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Paging As A Platform For Public Safety Response

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November 2005
White Paper


Citizens around the world are demanding more accountability from their Governments concerning public safety in the event of a disaster.

Natural disasters such as floods, bush fires, tropical storms and earth quakes cause billions of dollars damage each year to homes, businesses and infrastructure along with serious disruption to communities. Scientific research indicates that more of these extreme natural events can be expected in the future. There is also growing concern globally regarding the likelihood of a viral pandemic.

In addition to natural disasters and in the wake of September 11, 2001 the world has witnessed terrorist attacks and terrorist activity in many countries. This phenomenon is with us to stay at least for the foreseeable future, and no country would appear to be exempt.

Against this backdrop of natural and man made disasters responsible Governments have adopted a fundamental shift in focus towards cost effective, evidence based disaster mitigation. This represents a move beyond disaster response and reaction towards anticipation and mitigation.

The political consequences to Governments who fail in their accountability are significant, as we are seeing in the USA as a result of the Tornadoes that hit New Orleans, and in Britain as a result of the terrorist attacks targeted at users of the public transport systems.

This paper looks at the role communications, and in particular radio paging, plays as a tool to assist those organizations responsible for the preparedness and response to disasters.

Governments are increasingly adopting an “all hazards” approach as the basis by which they manage hazard and risks, whether natural, technological or human induced. Consequently governments (whether regional, state, national) do not use a separate set of management arrangements for a particular category of disaster.

Universally, and consistent with best practice, governments deal with emergencies by addressing the consequences for individuals, communities, effected sectors of industry infrastructure and the economy.

By taking an “all hazards” approach the arrangements developed for handling for example natural disasters, will be consistent with directions taken for other emergencies.

Usually State/Territory/Regional governments or local authorities have principal accountability for disaster preparedness and are fully responsible for managing any natural disaster within their jurisdiction.

In many cases national governments have established umbrella organizations to manage disasters at a national level. These organizations generally report to their government entity through a “portfolio” and are responsible for among others things to take a leadership role in policy, education and training, co-ordination and risk mitigation. Vision statements of such organizations will be along the lines of “safer sustainable communities”.

State authorities such as the Police, Ambulance, Fire Fighting Services, Emergency Response Services including such groups as the local Life Saving Club are usually the first to be called to an emergency because of entrenched processes and standard operating procedures.

These units, and often a combination of two or three units responding together, are usually the first to be called to an emergency, depending on the type of call out and the location.

Of the lessons learnt after September 11 the most important was that cooperation and goodwill has to exist between all levels of the response team, Federal/National, State/Territory and local government authorities, the business sector and emergency response organizations.

Also identified as key to operational success were, interoperability, standardized communications systems, compatible equipment and information sharing to enable a coordinated multi-agency approach to emergency management.

Global Standards Collaboration (GSC) Resolution GSC-8/1 (2003) concludes that emergency communication can be partitioned into concerns covering communication for the following:

  • Citizen to Authority.
  • Authority to Authority.
  • Authority to citizens.
  • Amongst effected citizens.

There is a considerable body of work being developed in Europe right now to suggest that paging is the most effective method of communication available to address the Authority to Citizens requirement, particularly in hybrid devices such as a paging receiver built into every mobile phone. Other forms of communications do not meet stated objectives.

This paper will deal with communications concerning those people first called to respond to a situation. However Infostream has a large amount of material available on the broader issues which can be made available upon request.

While there has been considerable focus by governments over the last few years on catastrophic disasters, by far the majority of disasters are more localized and usually caused by fire and flood often outside of metropolitan areas.

In these cases it is usually the fire fighting and emergency response teams (sometimes referred to as Emergency Service Organizations or ESO’s) that are first to be called out. These teams are then usually supported by Police, Ambulance and other like bodies as required.

In most cases the ESO response teams are made up of career personnel (full time employees of the agency) and volunteers who make up the majority of the total ESO human resources.

Volunteers are seen in many counties as an indispensable part of the disaster and emergency management capability and these countries are nurturing their volunteers by providing legal protection, incentives, recognition and training.

In places like Australia it would be virtually impossible to manage all emergency events without volunteers due to the population distribution of the country.

Radio Paging is still one of the most widely used, cost effective, communication methods around the world for contacting ESO members so they can respond to an emergency call out.

Typically ESO’s are organized into “cells” consisting of a number of members in each. Each cell member will carry a pager which will be programmed to receive messages for that particular cell or “group” only. When a cell is required to respond to an emergency a page message will be sent to that cell with details of the situation and a call to action. Once sufficient crew members have responded to the call they will attend to the emergency.

The pagers are usually “grouped” so that relevant information can be distributed through the ESO’s chain of command. This ensures that members, supervisors, regional managers etc are fully aware of information vital to any decision making process for their specific needs.

The benefits of using Radio Paging to alert ESO members to an emergency can be broken down to the technology benefits and terminal equipment benefits as below:

Technology Benefits:

  • Short lead time to message dispatch and receipt.
  • Independent of where the ESO member may be located i.e. at work, home or play.
  • Superior in building penetration.
  • Works both for mobile and non mobile applications.
  • Can deliver sufficient information of situation status.
  • Provides instructions as to next step.
  • Allows strategic information to be sent to target audience i.e. groups.
  • Delivers message simultaneously to a large audience i.e. broadcast.
  • Over the air programming upgradeable.
  • Cost effective robust technology.

