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SCIENCE & TECH: Prepared changing the way first responders view 911 emergencies

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It’s remarkable that, with all the technological advancements of the past 20 years — including carrying smartphones in our pockets — we still call 911 the same old way in a crisis.

But a Manhattan-based company is working to change that.

Using Prepared’s technology, when a user calls 911, an operator stays on the phone with them — but also sends a link to capture audio and video of what’s happening, to help dispatchers and first responders.

“A picture is worth a thousand words so the ability to text a picture in a fire that shows flames are blue shows it’s a chemical or hazmat fire,” co-founder Michael Chime told The Post. He noted that those kinds of fires require completely different responses and having advance info gives firefighters time to prepare.

Co-founders Neal Soni (from left), Dylan Gleicher and Michael Chime dropped out of Yale their junior year, moved to New York City and, in three weeks, built an app to help schools and 911 communicate. EMMY PARK

In yet another scenario, he said, people stranded on a cliff were able to send a video stream so rescue helicopters could more easily locate them.

“Citizens are enabled and empowered to share what is happening in a situation and responders go in with full context,” Chime said.

This week, the company announced Apple’s upcoming iOS 18 update will let iPhone users making Emergency SOS calls to share videos and photos, even without a link, with 911 dispatch centers that use Prepared technology.

Apple’s iOS 18 update will allow iPhone users to share live video of emergency scenes with dispatchers, using Prepared technology. Courtesy of Prepared 911

The company was born because co-founders Michael Chime, Dylan Gleicher and Neal Soni wanted to improve public safety after growing up in areas affected by school shootings. Chime saw his community devastated by the Chardon High School in Chardon, Ohio, where a former student shot six students, killing three, in 2012. Gleicher and Soni grew up less than 15 minutes from Sandy Hook Elementary in Sandy Hook, Conn., where 20 first-graders and six school staffers were shot dead that same year.

The three wanted to create an app that would improve school safety by alerting police of active shooters, Prepared CEO Chime told The Post.

In 2020, all three dropped out of Yale during their junior year, moved to New York City and, in three weeks, built an app to help schools and 911 communicate.

But they were flummoxed by outdated technology used by 911 dispatchers, Chime said.

Michael Chime, who co-founded Prepared in 2020, told The Post that 20% of all dispatchers in the US now use the company’s technology. EMMY PARK

“As we tried to share data from schools with 911 we realized the emergency system is built on the assumption everyone is using landlines,” Chime, 26, said. “We needed to build the critical infrastructure first [before we could focus on school shootings].”

They set out to build tech that would capitalize on the fact most callers are using smartphones — and can let emergency responders see it was going on at the other end of a 911 call.

By 2022, Prepared had built a platform that could be installed in any dispatcher’s computer to show information about what is going on at an emergency scene.

CEO Michael Chime (from left), CTO Dylan Gleicher, head of engineering Sunny Rajan, co-founder Neal Soni and head of product Keshav Vasudevan work at the Prepared headquarters in Manhattan’s Midtown East. EMMY PARK

“You call 911 like you normally would and the dispatcher has the Prepared platform up and running and then sends you a link,” Chime explains of how his technology works.

The link can be used to translate calls with non-English speakers, transcribe the conversation and transmit audio, video and photos of the scene. That information is recorded, summarized and relayed to first responders.

By the end of 2022, Chime had sold their technology to a handful of Connecticut dispatchers.

Information gathered by Prepared on 911 calls is recorded, summarized and relayed to first responders. AP

The challenge, Chime said, is that many cities are hesitant to adopt a relatively untested new technology that could potentially complicate a response. 

“They’re doing life saving work so they don’t want to take a bet on something new,” he explained.

But Chime said word of mouth has helped Prepared go from providing technology to less than 30 call centers four years ago to around 1,000 now; more than 20% of all dispatchers across the US have adopted the system.

The company, which is based in Manhattan’s Midtown East, has raised $35 million and hired more than 50 people.

“New York City is a great hub for innovators and it’s also a great hub to think about public safety,” Michael Chime said of the Big Apple. Aristide Economopoulos

This story is part of NYNext, a new editorial series that highlights New York City innovation across industries, as well as the personalities leading the way.

New York City dispatch centers still haven’t signed up for the technology. Regardless, Chime believes New York is the ideal place for his company, saying, “New York City is a great hub for innovators and it’s also a great hub to think about public safety.”

“It’s a good place to ideate about solving public safety challenges … and it’s hard to think of a better place to apply it.”

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