The following is an article from the latest issue of Connection magazine. In this piece, we take a look at how Location Services are a crucial asset for organizations both in daily operations and emergency situations.
Being able to track where key people and assets are at a moment’s notice is an important part of normal operations – and during emergencies it can mean the difference between life and death. Organizations must also ensure they plan ahead for different emergency scenarios.
When something goes wrong, every moment is crucial. Having a plan in place and knowing how to implement it creates confidence.
“I want [our customers] to be prepared for anything – whether it’s a natural or man-made event. I want to have preplanned it. I want to understand what my options are and have the infrastructure prepared to be able to support that.” – Kevin Sumrell, Avtec’s Vice President of Sales for Energy Markets.
GPS give responders and companies an edge during – and leading up to – emergencies. These systems help companies inventory, secure, or relocate valuable assets in the face of impending natural disasters.
During events, mission-critical communications, up-to-the-instant insights on mobile crews and vehicles locations, as well as instant communication with first responders all allow for a best-case allocation of resources and safety protocols.
In 2015, three technology partners – Tait Communications, Avtec, and Tallysman™ – launched an integrated solution to provide enhanced situational awareness for workforce and asset tracking. This solution, EnableLocation™, is powered by Tait and builds on Avtec Scout™ console technology with the Tallysman™ TruFleet® Solution to deliver radio-over-IP connectivity through trunked networks, including the Harris P25 system.
This integrated solution allows workers in the field to focus on the immediate situation – they no longer have to manually call in locations. For law enforcement, this is a strong benefit, especially during events such as highspeed pursuits.
Mike Ridge, Director of Strategic Alliances for Avtec, says, “If someone presses the panic button on their radio, we want to be able to find them quickly. So being able to have location or last-known location displayed alongside the voice communication resource is really helpful.”
“Disaster preparation technology can also benefit organizations during non-crises by increasing worker safety and improving efficiency, by analyzing patterns of data – such as telemetry – returned by systems such as EnableLocation,” said Ridge.
“Organizations are beginning to recognize the value of data, not only for improving safety, but also for efficiency purposes. They might gather data from various sources to try to make their operation more efficient… and location is one of the first things they gather.”
At Talquin Electric Cooperative, in Quincy, Florida, a recent location services implementation has improved both worker safety and efficiency. Talquin Electric’s 190 workers and 110 vehicles provide water, wastewater, and electric services that cover 2,600 square miles (6,733 square kilometers) across four counties in Northwest Florida.
Tracy Bensley, General Manager of Talquin, said their nearly 30-year-old radio system was no longer reliable. They sought to improve signal coverage and take advantage of the latest digital mobile radio features, such as GPS, which were not available with their legacy system.
“When you got into the outskirts of our territory, there were certain areas where we couldn’t get a signal at all,” Bensley said. The degradation of the service had happened over time – especially since narrow-banding – leaving them with just one usable channel for all three departments. “Not having multiple channels to use was a big problem,” she said.
David Kennedy, Communications Coordinator at Talquin, said they needed the flexibility of more channels for dispatch. “… [we wanted] two or three conversations going on, not interfering with each other. We wanted a repeated system and we wanted to have communications interoperability with other utilities and public safety agencies if it ever came to that,” he said.
Talquin selected the Tait DMR Tier 3 solution with five sites, 107 mobile radios, and 60 portable radios. Dispatchers can instantly see the location of vehicles on their Avtec Scout consoles for rapid dispatch in both day-to-day operations and emergencies.
Rachel Paramore, Team Lead Dispatcher at Talquin, said the system has improved employee safety. “If they are out working by themselves, they can set the Lone-Man Working button, and if there’s a safety concern, we will contact them.”
“And it has the GPS on the portable radios they can carry on their side. If something happens, we can get hold of them immediately – or know their location. And the clarity is so much crisper now,” she said.
Partnered with local wireless provider Williams Communications, Talquin’s new system uses the DMR open standard, leaving it capable of growth and expansion for future technologies.
“The software-centric nature of IP, and the ability to interface to multiple technologies simultaneously, really affords us the opportunity to be future-proof and allows us to evolve with technology,” said Sumrell.
Improving safety and situational awareness is a priority for many companies and public entities. The public is also increasingly concerned about safety and vulnerabilities in light of world events. More can be done to assist and prepare first responders and infrastructure providers.