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      • 9-1-1 Centers and Cyber Resiliency

        Published Dec 09 2016, 9:30 PM by Ray Hasil
        • NG9-1-1 Dispatch

        9-1-1month-jpg.jpgApril is 9-1-1 Education Month. Throughout the month this blog series will highlight different aspects of the emergency response process, including what happens when you text or call 9-1-1, and will pay tribute to the men and women behind the phones. This April, take some time to learn something new about America’s emergency response system.

        In February, the Department of Homeland Security warned that cyber attacks against law enforcement, fire departments and other emergency services have gone from being rare to commonplace and are likely to become more frequent over time. As I reflect on the 13 years I've worked at the Mason-Oceana 9-1-1, I remember that in the early days, there were almost no connections from our facility to the outside. Fast forward to today, our 9-1-1 center has become a central communications hub. It is interconnected to scores of agencies, servers with vital information, as well as computers and devices being used in the field.

        Protecting our front line
        With April being National 9-1-1 Education Month, there’s no better time to discuss the topic of cybersecurity. Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) and 9-1-1 centers are just as vulnerable to cyber intrusion as any other business or government entity. A 2015 study by the Aspen Institute noted that 48% of CIOs and CSOs responsible for critical infrastructure believe that a cyber attack may result in a potential loss of life. The nation's 9-1-1 centers are part of the emergency services sector of our critical infrastructure. Having a standard firewall is no longer adequate to address the vulnerabilities that exist. America’s 5,899 primary and secondary PSAPs who answer an estimated 240 million calls/year cannot afford a cyber intrusion when lives are literally on the line.

        Becoming cyber resilient
        With the evolving cyber threats, it’s critical that government officials, security experts and those responsible for keeping the nation's PSAPs operational understand their risk posture and readiness to address a cyber attack. I fall into this category. Last fall, I worked with Motorola’s cybersecurity services professionals to conduct a risk assessment for the Mason-Oceana 9-1-1 Center. The comprehensive evaluation gave us a baseline of where we stood and provided a roadmap to becoming cyber resilient. Some of the findings were straightforward; others were eye-opening; and some will require more due diligence to implement:

        • Harden and patch the system. In addition to making sure that security updates are installed, also make sure the firewall is configured properly.
        • Check your intrusion-detection system. If you don't have one, install one.
        • Protect against unauthorized WiFi interface activation.
        • Constantly monitor networks for unauthorized assets, in addition to unusual network traffic.
        • Understand the physical security elements of your facility. Controlling and limiting movement in and out of your facility, especially where servers and network components are placed, is just as important.
        • Establish process and policies to control network access.
        • Educate the entire team on governance and the importance of following all security policies.

        The above were just highlights from the assessment. When calls come in, one of the first things we do at our 9-1-1 center is assess the situation. Just as we do with a 9-1-1 call, we need to first assess our cybersecurity situation to lay the ground for a comprehensive strategy.

        A security services organization is best-positioned to help you understand what the threats are and the baseline for improvements needed, as well as help you set priorities and track progress. Their experts keep on top of the latest standards and best practices. Such an assessment will provide a prioritized roadmap for your cybersecurity efforts and also help your team identify unknown security-risk items. In the world of public safety, we remind citizens that they have an important role to play. Let's not forget our own role in keeping our PSAPs secure - cybersecurity is now an important component of this responsibility.

        See how we at Mason-Oceana 9-1-1 developed a path to cyber resilience:

        Ray Hasil is the Director of Mason-Oceana 9-1-1

      • NG9-1-1: Call Taker Concerns and Solutions

        Published Dec 09 2016, 9:30 PM by Josie Slaughter
        • NG9-1-1 Dispatch


        April is 9-1-1 Education Month. Throughout the month this blog series will highlight different aspects of the emergency response process, including what happens when you text or call 9-1-1, and will pay tribute to the men and women behind the phones. This April, take some time to learn something new about America’s emergency response system.

        Being 9-1-1 month, April is the perfect time to talk about the changes going on in Public Safety Answering Points (PSAPs) and call centers around the country. Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) encompases a vast array of changes, but text to 9-1-1 is dominating the conversation. How does it work? Where is it being adopted? How can agencies bring it to their community easily and efficiently?

        Some call takers have concerns regarding this transition. For example, if a child goes missing in the middle of a sports game - during which call traffic is already higher than usual - call centers worry they will be deluged by calls and texts. The challenge becomes how to maintain focus while accelerating answer rates. Call takers need to be able to retrieve the child’s description, while managing the flood of calls. Fortunately this issue has not really come to fruition and early adopters of text to 9-1-1 have been underwhelmed by the volume of texts they received, even after significant external promotion of the availability of text to 9-1-1.

