Officers get instant access to important information.
Emergency-Response Mobile Applications
By: Kathy Marks
Mobile applications create a line of instant, direct, and often rich media communications between public safety agencies and their officers and first responders and a means for them to communicate public safety information in real time to their citizenry. Officers in the field can have instant access to important information regarding the subject of their callout and make the best safety decisions based on the most accurate and recent data.
InterAct’s mobile applications for the public safety community are accessed on the officer’s laptop through InterAct Mobile or InterAct PocketCop™, a smartphone application that supports Windows, BlackBerry, Android, and iOS operating systems. The apps have several functions, including interacting with the CAD, where “calls for service,” are initially dispatched.
The apps also act as data sources to acquire information from the CAD such as query responses, dispatch instructions, driving directions, incident details, responder locations, and alerts to dispatchers, responders, and commanders. Users can view standardized, easy-to-read, consolidated query returns from NCIC, CJIS, Nlets, and other InterAct application databases connected to the InterAct InterDEx™ national data-sharing network.
Other functions can be added to Pocket Cop, using InterAct’s mobile partners, including the EZ-License applications, enabling officers to swipe a magnetic stripe or scan a bar code on a driver’s license and import that information directly to InterAct Mobile, allowing them to run NICIC and other queries without inputting the information again. Electronic ticketing enables the officer to issue a paper traffic citation from the mobile data computer in the patrol vehicle, providing for accuracy of data for later court dispositions.
Lt. Matt Jackson, Oklahoma County, Okla. Sheriff’s Office, said they originally started with InterDEx as a joint effort between the Oklahoma County Sheriff and the Ft. Smith, Ark. Police because they realized due to their geographic location and major interstate corridor connecting them, they most likely shared many records.
He reported immediate success in that during the first day of “interaction” between systems, they identified a subject present in both systems arrested in Oklahoma County one day and six days later in Ft. Smith. His OCSO arrest was on a minor vagrancy charge, but in Ft. Smith he was arrested for failure to register as a Sex Offender. “This was literally one of the first five records we checked,” Jackson commented.
OCSO currently supports a mobile platform for approximately 160 agencies in Oklahoma and Ft. Smith supports multiple agencies within their state. These agencies may only sit a few miles across the border from each other but could not previously communicate via voice platform. They can now share records and a real-time communication platform including chat, announcements, and records.
Warrant arrests have been some of the largest successes because due to NCIC regulations, most warrants reside only in local systems and not in NCIC. In a traditional environment, unless officers contact each agency, they won’t know a “local” warrant exists. Without having to use human resources to contact each respective agency, they can now check databases, leading to an increase in warrants being served and closed.
Lt. Jackson reported, “We have been incredibly happy with the success of the system and are watching it grow daily. We now share records from multiple states (AR, TX, KY, MS, OK, and GA) and this has proved a HUGE asset to line officers, interdiction agents and investigators. Being able to have a single source check for all these databases helps cut down on research time and allows the law enforcement officer to be better armed with information.”
NowForce, with offices in New York and Israel, offers two mobile applications, the NowForce Mobile Responder, which is a first responder app, and NowForce Mobile Reporter, an SOS app provided to groups or individuals the sending agency is protecting.
For example, an Israeli agency uses this to monitor the whereabouts of its personnel, enabling their command center to dispatch the relevant authorities in the event that one of its personnel is in trouble. The command center of the Society for the Protection of Nature in Israel, charged with safeguarding and coordinating all field trips of tourist groups, school groups and other hikers, everywhere in Israel, also uses it.
Every organized group that goes out for a hike has a security guard with them and every guard has the SOS app installed on their phones to notify the command center in the event of an emergency. Likewise, it works the other way around and the command center can notify all groups about a hazardous condition, terrorist attack, inclement weather, etc.
