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Connected Tech is the New Engine for Public Safety Operations

Author: Tony Morelli, Cisco

Copyright: Copyright 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content

Date: 2017-10-11
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One key to ensuring first responders stay connected to other responders, to their stations and to hospitals is the use of in-vehicle routers. A highly secure and compact device that connects those on the field to others, while keeping all information private. 


Real-time information sharing is no longer a luxury. It is now becoming an expectation for operations across all industries. From instant feedback with customer service representatives to data sharing between mobile devices and the cloud, instant communication is becoming the standard. However, public safety officials are also learning this information is critical to supporting their daily efforts to keep the community safe.

Public safety agencies including firefighters, police and EMS first responders are beginning to rely more on digital, Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled technologies to support communications while in the field. With the use of connected technologies, public safety agencies are improving response times and communication between first responders, as well as helping to create an internal database of knowledge to improve the quality of services provided to citizens.

Agencies today must embrace technology to bring a modern approach to public safety services.


How it Works

The innovative, collaborative technology supporting public safety agencies revolves around IoT-connected devices that combat challenges of increased call frequency and city population growth requiring agencies to service larger areas.

One key to ensuring first responders stay connected to other responders, to their stations and to hospitals is the use of in-vehicle routers. A highly secure and compact device that connects those on the field to others, while keeping all information private. It delivers critical patient data from EMS personnel in the ambulance to emergency department intake staff while they are in transit. The critical data includes vitals to support lifesaving decisions and give a more accurate diagnosis when patients arrive at the hospital.

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Fire departments are relying on these routers for fleet management, sending data on the location of each emergency response vehicle while keeping them all connected. In fact, the Nashville fire department uses the routers to provide connectivity spanning 533 square miles with 1,205 employees, nearly 100 vehicles and 39 stations. Keeping them connected allows first responders to respond quickly while providing the same level of service to citizens that is expected.

Adding to a digital EMS service is video conferencing technology to bridge the gap between patients and physicians. While first responders are onsite for a range of emergencies, not all require an ambulance ride to the hospital. Connecting directly to physicians for advice and care through a tablet-based mobile solution gives citizens a direct line to care without a ride to the hospital or a wait in the emergency room. This collaborative telehealth solution is currently used by the Houston Fire Department to connect patients with doctors via tablets to evaluate the appropriate treatment.

Tying it all together is a digital transformation solution that is able to process the data coming from the routers and video conferences to help make improvements to the operations of the agency. While technology can drastically improve an organization’s processes and efficiency, it can also create complexity and present new challenges. IoT and sensor technologies are bringing in more data than ever before. When not properly analyzed, it can create more issues than solve them. Yet, with the right, easy-to-use solution, the data collected can bring a number of benefits to support first responders.


Communication and Collaboration are Key

With the in-vehicle technology comes a holistic, end-to-end approach to communication for first responders with accelerated connections and information sharing. The ability to communicate instantly and in real time allows first responders to communicate more effectively than ever before in emergencies.

Communication is key for first responders, but the ability to communicate instantly is more than basic information sharing – it is also collaboration.

As I mentioned previously, Houston’s modern approach with tablets is changing the way citizens receive emergency care across a major US city. Additionally, Houston’s program has resulted in better utilization of time and resources, saving thousands of the dollars for the city in unnecessary hospital transports and saving the patients themselves from the personal costs of those transports. Many times all patients need is to book a separate appointment with a doctor, which can be done in real-time with the EMS personal onsite.

In Nashville, first responders are working as a more cohesive unit. The router technology has delivered tangible benefits of increased communication and reduced costs, and helped responders to communicate better with one another. In high-stress situations, verbal communication is not always a top priority. With an increased reliance on communication technology, first responders can be more confident in their work as a collaborative team.

Operational communication and monitoring is also important. The in-vehicle routers help cut down on costs by giving fleet managers and ambulance drivers more insight into the vehicles. This results in fewer breakdowns and repair costs throughout the fleet, while allowing EMS personnel to focus on providing care to citizens.


What’s Next?

Public safety agencies will continue to see an influx of technology to support their operations. In time, real-time information sharing will expand into a more automated network that can learn and adapt based on the data it collects, which will give responders and medical facilities even more of an ability to support responders in an emergency. Technology will continue to expand across the industry. What has begun in ambulances will expand to firetrucks, police cars and throughout more stations to keep first responders connected throughout a range of emergencies on a smart network.

The public safety industry will continue to rely on advanced technology to ensure communities are safe every day. With a smart network, public safety agencies can be confident their shared information is secure, allowing first responders to focus on their job of serving citizens in the community. Keeping connected is the first step in a digital transformation to the industry and it is a step in the right direction.  


Tony Morelli is the Area Vice President for Cisco’s State, Local Government, and Education (SLED) markets. He is responsible for developing Cisco’s sales strategies and go to market activities for this segment and has responsibility for the Eastern half of the United States. With over 200 employees and revenues of approximately $1 billion dollars, his teams work to enable the transformation of how the public sector serves, communicates, educates and protects its citizens by the leveraging the power of the network.

For more information on Cisco's Networks Solutions, see


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