        Call_Taker_IL_0416_msv2.jpgWhile many of the concerns are valid, none should cause a PSAP to delay their acceptance of “calls” for help via SMS/text or multimedia. Many solutions are now available to help call takers handle calls with speed and accuracy while simplifying data input. This type of solution can make an impact by providing an exact description to call takers which responders can use to locate the missing child before panic turns into havoc. Fast, effective emergency response is what citizens deserve, regardless of the call volume or other challenges facing a 9-1-1 center. Having information in an integrated view streamlines management, and simplifies the transition.

        On April 20 Motorola Solutions and the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) had the honor of hearing from two agencies who are on the forefront of bringing this change to their communities. Karl Fasold, Director of Technology at Orleans Parish Communication District (OPCD) and Darryl Maggard, 9-1-1 Coordinator at Muskogee County, Oklahoma addressed some of the issues their agencies addressed when upgrading to an NG9-1-1 solution, and how an integrated workflow helped mitigate their teams’ concerns.

        Watch the webinar on-demand here and click the infographic to the right to learn more about NG9-1-1.

        Josie Slaughter is the Senior Global Marketing Manager, Smart Public Safety Solutions for Motorola Solutions

      • The Case For ASTRO 25 System Upgrades

        Published Dec 09 2016, 9:30 PM by Robert Buethe
        • P25

        astroapril.jpgIn 1991, the ASTRO system was born. With the anticipation of Project 25 (P25) - designed to create a user-driven, flexible, and open standard for radio communications - Motorola Solutions built ASTRO as a land mobile radio (LMR) platform to comply with the P25 standard. To celebrate ASTRO’s 25th year, this series will look at the past, present, and future of ASTRO 25 and answer the most pressing questions being asked by radio users today.

        You have spent a lot of time and resources to get your ASTRO 25 system to where it is today. Your network is operating well, and your end users are happy with the performance and features of the radios. Why would you want to upgrade your system if everything seems to be working just fine?

        Today’s ASTRO 25 systems are modern IP based computer networks with similar maintenance requirements of most IT systems. CIOs and IT Directors around the world are accustomed to the pace of change for hardware, software, routers, gateways and servers, and have come to expect the need for a robust lifecycle plan to stay current and operating at peak efficiency. It is no different with an ASTRO 25 system, for critically important reasons:

        Improve Performance and Stability
        In addition to hardware, your ASTRO 25 radio system includes multiple software components, such as operating systems, drivers and interfaces, that are provided by different developers. Over time, developers release software patches to improve performance and stability. Upgrading to the latest ASTRO 25 software release gives you the benefits of the latest performance improvements, as well as compatibility and support that comes standard with the software of these vendors.

        Access New Features and Capabilities
        As networks have grown in size, complexity and cost, the days of installing a system, using it until it is obsolete, and then buying a replacement are past. The expectations of today’s radio user is rapidly changing, and Motorola Solutions continues to develop new features and solutions to respond to this demand. Your radio system needs to evolve to be ready to accept these enhancements. Fortunately, ASTRO 25 is built on a modern IP platform with many of the newest capabilities enabled by easy-to-install software licenses. Keeping your system upgraded with the latest software gives you access to the broadest range of features and capabilities that can meet the demands of your users.

        Mitigate Cybersecurity Risks
        Cybercrime continues to rise and attackers are constantly evolving their methods. LMR networks are not immune to viruses nor malicious attacks. A strong security posture is required to protect your ASTRO 25 system or you risk communication disruption or privacy invasions that can impact CAD, records, and any interconnected inter-agency radio systems that is configured for interoperability. LMR systems are no longer “closed networks” and every connection is a possible point of intrusion. Running the latest software versions with the latest commercial antivirus definitions and security patches is vital to protect against external attack. And if you haven’t conducted a policy update for a while, consider scheduling a cybersecurity professional risk assessment to further ascertain areas that require attention within your operations.

        Control Total Cost of Ownership
        By upgrading your ASTRO 25 system to the latest software release you can sign up for a sustainment program from Motorola Solutions which allows you to plan and control your spending and performance with a predictable budget. This program allows you to get the most value from your network through regular technology updates, with no surprise support gaps or unplanned costs. Contact your Motorola Solutions representative for further information about our Advanced Plus Service.

        Learn more about the importance of maintaining an updated network. Visit for more information.

        Robert D. Buethe, MSSSI Vice President Americas Managed and Support Services

      • Confessions of a 9-1-1 Operator

        Published Dec 09 2016, 9:30 PM by Matthew Schreiner
        • NG9-1-1 Dispatch


        This is the third blog in a series highlighting 9-1-1 education month and the men and women who answer the call for help.

