Using RPM Remote Print Manager® (*"RPM") Elite, the Farmington, NM Fire Department notifies personnel quickly and reliably
Farmington, NM Fire Department
Date: October 2011
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Farmington, NM Fire Department needed a reliable, fast, and inexpensive way to communicate from their Public Safety Answering Point, or PSAP (911 dispatch system) to roughly 100 full-time firefighters. They were looking to replace the 2-way radio system they had relied on for years. It was too noisy and distracting in the field to rely on that technology any longer.
The vendor they usually work with told them it would cost $10,000 upfront for a "feasibility study" and at least $6,000 per truck for equipment, not including software.
They knew there had to be a better way.
Fortunately, technology helped push the right solution to the front. Farmington found itself in a position where everyone on the fire and emergency crews had a cell phone, often a smartphone. Now they needed a way to bridge between the dispatch computer and those phones.
Solution: RPM Elite
The RPM print server processes print requests from many systems. However, we do a lot more than put ink to paper; we treat your print jobs as a data file and can do nearly anything with it.
In this case, we pull out the critical text from the dispatch and send it as an email. The Farmington Fire Department researched this with some help from us, and ultimately they came up with a stable and reliable system which is getting expanded use in their corner of the State of New Mexico.
Systems and Setup
The 911 dispatch system uses an AS/400 (or iSeries) to generate dispatches. The AS/400 sends the dispatch to a printer, or so it thinks. RPM Elite is the print server running behind the scenes. The Fire Department configured RPM to use around a dozen regular expressions to remove text and reformat the message into a single line. Then RPM sends the text in the body of an email message to a distribution list.
The distribution lists for the various trucks and other units are created and maintained on a Microsoft Exchange® email server. Farmington's system assumes that Individual crew members have cell phones, either traditional or smartphones. Each crew member is set up in Exchange as a "user"; this turned out to be the easiest way to maintain the system long term.
All major cell carriers worldwide provide a way to convert a phone number to an email address, either for SMS or MMS. This Wikipedia article explains how to find the right email address for a mobile number. The one thing you have to know, besides the cell number, is which carrier the subscriber uses.
Here is the workflow:
- The 911 dispatch operator takes the call and uses a proprietary software system on their AS/400 to compose a brief dispatch. They print this dispatch.
- The text of the dispatch, rather than going to a networked printer, is received by RPM Elite. There is a separate print queue for each fire truck, police or emergency vehicle, ambulance, helicopter, etc.
- We apply a dozen or so customer generated rules to transform the dispatch into a form suitable to transmit as a text message.
- We email the text, within RPM Elite.
- The destination we send it to is a Microsoft Exchange server, programmed by the Farmington Fire Department with the distribution lists for each vehicle or group, and ultimately the right email address for each person.
Randy Wakeland, the Technology Coordinator who conceived this system and got it operational, told us in a phone conversation that this system is nearly instantaneous. In fact, on average the text messages come to the phones 30 seconds to a minute before the call comes over the radio.
Mr. Wakeland says:
The real benefit is in saving lives and property. The RPM technology helps improve public safety and the firefighters are safer too. This is really where the benefit has been ...
The firefighters are safer because they get the call sooner, and can respond sooner before the situation escalates further. They get the information in a way that they can read as they have the opportunity, not having to listen once amid the clamor. They have access to the full dispatch, which may (and often does) warn them of possible weapons or drugs. They can update each other in the group by replying to the text messages. And, when they have local knowledge of an address which may be misreported, they can respond more quickly. We were told that three times the crews got a wrong address the weekend before our phone call with Mr. Wakeland.
Another thing we learned is that you need to consider the number of recipients you initiate an email to at one time if you are using the public network. He told us of an agency that sent messages to 300+ addresses each time they had a dispatch. Their Internet provider kept shutting the system down because it behaved like spam, and wanted to charge extra for the service. You may need to make arrangements with your Internet service provider if you plan to alert more than a few dozen at one time.
About the Customer
The Farmington, NM Fire Department serves the City of Farmington and one of the largest counties (in the square area) in the United States, San Juan County. Farmington is in the northwest corner of New Mexico.
The Department not only manages public safety for the city but also extends its cooperation and support to the county communications authority and cities spread throughout the county. The Department employs around ninety-five uniformed career professionals but works closely with over five hundred. This proves that the Farmington Fire Department has a vision as large as their county, and the practices to go with it.