Terminal Equipment Benefits:

  • Dedicated to one purpose.
  • Ingress protection available – fit for purpose.
  • Functions as hands free.
  • Ease of operation.
  • Backlight to read at night.
  • Can be passed to new member without fuss
  • Inexpensive to purchase.

Infostream (founded in 1994) is a specialist organization designing technologically advanced, user friendly, products and software for the wireless community around the world.

The company strongly believes that wireless messaging and associated software provides the solution for governments and international operators to effectively manage the alerting requirements of their emergency organizations in the face of a disaster.

By taking a fresh approach to emergency alerting requirements Infostream has developed a system called VIPER, and a terminal device called Xstream, which are capable of delivering levels of performance and functionality not seen before anywhere in the world.

The VIPER (Vital Interactive Personnel Emergency Response) software has been designed and developed to avoid the complexity and often steep learning curves associated with proprietary software. A simple web interface provides access to functions such as Send Message, Message Verification, Moves and Changes and System Reports. New features can simply be added by programming over the air.

Crafted on IBM’s DB2 and WebSphere platform using a Linux operating system, VIPER delivers mission critical performance rated at 99.999% confirmation of messages to air.

Technical information of the VIPER system includes the following:

  • Utilises a supported operating system – Linux.
  • Can be clustered with multiple servers for resilience and scalability.
  • Can be configured to use different storage systems as required.
  • Uses database replication to keep remote sites synchronized.
  • Provides message confirmation for transmitted messages.
  • Provides over the air re-programming upgrades for Xstream pagers.

Key features of the VIPER system include the following:

  • Allows incident controllers to send one simultaneous alert with clear and up-to-date text based information to tens of thousands of emergency personnel;
  • Provides staff and volunteers with a real time, running total of respondents which is displayed on the wireless device, everyone knows how many people are expected to turn up to an incident;
  • Enables operations personnel to send varying messages to different groups during a call out;
  • Over the air programming enables messaging devices to be modified with group changes, upgrades and operating system updates, without the need to return to base.

Xstream is a paging terminal that has been specifically designed and manufactured to operate in emergency response situations.

The Xstream is at the forefront of Infostream’s innovative wireless technology, truly a world class product in design and function.

Winner of the European Mobile Messaging Award, the Xstream is IP54 certified and IS6 Q1 2005. Features of the product include:

  • It is rugged and durable on the outside, with sophisticated user-friendly software on the inside, making it ideal for communicating in hazardous situations and emergencies.
  • Emergency services personnel using the Xstream can improve response times through faster contact and dispatch of volunteers.
  • The emergency alerting device enables agencies to message all targeted recipients simultaneously.
  • Large robust buttons make the Xstream easily operated through gloves.
  • It features bright backlights, large screen and toughened front plate. It is splash and dust proof, offers bigger fonts for times of poor visibility and is programmable over the air.
  • The Xstream can be made available in multiple protocols and languages and comes in a range of contemporary colours.

x tream pager

When the Victorian State Government sought to upgrade the performance of its emergency services, it turned to paging technology. The government saw the key to improving response times lay in enhanced communication systems, the sort Infostream has been developing and continually adapting over the past decade.

After LSE Technology Australia Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of Leighton Corporation, was chosen to build the new $100 million Emergency Alerting System (complete with 190 transmitter sites across the state, a control site and disaster recovery centre in Melbourne), Infostream was chosen to supply pager and IT hardware, CAD software, network architecture and ESO training and transition services.

The new network replaces Victoria’s "fragmented, ageing and unreliable" system, which covered at best only 50 per cent of the state. The low frequency paging system will provide 97 per cent coverage of Victoria. It will significantly boost response times and enhance the safety of emergency services workers.

Tens of thousands of volunteers have been issued with Infostream’s award-winning product, the Xstream. The splash-and-dust-proof wireless messaging device is high-tech on the inside, rugged on the outside—ideal for use in hazardous situations and emergencies.

With a reputation internationally for user-friendly design and reliability, Infostream is providing customised Emergency Alerting hardware to the Dutch government. The government has installed a national paging network to support all of its emergency services throughout Holland, including fire, police and ambulance. And as part of this massive project, named LARA, Koning & Hartman are relying on Infostream to supply some 30,000 wireless paging devices.

Infostream is willing to assist any country in establishing a reliable, cost effective emergency alerting system to mitigate the effects of emergencies or disasters.

Infostream is able to back up its claim of design and development excellence with a number of awards as stated below:

  • The European Mobile Messaging Association Innovation Award 2004, for the Xstream messaging terminal device.
  • The Australian Design Award for Software Electronics Design for 2003, for the Inscribe/G3 terminal device.
  • Two Australian Design Marks 2003 for the Inscribe /G3 inducted into the Australian Technology Showcase, for outstanding product design.

Such is the belief in paging as the most suitable technology for alerting in emergency situations that current developments are being undertaken in the areas of:

  • Rechargeable pagers to further reduce costs;
  • Incorporating paging receivers into home smoke detectors for population alerting.

Infostream’s leadership role is not restricted to designing technologically advanced products and software for the wireless community.

In October 2005 Infostream’s CEO, Mr Roy Chandler, accepted a nomination to become a board member of the European Mobile Messaging Association (EMMA).

If you are looking for a “turn key” solution to your emergency alerting requirements, to upgrade your existing system, or are interested in our specialised products and services we would welcome your enquiry.

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Infostream Pty Ltd
Suite 10, Ground Floor, 7 Narabang Way
Belrose NSW 2085

Phone: +61 2 99863588
Fax: +61 2 9986 3599

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