NowForce Mobile Responder can be used in conjunction with their CAD C4I or other dispatching system, or as a stand-alone platform using the NowForce Web-based dispatching module, depending on the needs of the department. NowForce emphasizes “they are able to reduce response time and increase situational awareness by transforming standard mobile phones into life-saving networks.” Some customers prefer an on-site installation due to security concerns while others opt for the NowForce secured cloud.
Their NowForce Mobile Responder application addresses the “Last Mile Problem,” the situation created when a fixed resource, CAD, is unable to communicate with an officer who is away from his car or off-duty. The application enables the officer to be included in a planned response in a critical situation and allows responders to instantly communicate with dispatch and access assistance. Responders are tracked in real time, using their GPS-enabled mobile phones.
NowForce uses a SaaS (Software as a Service) model, which utilizes a plug-and-play solution that runs on responders’ existing GPS-enabled mobile phones, and once a department begins to work with NowForce, the only thing the responder needs to do is download the app, with no expensive additional hardware necessary. More importantly, responders are always connected, whether in their car, on foot or even off duty.
NowForce’s solution is modular and depending on the needs of the organization, they can purchase licenses to one or both of the mobile apps, either with or without the dispatcher module. A department with an existing CAD system and only seeking a mobile solution for its first responders can opt for that, whereas a smaller department that can’t afford an expensive CAD can use NowForce as an end-to-end solution.
The solution is affordable for organizations of any size and no additional hardware or software is necessary, so the only cost is the cost of the licenses. NowForce offers a flexible pricing plan with departments paying according to the number of responders, as well as the option to pay via a Software as a Service model or as a one-time perpetual license for an on-site installation.
NowForce’s Mobile Responder uses their Geographical Information System (GIS) Engine to pinpoint where first responders can be reached without actually contacting them and intruding on their time away from the job unless they are needed to respond.
In addition, the GIS system enables dispatch to track responders on their way to an incident and can help provide ETAs to the caller or other responders. Dispatchers can identify the most relevant responders and equipment and the geo-fencing feature enables SOS notifications/alerts if responders enter or exit selected locations.
NowForce enables organizations to optimize incident management. By automating routine tasks, NowForce allows the response team to focus on what really matters. The system distills only the relevant information, for the relevant responder, avoiding information overload.
Imagine an armed robbery scenario requiring a number of police response units—one responder can send a message such as “suspect is armed and dangerous and heading east on Main Street” or snap an image of the suspect and all of the response units (as well as dispatch) will receive that update in real time.
As another example, in a medical trauma, the responder can relay critical data about the patient’s status and whether additional equipment or resources are needed, and everyone involved will be in sync and the dispatcher will have all the information needed to better manage the incident. On-the-scene responders can immediately upload new information about the situation.
David Meyers, CEO of MPD Systems, which represents the Israeli Military Industries in the Federal Republic of Nigeria, has for the past six years been managing a large-scale security project out of Port Harcourt, Rivers State, Nigeria’s premier oil export hub. They were tasked with finding a security solution for very high levels of kidnapping, armed robbery, and other violent crimes affecting commerce and investment.
Nigeria’s poor infrastructure caused poor electrical power supply and transportation issues, making for difficulty in proper command and dispatch. Police reaction time was therefore irrelevant to most crimes in terms of prevention or interference. They made a quick decision after seeing NowForce’s presentation and gave selected banks that were prone to repeated armed robberies NowForce SOS devices, and patrol vehicles were fitted with iPads running NowForce to respond.
They were able to manage a heavily armed response time of seven minutes within the first month in a city of 6 million people and very heavy traffic congestion. They quickly expanded their NowForce presence. They had a great tool not only for managing security events, but for collection and analysis of data.
Meyers reported, “NowForce has been a wonderful partner to work with and has supported us the whole time with their experts able to solve most bugs overnight by remote access. They have visited us several times in Nigeria and are involved in our expansion with this product.”
