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During Budget Cuts How Technology Can Save Lives with Less Money

Author: Bob Stanberry, Cisco Systems

Copyright: 9-1-1 Magazine, Feature Content

Date: 2011-12-20
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Vendor's Corner

Today, state and local governments must provide citizen services with tighter budget constraints than ever before. These challenges force governments to pick and choose between programs and services often putting citizens and government employees in jeopardy. Innovative, collaborative, virtualization technology is a key solution to address this ever-growing problem.

Collaborative virtualization technology allows for governments to provide a higher level of service to citizens, while saving money on operating costs, such as power and cooling. State and local governments across the country are implementing this technology in an effort to keep citizens connected online securely.

This must be done in a network environment that has the highest security, since personal information is regularly stored online.  Additionally, government agencies are encouraged to report on Federal Information Security Management Act (FISMA) compliance. The lack of compliance not only results in poor network security, but also reduction in grants.

A few examples of how state and local governments are keeping citizens and information secure while cutting costs include:

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Missouri deployed its state-of-the-art Network Emergency Response Vehicle (NERV). This vehicle is a mobile communication center, supported by a highly trained team that is designed to establish interoperable communications in emergency situations. As a result of the NERV, the State of Missouri did not need additional vendors to establish statewide communication during the tornadoes in the spring of 2011. In this example the NERV not only saved the state money and time because state officials were ready for the tornado, but it also protected the lives of locals living across Missouri by enabling communication with emergency responders and residents.

Another example is the City of Hayward, California. Located along the Hayward Fault Line, the city is leveraging redundancy-based networking technology to protect its citizens in the event of an earthquake that disables traditional communications. The Fault is on a 150 year cycle of large earthquakes, with the last one occurring approximately 152 years ago. With this delay in the Fault’s pressure release the City of Hayward is prepared for a major earthquake. The city looked at its business continuity plans in the event of an incident and determined how the city would stay connected.  It concluded the most effective way to connect city sites was via an 802.11 wireless bridge in the event of a natural disaster. Due to a pervasive wireless network the city is first responders, police, hospitals and other essential resources are able to stay connected and collaborate to save citizen lives and property, during an earthquake of any magnitude. For example, city officials will now have direct access to emergency responders and federal officials during an emergency to ensure that all persons agree on a plan of action.

Sometimes protecting citizens does not always mean preparing for a disaster, but simply ensuring they can travel safely around town. In 2005, the City of Midland, Texas started to experience exponential growth, which resulted in 17 percent increase in traffic volume. To respond to this challenge the city deployed a Naztec, Inc. IP wireless ATMS controller and software suite, all of which runs on a wireless network. Following the launch of the system in 2009, the city saw a 27 percent reduction in total delays per vehicle, 18 percent reduction in total stops per vehicle, and 10 percent reduction in fuel consumption. This adds up to US$1.2 million annual savings on four major arterials alone with average vehicular volume—huge cost savings and safer roads.

The City of Danville, Virginia is situated on the border of Virginia and North Carolina, so it is very common for a crime initiated in Danville to cross the border into North Carolina. However, because of the lack of radio interoperability between agencies and jurisdictions, there is no communication and all police chases are vacated. Using an IP-based approach, Danville turned the problem on its side, taking an unconventional approach to a conventional problem. Because of the new technology deployed officials from Virginia and North Carolina are able to collaborate and communicate which has helped police successfully capture criminals. 

As these examples clearly demonstrate, technology is the key for helping state and local governments handle any challenge—from natural disasters to traffic congestion—all while staying within the parameters of a tight budget and even cutting operating expenses. At its core, today’s technology helps save lives and money by allowing for officials to stay in communication no matter what.

Vendor’s Corner is a guest column about product and vendor issues and solutions. Bob Stanberry leads Cisco's Connected Justice Solution Business Development team.  He has over 15 years experience in law enforcement, justice, safety and security in both the public and private sectors.  For more information on Cisco Systems' offerings for public safety communications and networking, see www.cisco.com

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