The Grant County Sheriff’s Department has about 60 commissioned Deputies protecting a population of over 89,000 across 2,679 square miles in Eastern Washington. They work closely with regional fire departments and other law enforcement agencies in the area. When they went looking for a regional communications system that was affordable, effective, and easy to use they found an interesting solution.
One of the IT staff, an avid PC gamer, suggested they look at TeamSpeak – a PC based multi-player online gaming communications system. TeamSpeak has been used by millions of online gamers for over ten years now. These games can involve anywhere from just a few to a few hundred gamers that need to talk to each other at the same time about the same game they are all playing. Just like tens, hundreds, or thousands of people might need to talk to each other in an emergency or large scale disaster. All you need is a microphone, speakers, and an internet connection. The gaming industry has come to meet public safety. And you won’t believe the price tag.
TeamSpeak requires a client and a server application. Licensing for the server software can be purchased and operated in-house or you can rent one from an Authorized Team Speak Host Provider (ATHP). The client can be a Windows/Mac/Linux PC or laptop, an iOS device (iPhone, iPad, iPod), or Android phone.
Once the server is set up and connected to the internet, people with the client application can get set up and start using the system. You can talk to anyone listed in your current channel by clicking on and holding a preset key that acts like a radio push-to-talk (PTT) button or using voice activation. You can create multiple channels that can be designated for specific use or topics. Moving between channels is as simple as double clicking on the channel of your choice.
Let’s say you have an incident where your fire and police department respond along with neighboring fire and police that can’t talk to your people on the radios since they are on a different dispatch center and different frequencies. With TeamSpeak, as long as the responding units have a laptop or an iPhone or Android phone, everyone will all be able to talk to each other. Once they are logged in the responding units can be merged into a common talk group and Voila! – interoperable communications. You can even transfer files and documents to anyone who is signed in. And another nice aspect - scanners cannot pick up any of these conversations.
What Sets Them Apart
The folks at TeamSpeak have created a gaming communications platform that has been tested by some of the most demanding customers around – gamers. These folks have high standards when it comes to their online gaming. TeamSpeak has a product that looks rock solid.
This is a very affordable solution.
Annual Activation License* (AAL):
- 32 users, 1 virtual server - $30
- 64 users, 1 virtual server - $55
- 128 users, 5 virtual servers - $100
- 256 users, 5 virtual servers - $175
- 512 users, 10 virtual servers - $300
- 1024 users, 10 virtual servers - $500
* This type of license is for self-hosted implementations. Pricing varies if renting from an Authorized TeamSpeak Host Provider (ATHP) which can be found at http://hosting.teamspeakusa.com Subsequent years for an AAL includes a 20% discount. Example: A 128 slot AAL will cost $100 for the first year, and $80 each year thereafter.
TeamSpeak plus a little creativity equals better communications. The missing link here is that currently you can’t place or receive land line phone calls with TeamSpeak. But they are a sharp group and I bet they can fill that need soon. If you are looking for a reliable and inexpensive way to achieve interoperable communications take a lesson from the gamers - take a look at TeamSpeak.
Company Name: TeamSpeak Systems GmbH
HQ City & ST: Krün, Germany
# Employees: 20+
Other locations: Chula Vista, California Sales and Business Development Office
Phone: Toll Free within USA (877)TEAM-SPEAK or +1(619)312-6255
Web site: www.TeamSpeak.com
Clients: Lockheed Martin, NASA, Engineering & Computer Simulations, Atlantis Cyberspace, Inc.
Years in business: 10+
Every public safety organization has data and information and is under threat of cyber-crime. The World Conference on Disaster Management will be held in Toronto, Canada on June 25-27 and a focus area of this year’s conference is cyber crime. Robert Beggs, CEO of Digital Defence from Burlington, Ontario will deliver a plenary session titled Surviving the Coming Cyberstorm: Manage the Crisis, Win the War. I had a chance to talk with Robert about his perspectives on cyber-crime.
“The flow of information is where the value lies” said Robert. Data translates into money. For example, my medical records have value to me as they can help doctors make better decisions about my care if they know my medical history. Yet, according to Robert, doctors cannot see my medical record if I am across town let alone across the country. Why aren’t my medical records available to any hospital worldwide?
My medical records have value to other less well intentioned people as well. If they can get their mitts on my information they can use it to make money and potentially make my life miserable. It can be easier for criminals to get my records than it is for a hospital.
Robert also said that “law enforcement is not configured to solve the problem”. The problem has grown beyond the abilities of law enforcement - they have lost the initiative.