        People call 9-1-1 in an emergency and always hear a calm, prepared voice on the other end of the line. While call-takers and dispatchers are trained to deal with people experiencing trauma or tragedy, it is not an easy job. To give you a sense of what it is like on the other side of the phone call, here is a look behind the scenes of the dispatch center, based on my 10 year experience as a 9-1-1 telecommunicator and supervisor.

        Football, fires and fights
        Some things happen like clockwork. It is going to be quiet during the football game on Sunday, and the phone is going to light up when it is over. People drink during the game, get angry when their team loses, and unfortunately, sometimes they take it out on their friends and family. Thanksgiving day always starts out with oven and kitchen fires (yes, believe it or not, some people actually do try to deep fry their turkey inside the house), and it almost always ends with domestic dispute calls. Fourth of July, as you can imagine, is ambulance calls and, unfortunately, more domestic disputes.

        Call takers may manage more than one caller at a time
        They are trained to prioritize calls, and may have several callers on the line at the same time. While a dispatcher is talking to you, if a higher priority call comes in, they are trained to “triage” all the calls in their queue. Another operator may take over your call while the first operator manages the other call, or they may ask you to hold on for a moment. Threats to life always get the highest priority. Threats to life include calls reporting health issues, such as a heart attack, but also domestic calls, reports of gang activity, reports of fights or any other call in which an individual or a group or people are in danger of physical harm. Situations that are happening right now get more immediate attention than events that happened in the past. Be patient with this. Just imagine if you called to report a loved one having a heart attack, and your 9-1-1 operator put you on hold to manage a damage to property report. You’d be pretty upset.

        Take the good with the bad
        We are there to give guidance, and provide life-saving advice. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. I remember a call I took one night around 3 a.m. from a sweet, little old lady. She told me her house was on fire, and I told her to put down the phone and get outside as quickly and safely as she could. When the firefighters returned from the scene, they advised they found her by the back door. She had almost made it to safety, but probably couldn’t work the lock in time before she was overcome by the smoke. The sound of her soft, sweet voice still echoes in my ears, many years later, and I will never forget her. Then on the other hand, you’ll get a caller who says, “I’m terribly sorry to bother you, but my husband doesn’t seem to be breathing” as calmly as she’d tell you, “Excuse me, but I ”. That’s when you know you do this job for a reason. That’s when you can really make a difference, and change what could be a horrific memory into a good one. I remember at least 25 people that are alive today because they called 9-1-1, I answered the phone, and my training enabled me to help save their life.

        Press any key for “yes”
        In some terrible situations it may not be possible to talk when you call 9-1-1. Call-takers are trained to handle those situations. If you’re choking or having a heart attack, or if there’s an intruder in the home, they will ask yes or no questions that can be answered by pressing any button for “yes”. Also, many 9-1-1 centers can manage text-to-9-1-1 calls. Check with your local 9-1-1 center before an emergency strikes to find out if this service is available in your area, so you can be prepared when, and if, you need it.

        A tough business
        Probably the toughest part of the job is that call takers never get closure. They help people through maybe one of the most traumatic moments of their lives. It’s intense. Then, the first responders arrive and they hang up and are on to the next call. They rarely learn what happened to the person they were helping. You remember both the good calls and the bad calls, but the good ones are the ones that help bring you back to work day after day.

        Learn more about 9-1-1 best practices, and how telecomunicators are truly the first, first responders in any emergency.


        Matthew Schreiner was a 9-1-1 telecommunicator and supervisor for DuPage Public Safety Communications for 10 years, and is the PremierOne User Experience Manager at Motorola Solutions.


      • 9 Things to Know About Calling 9-1-1, Advice From a Dispatcher

        Published Dec 09 2016, 9:30 PM by Vanessa Navvarro
        • NG9-1-1 Dispatch

        9-1-1month-jpg.jpgThis is the second blog in a series highlighting 9-1-1 education month and the men and women who answer the call for help.

        Every second counts when you call 9-1-1. In order to get you the help you need in an emergency, 9-1-1 dispatchers like me depend on your assistance. To help make sure that police officers, fire fighters and paramedics can get to you as quickly as possible, here is a list of the top nine things you can do when you need help:

