Published on 24-Apr-2012
"With the instant communication capabilities in IBM Sametime, we can resolve issues in minutes instead of hours." - Juan Ortiz, Emergency Management Coordinator, City of Fort Worth
The City of Fort Worth
Mobile, Smarter Planet, Social Business Framework
Smarter Cities, Smarter Government, Smarter Public Safety
IBM Business Partner:
Fort Worth’s Joint Emergency Operations Center (JEOC) is responsible for facilitating rapid responses to natural disasters and other emergencies. Its command center coordinates more than 40 first-responder agencies from the city, county and surrounding counties, and up to 100 emergency personnel—from command, fire, police, medical, aviation and even city maintenance departments—to respond to crises.
Enabling first responders to communicate with each other in real time to anticipate and respond faster to emergency situations based on fully informed decision making
Removing unnecessary boundaries, individuals now form networks and capture knowledge from multiple sources, enabling emergency personnel to make better decisions and solve pressing problems quickly. By delivering real-time intelligence to decision makers and first responders, the City of Fort Worth increased situational awareness by providing multimodal communication channels. Subsequently, reduced emergency response times increased interaction and decision making among multiple agencies.
Delivered real-time intelligence to decision makers and first responders, Increased situational awareness by providing multimodal communication channels, Reduced emergency response times by speeding interaction and decision making among multiple agencies, Provided project cost savings by reducing the number of physical radios needed in the center by 80 percent, Provides a cost-effective path to add more interagency capabilities
Combining unified communications with radio communications
After evaluating several approaches, the City of Fort Worth selected IBM® Sametime® software and the RadioConnect" plug-in for it developed by IBM Business Partner UnifiedEdge. IBM Sametime is a platform for unified communications that supports integrated, real-time delivery of voice, data and video through desktop computers. Multimodal communication channels, including instant messaging, enable fast decision making and help emergency responders coordinate activities quickly. "With the instant communication capabilities in IBM Sametime, we can resolve issues in minutes instead of hours," says Ortiz.
RadioConnect is an implementation of the Emergency Response Management project in the IBM Government Industry Framework, which provides a scalable architecture to accommodate needs. The IBM Sametime plug-in uses radio-over-IP technology so emergency workers can monitor and talk on multiple radio channels while sitting at desktop PCs. At the JEOC, just a few radios are connected to specialized hardware gateways that digitize audio for capture and transmission, and instead of expensive radios, staff use cost-effective desktop computers equipped with headsets.
The city worked closely with IBM and UnifiedEdge teams for six months to deploy the new solution. By the week of the 2011 Super Bowl, the new infrastructure was ready to serve as many as 168 people, with 70 simultaneous users.
Delivering real-time intelligence to decision makers and first responders
The solution’s real-time intelligence capabilities were demonstrated during its first week in operation. When a large water main broke on a high-speed approach to the stadium while 40 buses of NFL players and guests were en route, officials in several agencies collaborated to get the water main fixed while keeping traffic moving without disruption to the sporting event.
Coordinating communication among emergency teams
The solution continues to connect people to expertise at the JEOC. With improved operational awareness, team members can contact the right person immediately. For example, a dispatcher in the command center can speak directly with paramedics en route to the scene of an accident, while a public works employee can inform paramedics of traffic conditions and a hospital representative can divert the ambulance to the most appropriate emergency room.
The new solution helps ensure that public safety and emergency communications remain secure from outside interference. Unlike traditional radio communications, it limits communications to the first-responder network so that potentially sensitive information is restricted to appropriate parties.
There has been significant noise reduction in the command center. "The 60 people in the facility can now stay focused because the environment is quiet," says Ortiz. Personnel also have a more reliable infrastructure than before. "There is less traffic on our network now," says Ortiz. "We know that we can keep communication channels open in emergency situations."
Cutting project costs by reducing the amount of radio equipment needed by 80 percent
The goal of this project was to increase communication and collaboration capability. Emergency management personnel and first responders live on radios. Delivering this radio communication need inside the center so that "everyone" could listen was not economically feasible and not desirable from the simple aspect of noise and corresponding disruption that comes with the delivery of physical radios.
With UnifiedEdge’s RadioConnect soft radio client, the JEOC was able to deliver radio channels to each of the 100 workstations inside the center. This effort provided project cost savings by reducing the number of physical radios needed in the center by 80 percent. Likewise, had this effort been delivered with physical radios, project costs could have reached US$1 million for the purchase of the necessary equipment. This cost savings, or avoidance, likely resulted in a lower overall project cost to the City or was redirected to ensure other key JEOC items could be acquired.
Promoting interoperability among city departments and other regional agencies
In the future, the City of Fort Worth plans to extend JEOC staff communications to a broad array of federal government agencies, while also adding new capabilities such as automated alerts, group chat and videoconferencing.
"We can easily extend this solution to people and mobile devices in the field at a reasonable cost," says Carter. "This technology is removing boundaries between key decision makers and increasing our responsiveness when citizens are most in need."
By removing unnecessary boundaries, the solution is helping the City of Fort Worth reap the benefits of being what IBM defines as a "social business." Individuals now form networks, share information and capture knowledge and insights from multiple sources" which ultimately allows emergency personnel to make better decisions and solve pressing problems quickly and efficiently.
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Products and services used
IBM products and services that were used in this case study.
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