On-call public safety personnel and emergency service volunteers such as first responder paramedics and volunteer firefighters must be contactable at all times to respond to emergency calls. Secure and reliable communications are essential if they are to respond to the call for help and save lives. But what are the key things you should consider when looking for an alerting solution for them?
1. What type of alerting device do you need?
Today’s smartphones might seem to be the best choice but can suffer from poor battery life and lack of coverage - letting you down in times of emergency. The latest generation of pagers can do a better job as they have long battery life and high receiver sensitivity to give you greater coverage in buildings and built up areas.
These pagers can work for hours on end when out and about without a charge. They are also compact and easily incorporated into everyday lives – at work, home or out and about. Well designed pagers are intuitive to use so a user can immediately understand the message sent. I recommend you look for a pager with a robust and rugged design (to reduce failure rates).
2. Does it run on a trusted, secure and reliable network?
The next thing to consider is the communications network - is it secure and resilient? Consider the security offered by the alerting system’s network infrastructure - is it secure from eavesdropping or traffic analysis by hackers? Is it vulnerable to replay attacks? TETRA networks use standards-based Air Interface Encryption to address public safety security requirements while avoiding vendor lock-in.
In addition to security, also think about the resilience you need from your alerting system. In an emergency situation you need to be able to rely on the network to contact your teams. Unfortunately, it is often in such crisis situations that commercial cellular networks become congested, and in extreme cases, even break down. TETRA networks offer mission-critical, dedicated communications infrastructure that provides the necessary levels of resilience and availability for emergency services alerting.
Using TETRA paging devices with built-in GPS receivers can also allow the dispatcher to see where the closest available resources are and alert them first.
3. Does it provide two-way communication?
Assembling your team quickly and getting them onsite to the incident is vital. Your alerting solution plays a key role in how effective you’ll be. If the paging system is only one way, several call-outs often need to be sent to ensure that alerting messages are received. Additionally, the absence of acknowledgement messages in one-way alerting systems means the dispatcher is unaware of who has accepted and therefore, whether additional call-outs to other teams are required, ultimately leading to control centres ‘over-alerting’.
Two-way paging systems minimise over-alerting costs by providing real-time status information of the recipients of call-out messages. They allow responders to instantly feedback their status to the control centre so the time to alert the required number of volunteers and hence response time is significantly reduced.
4. Is it based on open-standards?
I recommend you avoid vendor lock-in situations by investing in solutions that are based on open standards, rather than any based on proprietary authentication and encryption. TETRA is an ETSI open standard. As TETRA paging systems leverage standardised Air Interface Encryption, End-to-end-Encryption, they offer multi-vendor alternatives.
Consider also the need for scalability in your alerting system, especially when dispatching teams to major incidents. In addition to supporting standalone operation, modern alerting systems provide application programming interfaces to allow CAD systems to send and respond to paging messages. Integrating with the CAD system enables more precise targeting of call-out messages based on role, status and location.
5. Who is the right partner?
As one of the world’s leading suppliers of TETRA solutions, Motorola Solutions is a partner you can rely on. We designed our ADVISOR TPG2200 TETRA two-way pager to be simple to use, even with one hand. You can quickly read and respond to messages with a bright, 2” colour display and familiar user interface. Carry this pager anywhere too, without it getting in the way thanks to a lightweight, compact design. And, since the TPG2200 is IP54 rated for dust and water protection, you know it will keep working even when exposed to the elements. Find out more about ADVISOR TPG2200 TETRA two-way pager here.
Our TETRA Pager is in use on the UK’s Airwave TETRA Network with North West Ambulance Service - check out the press release here.
You can also check out our in-depth guide: ‘Things to consider when looking for an alerting solution for emergency responders.’
Fergus Mayne is Head of UK & Ireland Sales at Motorola Solutions