The 5 Minutes with a Founder Series is a collection of short inspiring interviews with the people behind the technology created to tackle big public problems.
Did you know that the infrastructure for the 9-1-1 system your community relies on during an emergency could be more than four decades old? If your emergency call center does not have newer technology (as many do not due to lack of awareness and funding) this presents challenges in getting accurate location and receiving text, video, and pictures. A digital divide means life-saving data is inaccessible to professionals who could use it to enhance their capabilities.
Sometimes in challenging situations like this, it’s more about innovating with what you have. This week’s guest Michael Chime, Co-Founder and CEO of Prepared is doing just that. The Prepared software platform can easily and seamlessly share live video, text, and GPS location between a caller and a telecommunicator during an emergency.
According to a recent interview on Cheddar News, Prepared has hit the ground running with a recently closed funding round to help bring 9-1-1 into the modern world.
Brandi Holder: Hi Michael, thank you for sharing your company story today. Let’s jump right in.
Access to location and meeting the public’s expectations for communication are constant conversations in public safety. The solution often discussed is upgrading to Next Generation 9-1-1. But it’s expensive, takes time, and is underfunded by taxpayers and the federal government.
How is Prepared tackling that challenge?
Michael Chime: The conversation around Next Generation 9-1-1 is important, and people are working hard to make it happen. We want to help that effort. We are not suggesting we offer everything that NG9-1-1 does.
We also want to recognize that about 80% of 9-1-1 call centers are small (4 seats or less), meaning most people who desire upgrades have small budgets and lack funding.
The conversation around NG9-1-1 is about life-saving data—pictures, video, better location–our goal is for that to be an option for 9-1-1 professionals to access at no cost to the centers.
BH: So, in layman’s terms, what does Prepared do?
MC: Our software, Prepared Live, enables the 9-1-1 center to receive live video from mobile callers as an emergency occurs. On top of that, the software opens a chat stream in which the caller can share pictures and pre-recorded videos, and communicate non-verbally. We’ve seen this aspect of communication be crucial during incidents like home invasions.
It’s important to note that for all of this to happen, the caller must give permission, and data is shared only during the session.
BH: This feels like an easy way to provide info to our 9-1-1 professionals. However, I’ve heard that video is sensitive. What do you think?
MC: Great question. Helping centers use the tool effectively is at the core of our business. That involves two things: the actual mechanics of using the software and promoting the mental well-being of the dispatchers themselves.
For the first part, we offer training, sample SOPs, model policies, and more as part of our free package. We have experts on staff that bring over 40 years of direct dispatch experience.
For the second part, we are constantly working on adding features and building partnerships to provide our dispatchers with the best mental health and wellness resources. On the product side, for example, dispatchers can blur any video they may not want to see. On the partnerships side, we’ve engaged with the leading Hecht Trauma Institute to create content focused on resilience and mental health.
BH: I love that there is a level of care baked into the solution. Please tell us more about why you built this business.
MC: I didn’t get my start building 9-1-1 software, but I have always been passionate about safety in general. There was an active shooter event in 2012 near the community where I lived that significantly impacted that small town. I look back at that as the catalyst for all of what Prepared has become today.
We started with an app that would help schools communicate more effectively during emergencies; schools around the country launched the software. But then the schools would ask me what happened once the software helped them reach 9-1-1. They wanted to know how 9-1-1 would get all the information their smartphones could collect.
There’s so much that can’t be verbalized over the phone– things that can be shown in images and video. During subsequent visits to 9-1-1 centers, I learned they could not take that data into their systems. As a result, hundreds of millions of calls were (and still are) leaving potentially life-saving data on the table. I said to myself, “That’s a problem worth solving.”
BH: It’s 9-1-1, it has to work. The public thinks it works! However, many centers can’t pull in the rich data the public uses, and most centers can’t afford the upgrade. Or the upgrade will take years to materialize.
MC: Yes. What we are doing right now is overcoming the objections of the day. We take the funding conversation that’s held up so much progress in 9-1-1 off the table by providing access to the information they need today, at no cost.
BH: I think your passion for the work is evident, but please tell us what you love about what you do.
MC: I’ve always had a natural tilt towards solving unique challenges. I think that 9-1-1 operates in an incredibly unique and underappreciated ecosystem. Whenever I explain the problem we’re aiming to solve to people outside of the industry, I watch the light bulb turn on in their head, saying, “Wow, that seems like a great solution.” Inside the industry, people have been brainstorming around this kind of solution for nearly two decades.
You can look at any number of reasons why this challenge has yet to be solved, but ultimately, our goal is to be the ones that solve it. There are hundreds of millions of calls that we can potentially insert life-saving data into, which is an important problem worth the work. These people, dispatchers, supervisors, and first responders, are worth working for.
BH: An inspiring call to action! I love to share insights from CEOs and founders with emerging leaders. Can you share something contributing to your success that you wish you had known earlier?
MC: When looking at a challenge, people often see the mountain they must climb and give up before they even begin. The knowledge that simply taking that first step is the beginning of your future success is crucial. Every journey starts with that choice.
I also think clarity of what you want is essential. I meet and work with incredibly talented people every day. The most successful people are the ones who are very clear on what they want to achieve.
For us, it’s been uniting the team on a singular focus. That simple idea applies in life, a company, or a project; clarity on what you want to achieve makes it simple to understand the next steps.
BH: Thank you, Mike. I have enjoyed learning more about you and your company.
If you want to learn more about Prepared and its mission, visit them here
A special note about public safety: Now more than ever, 9-1-1 needs an upgrade from failing 1960s technology. Consumer technology will continue to evolve, and the general public will continue to assume 9-1-1 is keeping up. In an emergency, seconds matter.
Your emergency responders deserve to have tools to make communication easier for you and the communities they serve. I want to remind you that you have the right to push your elected officials to invest in better 9-1-1 technology.
Please let me know if you would like additional information about the problems our public safety professionals are facing or ways to talk to your representatives about improving emergency response. It would be my pleasure to assist!
I’m a B2G brand strategist and writer pulling together a series of interviews with CEOs and founders tackling the biggest challenges in our communities. If you would like to share your story, please contact me. I love making connections! Build it Bolder with Brandi Holder