        1. Know when to call 9-1-1
          Is someone hurt? Is someone in danger? 9-1-1 is only for emergencies or serious situations when police officers, fire fighters or medical help is needed right away. If you are unsure whether or not to call, always err on the side of “yes”. We would much rather arrive to see nothing is serious than to miss being there when our help is needed.
        2. Stay calm
          We understand that the reason for your call may be the worst thing you’ve ever experienced, but staying calm is the most important thing to do when calling 9-1-1. If you’re crying or yelling, it may make it more difficult for us understand what help you need. The sooner we understand what you need and where you are, the more quickly first responders can arrive. So stay steady, be prepared to follow directions and answer all of our questions. Just remember, every question we ask - even if it seems obvious or irrelevant to you at the time - is asked for a reason.
        3. Be ready to help
          You are our eyes, ears and hands on the ground until a first responder arrives on the scene. We are trained to walk you through critical first aid, or ask you specific questions about what is happening until help arrives. By closely following our instructions or describing the scene, you can provide first responders with an accurate understanding of what is happening before they arrive. This simple action can save someone’s life, or even you own.
        4. Know where you are
          Most 9-1-1 call centers now have technology that instantly tells us where your call is coming from, but we will always ask to confirm what the technology is telling us, and you need to be prepared to answer. Take your time. The few moments you take to be precise about your location might save critical time spent looking for you. If you’re calling from a large building or complex like a school or manufacturing plant, provide the entrance location so we can go straight to where help is needed.
        5. Stay on the line
          Keep in mind that while you’re talking to the 9-1-1 call taker, we’re dispatching help at the same time. During an emergency, time often seems to “stand still”, and it may seem like it is taking a very long time for help to arrive. Please remember that first responders are trained to get to where you are as soon as possible after dispatch. We will stay on the line until help arrives, or as long as it is safe, so you can provide any additional information or assistance we may need.
        6. Never hang up
          If you hang up suddenly after calling 9-1-1, we will assume something has gone very wrong. Even if you’ve called by accident or the situation has resolved itself, let us know that things are okay. If you hang up, we will call back or dispatch help anyway to ensure everyone is safe.
        7. Post your address
          Don’t leave our first responders wondering if they’re in the right place. Mark your address on the outside of your home and driveway prominently. When calling 9-1-1 it is always helpful to provide guidance like “third house on the left” or “a Cape Cod with blue shutters” to help direct first responders. If you are able to safely leave the situation, go outside and direct help to the right location.
        8. Know your phone
          It seems simple, but with the ever-increasing array and sophistication of smart phones, you cannot assume that everyone knows how to operate every phone in your home. Take the time to ensure your family knows how to make a call regardless of which device they need to use.
        9. Teach your kids about 9-1-1
          Help youngsters memorize their name, address and phone number — information that will help them help you during an emergency. Many children have saved lives by being able to call 9-1-1 and quickly provide the information needed to get critical help to an emergency.

        I hope you do not need to call 9-1-1, but if and when you do, be prepared to get the help you need as quickly and efficiently as possible. This 9-1-1 month, Learn more about 9-1-1 best practices, and how dispatchers are truly the first, first responders in any emergency.

        Vanessa Navvarro is a dispatcher at Kershaw County, South Carolina. Learn more about Kershaw County making the right call for citizens here.

      • Trooper Of The Year 2016

        Published Dec 09 2016, 9:30 PM by Tracy Kimbo

         Every year Motorola teams up with the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP)’s State and Provincial Police Division to honor exemplary men and women serving their communities with the Annual Trooper of the Year Award.Troopers from around the country are nominated by their agencies for rising to the occasion and, often, for putting their lives in danger to secure the safety of others.

        At the annual banquet on April 1, four extraordinary troopers’ stories were told. Their acts of valor include a keen eye to apprehend drug traffickers, wading into treacherous waters to save a drowning teenager, swimming to save the lives of two individuals in a submerged vehicle, and a risky pursuit of an active shooter.

        This year’s award was given to Trooper Donald Atkinson of the New York State Police for his heroic efforts saving a 14-year old girl who had been pulled into the in-take of a local dam while swimming. When Trooper Atkinson saw the panicked cries of the girl's friends, and heard the girl's screams coming from the in-take, he entered the water without a second thought. Once closer to the in-take, he felt the current pull his own feet out from underneath him and could not save her from the water on his own. He stayed with the girl and kept her spirits high until back-up arrived. The girl was choking on the rough waters, and he learned later that the walls were completely smooth and there was nothing for the girl to hold on to for safety. Without his actions, she would have likely given up and drowned that day. Major James Barnes, New York State Police Troop C Commander noted that “This went above and beyond the call of duty…[Trooper Atkinson] put his own life in danger to save the individual."

        This award is representative of the countless acts of bravery that state troopers exhibit everyday that go unnoticed by the masses. The Trooper of the Year honor pays tribute to the predominantly thankless job held by those who take it upon themselves to keep their communities safe. This is just a small thank you to the first responders who are at their best in the moments that matter.

        See the nominee’s stories here:

        Trooper Donald Atkinson, New York State Police

        Trooper First Class Brian Screws, Georgia Department of Public Safety

        Trooper Krzysztof Piotrowski, Illinois State Police

        Trooper James Tedder, South Dakota Highway Patrol

        Tracy Kimbo is the Manager of Law Enforcement Solutions at Motorola Solutions