Ping4, Inc., developed an early warning system, Ping4Alerts!, allowing community subscribers to receive instant, real-time notifications from law enforcement or other public safety officials using their smartphone or other mobile device with cellular, WiFi and/or GPS connectivity.
Localized warnings can be sent to citizens, allowing them to stay away from potentially dangerous situations such as natural disasters, serious accidents or crime scenes. Businesses can also notify customers who request specific information based on the requestor’s proximity and needs.
Subscribers download the free Ping4alerts! app and select their areas of interest, turning on the location-based services that allow them to receive alerts anywhere in the world. When the user enters or exits a “geofence,” the device instantly retries any relevant notifications.
The default setting is for emergency alerts unless customers purposely turn it off. The default for business settings is off, but the receiver can turn it on, allowing the subscriber to control the information received. Customers use a search engine for information and the search engine works anywhere in the world. CEO Jim Bender pointed out if you were in India and needed a dentist, the app will provide you with the 10 closest ones.
Emergency service agencies purchase a license to send out alerts in their area and the agencies then typically notify the media by holding a press conference. When the Governor of Massachusetts made his announcement, 50,000 citizens downloaded the application within days.
Ping4Alerts! is unique in three ways, according to CEO Bender. The alert is highly localized, so much so that the alert could go to one room in a particular building, or it could be sent to a 10-mile section of highway, with a high degree of precision. For instance, police could use an alert for a 500-foot-wide section of interstate, 10 miles long, and the alert can be any shape.
The rich multimedia alert can include videos, websites, audios, custom audio files, text messages or any combination. In addition, it is highly customizable and authorities can transmit a highly localized alert into each part of the affected area, with different messages for different distances from the problem.
Subscribers are not required to give the authorities any information in order to receive the alerts and the sender does not need to know anything about the person receiving the alert. This reduces concerns of people suspicious about providing information to authorities and 9-1-1 is often not complete because many people have given up their land lines and only have mobile access.
Chief Ross Atstupenas, Blackstone, Mass. Police, stated they made their community aware of the Ping4Alert! app by newspaper, local cable access stations, department website and Facebook. Chief Atstupenas noted, “One benefit Ping4 provides over other services is the signup process is not community-specific.
When someone downloads the app, they will get notifications for whatever community they are in at the time.” He stated they believe the software will prove useful in alerting the community in cases of road closures, natural or man-made disasters, potential flooding, missing persons, and a plethora of other incidents.
SafeTown is InterAct’s connection between the transmitting agency and the community via a community Web portal and a family of smartphone apps. Their Household Profile app allows citizens to provide important information specific to their home to emergency responders, such as an autistic child who may hide in a certain area of the home, a visually impaired person with a service animal, or an elderly person with an oxygen tank.
The Community Alerts App allows agencies to publish information from their CAD to notify the public and the Report a Problem app is information flow in the other direction, from the citizens to the police to report non-emergency situations such as suspicious activity or traffic dangers.
The Crime Mapping app shows historical incidents and crime patterns, valuable information for Neighborhood Watches. The Jail Information app provides inmate information to the public, lessening calls to the jail and freeing up valuable resources. The Pulse Point Foundation partnered with SafeTown with their Cardiac Response app, which locates people in the immediate area trained in CPR to allow them to respond to nearby cardiac emergencies.
Steve McDade, Anderson County, SC 911 Director reported they use both InterAct and SafeTown. They used InterAct’s CAD for quite some time, and found SafeTown a natural fit. They did community outreach in schools, churches, and other public gatherings and worked with their local media to get the word out about SafeTown.
He stated, “SafeTown has provided our responders and community with a sense of situational awareness we never had prior to its launch. The community is able to access real-time information to make educated decisions and the response community has information at its fingertips that truly can be the difference in life or death.”
Kathy Marks has been a child abuse investigator for 30 years. She teaches classes regarding domestic terrorism and is a previous contributor to LAW and ORDER Magazine. She can be reached at email@example.com.