IBM (NYSE: IBM) is helping emergency responders in Fort Worth and Tarrant County’s joint emergency operations center (JEOC) better respond to calls for help and communicate instantaneously with dozens of agencies and departments right across Texas.
Fort Worth and Tarrant County are two of the fastest growing jurisdictions in Texas with about 1.8 million residents. Using social software from IBM and its business partner, UnifiedEdge, the region is rapidly creating a “smarter” and modern public safety system to serve its growing population.
Effective emergency response requires multiple government and non-government agencies working together. With the new social software, RadioConnect™ for Sametime, Fort Worth and Tarrant County’s JEOC can communicate with public service agencies including police, firefighters, healthcare providers and government officials to address emergency situations and other events.
The new software helps emergency management integrate push-to-talk radio, cellular telephony, and text messaging (including text documents and file sharing), with the response center’s IP telephony infrastructure to coordinate immediate response and aide regardless of the communications technology being used.
“The City of Fort Worth and Tarrant County are using social technologies to solve real problems and emergencies,” said Jeff Schick, vice president, social software, IBM. “The ability to quickly locate issues and find expertise, especially with agencies that don’t regularly interact, is vital for creating cities that are smarter, more responsive and safe.”
Social Software Powers the Super Bowl and Beyond
The new social software was put to test in February 2011 when more than 40 agencies and departments helped the City of Fort Worth and Tarrant County to manage security-related tasks for the week leading up to Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, Texas.
Participants from the 40-plus agencies included city and county departments, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the American Red Cross and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The contact list of more than 290 officials and constant availability of more than 30 Radio-over-IP channels provided instant communication and awareness across all levels of government and emergency management resulting in physical security and improved public safety.
A massive winter storm, unusual for the area, had struck the Dallas-Forth Worth region the week prior to the big game. The emergency response center responded to the crisis by calling for full activation of the new center three days earlier than scheduled. With minimal training and familiarity of the recently installed software, the coordinating departments and agencies began assessing the emergency and setting priorities to tackle the issues. Despite the weather, the new social software helped the emergency response center coordinate all of the activities surrounding the Super Bowl with minimal delay, including planning, operations, logistics, city management, and community services.
“We now work hand-in-hand with county and state public safety organizations during emergency situations and events like the Super Bowl to communicate faster and more efficiently with field personnel and public safety agencies,” said Juan Ortiz, Emergency Management Coordinator for the City of Fort Worth’s Office of Emergency Management. “Our new command center is now highly organized and the residents of Texas are safer thanks to the collaboration with IBM and UnifiedEdge.”
The Tarrant County Office of Emergency Management agrees.
“We can easily gather information, find the persons or agencies most appropriate to help and respond, and quickly direct them to exactly where they are needed,” according to Melissa Patterson, Emergency Management Coordinator for the Tarrant County Office of Emergency Management.
Emergency management facilities typically use hundreds of radios, which increases background noise and mis-communication due to radio interference. RadioConnect for Sametime allows operators and employees to receive radio calls directly from desktop computers, virtually eliminating these issues. Sametime instant messaging software allows users to communicate with an individual, group or team. RadioConnect provides the group communication capability of IP-enabled radio directly into IBM Sametime or over a network or internet portal.
“The social software will help the JEOC improve response times during emergencies, while saving tens of thousands of dollars on equipment costs,” said Steve White, CEO of UnifiedEdge, an Austin-based IBM Advanced Business Partner. “It allowed the municipality to use past investments – radio equipment, PBX platforms and email systems – to further increase ROI.”
RadioConnect for Sametime has been validated as part of the IBM Government Industry Framework and has been ported to the IBM collaboration solutions software stack for government-specific applications. RadioConnect supports multiple deployment configurations, including WebSphere Portal and has built-in voice platform features such as group call and alerts.
IBM Sametime with RadioConnect will continue to be fully deployed throughout the county in the coming months. For more information about this social software from IBM and Unified Edge, please visit http://www.unifiededgeinc.com/radioconnect.html