By Paul Bender, Global Public Sector Marketing
The diversity and proliferation of communications channels and devices requires growing numbers of ‘bridging technologies’ to ensure effective intelligence gathering and collaboration.
The speed of response, so critical in active shooter and similar time critical events, is hampered by legacy IT infrastructures and complicated dispatch environments while the need to integrate dispatch technologies into the wider command center environment uncovers a range of technical and operational integration issues.
Technology aside, an effective response calls for seamless conversations between multiple stakeholders on the base and beyond its borders with civilian law enforcement and emergency services personnel.
As recent events at Fort Hood and San Antonio highlight, the faster the response, the more controlled the emergency. A modern dispatch solution — one that brings together diverse channels and media, simplifies the dispatch environment and addresses technical integration challenges — is critical to ensuing next generation safety and response on Department of Defense (DoD) posts, camps and stations.
From integration to interface
A typical Emergency Operation Center (EOC) dispatch position has multiple devices and consoles for communications. There’s a console for talking on radios (or portable radios), there’s a console for talking on telephone lines (or regular desktop telephones), and there are satellite communications, intercoms and paging systems. There are handsets, headsets and footswitches, gooseneck microphones, various external speakers, keyboards and mice all related to voice communications.
In addition, the typical operator faces a large array of screens and keyboards providing critical information related to the incident. It’s not unusual to see multiple screens facing a single operator.
In this type of environment, simplifying communications is critical. Switching between devices, from a radio console to a telephone console, or even from one mouse to another can take time, cause mistakes and can lead to disaster. Bringing together the various modes of conversation quickly and easily makes operational sense in stressful emergency situations.
Many EOCs still run on outdated Time Division Multiplexing (TDM) technology for voice and radio traffic. In this older TDM world, command center personnel are tied to specific locations and expanding to remote users or disaster recovery sites is difficult and expensive.
Then there’s the often-overlooked question of usability. In purely practical terms, the ability to respond rapidly and effectively to an on-post incident depends on the effectiveness of the operator. In turn, the operator’s effectiveness depends on the kit they have in front of them – whether that’s a dedicated dispatch terminal or a software-based dispatch application on a secure laptop.
The usability of the interface therefore is crucial – the ability not only to consolidate the multiple screens, mics, telephones, but to create a single, easy-to-use interface with hot buttons, shortcuts and pre-configured pages to simplify the user experience as well as decluttering the space. Effective incident response on posts, camps, and stations is an increasingly complex challenge: How are you handling the proliferation of communication channels and devices?