Robert suggests that every organization - public or private - should recognize that they will be compromised at some time. So every organization should plan accordingly and make your response to cyber-crime part of your business planning.
Robert suggests three key principles to handle this threat.
1. Cyber-crime is a technical, policy, and cultural issue. It is a business process and management issue so the effort to prevent or control it should be lead by the business operations people not the IT department. IT should implement the business needs.
2. IT is focused on technology. Business people focus on operations. Encourage more collaboration and cooperation between the two.
3. Acknowledge that data will be compromised. Prepare in advance and manage cyber-crime as any other incident. Plan ahead of time and execute your response to support the business. Use an Agile Incident Management methodology which stresses proactive planning in combination with a rapid and effective response to attacks. This approach not only reduces the possibility of being attacked, but minimizes the costs and recovery efforts.
Cyber-crime is worldwide problem. Organizations need to share information, discuss cross border needs, techniques, and tools about how to best respond. Data protection is still in infancy so communication between public and private organizations is critical to develop effective responses. The conference is a forum to explore the issues and the solutions.
Find out more at www.wcdm.org and www.digitaldefence.ca.
Robert Beggs can be contacted at: (905)681-3310 or Robert.email@example.com
Leave a comment
While the private sector has embraced Software as a Service (SaaS) like a warm blanket in the wintertime (look at the success of SalesForce.com), public safety agencies have given it a bit of the cold shoulder. The hesitation seems to come from a lack of knowledge and a lack of trust in the reliability and security of these solutions.
But the more you get to know what a SaaS solution can do for you, no matter what size department you are, the more you might want to snuggle up. Every public safety agency should look at SaaS as a way to save money, time, and effort and still get exceptional value, functionality and capabilities. In other words, get the job done more efficiently and more effectively. What’s not to like?
Emergency Technologies, Inc. (ETI) has two SaaS offerings worth at least a short snuggle if not a long hug. ETI provides excellent onsite solutions for Fire and EMS records management - Visual Fire & Visual EMS - and the same solutions where introduced about 18 months ago in SaaS or on-demand versions.
ETI’s Visual Fire and Visual EMS are a set of flexible, powerful, and integrated modules to help agencies manage fire prevention, suppression, and EMS patient information. The traditional version of Visual Fire has 21 modules, Visual EMS has 15, and the SaaS versions have the same.
While on-site software applications require hardware, software, administration, support, repairs, upgrades, lots of extra money, and an extra bottle of Ibuprofen (or Scotch), all you need to run the SaaS versions is a high-speed internet connection and a browser. You can’t tell the difference between the on-site and on-demand versions other than you get to the SaaS version through a browser.
Visual Fire On-Demand Desktop
Visual Fire On-Demand Screenshot 1
Visual Fire On-Demand Screenshot 2
What Sets Them Apart
ETI has been focused on Fire and EMS solutions since 1995. The underlying technology - the functionality and capabilities - have been honed to a fine edge. They can also handle multiple department situations very well – for example where you have a major city and surrounding smaller jurisdictions all using their solution and they all still need to have their individual system match their needs and preferences (how things look on the screen and what they are called). This is a great way to solve the information sharing issues you may be experiencing with your neighbors.
The biggest differentiator though is the ability to have their solution in two flavors: on-site or on-demand.
The Visual Fire On-Demand solution offers faster implementation timelines, lowers short-term and long-term costs, and removes the IT headache associated with servers, hardware, and infrastructure. ETI handles everything on the back-end, so you only need an internet connection and a browser to use their software from any location at any time.
Traditional applications are much more difficult and expensive to maintain over time compared to Saas solutions. SaaS solutions have been shown to have a much lower total cost of ownership and high levels of reliability and security. Another benefit is that a SaaS application can be purchased as an operating expense rather than a capital expense. SaaS can save cash.
So the next time your budget starts to look a little cold and frozen, snuggle up to a SaaS solution and see if it won’t warm you up a bit. Especially the SaaS solutions from ETI: Visual Fire On-Demand and Visual EMS On-Demand.
Company Name: Emergency Technologies, Inc.
HQ City & ST: Raleigh, North Carolina
# Employees: 19
Other locations: None
Web site: www.EmergencyTechnologies.com
Clients: over 450 Departments
Years in business: 17
Leave a comment
Latest Emergency Management News
Cuyahoga County, Ohio, emergency managers share lessons learned from a simulated terrorist attack during a baseball game.
Sacramento, Calif., Mayor Kevin Johnson helps launch the Resilient Communities for America campaign.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s free app may help public health officials educate Americans about massive sickness and treatment.