The Solution Review column is where I’ll take a look at a technology solution and give you my perspective. The first one out of the gate is FirstWatch Solutions.
FirstWatch monitors live data and sends out immediate alerts in response to pre-defined trigger points. You can monitor fire and police dispatch data, public health data, or any data you want. The trigger point can be just about anything you want as well. The FirstWatch solution helps provide situational awareness and actionable intelligence through dashboards, maps, and other views of monitored data.
FirstWatch was used in Oklahoma City in 2009 to monitor carbon monoxide poisoning calls during a winter snowstorm. Public safety officials thought they were receiving higher than normal CO poisoning calls but needed to know for sure. They already had FirstWatch installed so they called and asked for help. Within a few hours, yes hours, the FirstWatch people had written and installed a new monitoring program that showed the CO calls were coming from areas with a high concentration of Hispanic residents. The public information officer worked with the Spanish-language radio stations to put out urgent public service messages, and the CO calls dropped right away.
What Sets Them Apart
FirstWatch offers something you just don’t find in technology anymore - a 90 day money back guarantee. I can’t get a refund from Office Depot if I have opened a Microsoft Office software package I bought for a few hundred dollars. FirstWatch solutions can run $50, 000 to $150,000 and if you don’t like it, or it does not do what you thought it would, they will refund your money. That is unique. The other telling part of the guarantee is that they have never had to refund any money. They have satisfied customers.
“We are in high demand right now despite the tight money,” said Todd Stout, CEO. “Our solution helps agencies use their data, resources, and their money more efficiently,” Stout added.
They are also very flexible, versatile, and responsive to client needs. “If it is an emergency to a client, it’s an emergency to us,” said Stout about how they respond to client needs. Oklahoma City is just one example of the kind of fast and effective response they can manage for their clients. They measure their response to client needs in terms of hours not days or weeks or months.
Mr. Todd Stout, CEO, started as an EMT and Paramedic in Kansas City before moving into a technology career as Director of VisiCAD Services at TriTech Software Systems, a San Diego-based software company specializing in the development of Computer Aided Dispatching (CAD) systems for public safety. (Some of you with longer memories may remember Todd’s father, Jack Stout, who pioneered many operational innovations in EMS services.)
Company Name: FirstWatch Solutions, Inc.
HQ City & ST: Encinitas, CA
# Employees: 16
Web site: www.FirstWatch.net
Clients: 95 licensed sites (representing 200+ public safety agencies)
"This does a lot more than I thought it would." - a client talking about the FirstWatch solution.
Between $50,000 and $150,000 and includes initial installation and configuration.
Maintenance is about 22% of the original software license cost.
Software as a Service (SaaS) pricing is also available.
Most clients find funding through various grants or they take the SaaS route.
You could think of the FirstWatch solution as operational and in-the-moment business intelligence. It is not focused on the past like traditional business intelligence, but tells you what is going on right now. Detection is vital to any public safety agency and this solution can help you detect and respond better and faster.
FirstWatch monitors data and that includes keywords and phrases so you can use the tool to search for lots of different parameters. This solution is very flexible and dynamic. The challenge is to define what you want to look for and why, and the FirstWatch people will help you do that and make sure you are happy with the results (remember the guarantee).
The price may be a roadblock for smaller agencies. If that is the case for you, try a regional or group purchase. The company seems very flexible and willing to work with clients to meet their needs – very refreshing.
If you are looking for something to provide: real-time data surveillance, early detection and warning, situational awareness, and operational intelligence then give FirstWatch a call. As Siskel & Ebert might have said – two thumbs up.
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Have you been wondering about how social media applications like twitter and facebook might change the way public safety agencies operate? Here is a hint.
In January this year a 51 year old Spokane, WA man used facebook to call for help when his toaster caught fire. He was playing one of those facebook online computer games when he smelled smoke and could not reach the phone because he suffers from muscular dystrophy which limits his ability to move around.
He entered a facebook chat room and typed “Help me, my house is on fire and I can’t get out.” A player from Indiana and another from East Texas called Spokane 911. Apparently the 911 operator was not sure if this was a legitimate call but the fire department was sent the man was saved. A happy ending thanks to facebook.
More to come on social media in public safety.
The annual Microsoft Worldwide Public Safety Symposium is scheduled for March 22 - 24, 2011 in Redmond, WA. I have attended three of these and the feedback has always been very positive. One attendee I talked with said they thought it was one of the best technology symposiums on the planet.
Public safety leaders and executives from around the world come to Redmond to share what they have done with technology and what they have learned. Microsoft does a good job of getting out of the way and letting the technology partners and their public safety clients talk about what they did, how it worked out, and the outcomes achieved.
It is an opportunity to see how agencies from around the world use technology to good effect. It is also a great networking opportunity. When is the last time you got to talk to a colleague from the far side of the world?
There is also a Microsoft Partner Pavilion where companies like ESRI, E-Sponder, AtHoc, Modularis and many more will hand out all kinds of bling and bend your ear about what they do. Just don’t sign any contracts while you are there, no matter how much bling they toss in your bag.
One word of caution - the agenda seems focused on law enforcement and security. It usually is. If that is not your focus area you might want to talk to someone at Microsoft about what is in this for you. They may need your ideas on how they can showcase more than law enforcement and security side of public safety.
More information and registration (which is free) at http://www.mspublicsafetysymposium.com/.
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