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MIR3™’s products mean efficient notifications for first responders
First responders are always looking for better and more efficient ways to communicate with each other and the general public amid a terrorist attack or natural disaster. MIR3™’s easy-to-use mass notification platform gives responders another tool to make that process smoother, more efficient and trackable.
The company, based in San Diego, has developed a system that enables a single user to contact and communicate with thousands of people around the globe almost instantly. MIR3 has been in the notification business since 1999 and has more than 5,000 customers, consisting of the Fortune 500; Global 2000 companies; colleges and universities; and local, state and federal government entities. First responder agencies make up about 15 percent of MIR3’s clients, said Ken Dixon, executive vice president of MIR3.
First responders can rapidly reach everyone and get an actionable response with MIR3’s mass notification platform. With two-way communication abilities, MIR3’s Intelligent Notifications not only get messages delivered, but also allow recipients to respond. This can provide real-time updates to and from a variety of modalities, including mobile phones, landlines, PDAs, e-mails, pagers, TTY, fax, text messages (SMS) and other devices.
Because the products were originally developed for business continuity technology, the developers had to make the system relatively complicated. But when they branched into first response and other arenas, they saw a need to make the interface and intelligent notification process a lot simpler so everyone would immediately know how to use it. Now it takes 10 seconds to send a notification, according to Dixon.
A common use for the technology by first responders is for callouts. For example, if an organization has 100 people trained for a river rescue but only three responders are needed, Dixon said the system will start going down the list of qualified people until it gets three affirmative responses. Then it will stop contacting people. “It gives you the ability to get the resources you need quickly, but you don’t get extraneous resources,” Dixon said.
Additionally, if a contact’s device of choice is unavailable, MIR3’s system escalates messages to the next device or person on the escalation list. Real-time reporting gives users peace of mind knowing that messages are being received and delays and miscommunication are being avoided. “The system is smart enough; if you don’t respond on a cell phone, it calls you on your landline,” Dixon said. “It’s persistent.”
During a crisis situation, the technology can be used as a whiteboard, providing real-time communication for control centers and personnel in the field. “Notification is sent to a URL, so every time you hit return, you can see not only what you are doing, but you can see what other members of first response are doing,” Dixon said. “The really great thing about it is that in the post-event analysis, you have a chronological record of the event.”
For police or fire agencies to be able to contact residents, a registration page is set up online. Then the agency advertises to the citizens, and each individual who wants to receive notification signs up. Dixon said this is a much better way to obtain information versus going through a telephone carrier, because people supply their mobile phone numbers as well as e-mail addresses, and everything is current. If, for example, there is a fire at someone’s home, having his cellular phone is obviously more helpful than having his home phone number in the system.
When contacting the public or employees, rapidly notifying the masses for any situation completes only half the task. With MIR3’s real-time notification and alerting technology, users are equipped with up-to-the-second information regarding message status. Confirmations are quickly retrieved via reports or a GIS mapping system.
Each person who says he needs help shows up as a dot on a map, Dixon said. It can be difficult for responders to make a decision about who to help next. If you see a lot of dots in one area, that is where you send the resources. The GIS mapping system also helps first responders make decisions on which personnel are closest to the scene.
Unlike similar products, MIR3’s solution is the only one that includes the ability for a notification recipient to respond with a voicemail or text message, rather than just picking from a list of options using a telephone keypad or keyboard. The recipient can leave a voicemail up to three minutes long or send a freeform text message. “[With] a recorded response, you can hear the urgency in their voice and background noise, so there’s a lot more information to be garnered,” Dixon said.
One available feature that is great for first responders is the translation capabilities of the system. The MIR3 notification and alerting systems will deliver a message in the recipient’s chosen language. So if a fire department is sending out a warning about wildfires in a largely Hispanic area, residents can choose to hear the message in their native language, thereby expediting the notification process.
MIR3 Technology works with almost every existing software application containing contact information or organization continuity plans. The IN product line integrates with enterprise applications or databases using Web Services (SOAP 2.3). MIR3’s effective configuration files ensure that your current systems will continue to perform at the expected levels.
MIR3’s entry level systems start at $10,000. According to Dixon, these systems aren’t just for large agencies with larger budgets. “It’s all up and down the food chain size-wise,” he said.
The biggest difference between the entry level systems and the higher-end counterparts is that the cheaper systems don’t have the GIS interface. Also, the more expensive systems are able to departmentalize their users, so not every person with access to the system can see what everyone else is doing. This access control is good for large agencies where officers have different security clearances.
Also, to make communications more secure, many of the MIR3 operations are password and PIN validation protected to ensure the safety of an organization’s information. MIR3 implements rigorous security measures at all levels, protecting all facets of customer information.
“The big thing is that this is a very mature market,” Dixon said. “Everybody’s solution has become really bulletproof. And for first responders, people’s lives depend on it. The one thing that we’re confident of, when [a crisis] happens, is that the system will perform and take care of the people.”
Before using MIR3’s automated solutions, San Francisco’s Disaster Medical Assistance Team (DMAT CA-6) had 12 people making calls to 100–150 volunteers to help during disasters. This took the coordinators an average of six hours to notify the volunteers and determine their availability.
Now, the MIR3 inGovAlert system allows team members to alert and obtain responses in a fraction of the time, which means a quicker response to state and federal disasters and fewer personnel being tied up calling people for hours.
The features of this product include rich API, automated escalation, integrated incident management, topic subscription, recipient self-administration and notification initiation to multiple modalities.
Candy Phelps is a freelance writer and the former managing editor of Public Safety IT Magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos courtesy of MIR3.
Published in Public Safety IT, May/Jun 2010
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