cross, which needed to be able to assess potential disasters with clarity and speed.

Pitching a Pro AV Installation to Emergency Response Teams: Tips For Integrators

Help them define their AV needs. There is always some give-and-take when a client selects an AV solution. In most cases, says Justin Kennington, president of the SDVoE Alliance, an integrator can offer something that address two of three concerns: Network load, latency and AV output quality. You can bet on emergency response teams will put a premium on zero latency.

Be prepared to address security concerns. Francis Williams, group technical director at Pioneer, says some AV component manufacturers “are still working under the presumption that the underlying platform they are working on is inherently safe.” Communications security is important to emergency response teams, so ensure you're only pitching integrations of products built with data security in mind.

Keep an eye out for legal challenges. Allison J. Bloom at EMS1.com has an excellent guide on the ethical and legal complexities of having cameras in an EMS vehicle. Ostensibly, those cameras are there for safety purposes, but in some jurisdictions they could risk running afoul of state and local regulations regarding the monitoring and recording of patients. Consider legal implications part of your due diligence before pitching an integration.

Images by: Camilo JiminezTim DennertAndrew Seaman