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An AED Doesn’t Work If It’s Left On The Wall

February 5, 2016

claire1Claire Crawford is a 17 year old high school senior who, thanks to early CPR and an automated external defibrillators (AED), will live to graduate later this year. Fortunately, for her, she collapsed on the volleyball court in the middle of a match at her school, where several staff members trained in CPR and the use of an AED were in attendance, and an AED was hanging on a nearby wall. Watch the video of her collapse and rescue here.

But what if Claire had collapsed elsewhere, such as at home, behind the wheel of a car, or on a remote hike in Central America from where she had recently returned? Quite simply, she would have died.

As a former paramedic and EMS administrator, I can share with you firsthand that if a cardiac arrest victim hasn’t received bystander CPR by the time we arrive, the outcome isn’t good. The brain suffers irreversible damage after being without oxygen for about 4 or 6 minutes. Even the best of CPR is generally not enough on its own to “bring someone back.” Electricity through the administration of an AED is, in most cases of sudden cardiac arrest, the only thing that can reverse the electrical disturbance in the heart. You might be thinking, “Great! I’ll be fine. There are AEDs everywhere now.”

defibWhile it’s true we have seen a surge in the number of “public access” defibrillation programs in high density and other high-risk locations – schools, airports, casinos, fitness clubs, and shopping malls – it isn’t quite so straightforward.

AEDs are exceptionally easy to use, even by the lay rescuer with minimal or no training. Once powered on, the device talks the rescuer through each step to assist the victim. The trouble is, without tight coordination with local EMS and 9-1-1, many of these devices have gone unused, even when the cardiac arrest victim is step away from an AED.

Why is that?

In a public setting, the first witness to a cardiac arrest often has no affiliation with that location. Even if they do, they still might be unfamiliar with onsite procedures, AED locations, and the like. To further complicate the matter, even if the local 9-1-1 center is aware of the location of a nearby AED (which is generally not the case), typically they don’t have the capability of notifying onsite responders who can arrive at the victim’s side much faster than local fire and EMS responders can.

chainofsurvivalAt Rave, we address these gaps in the Chain of Survival of out-of-hospital cardiac arrest, from a few different directions.

Through Smart911Facility, a component of our Smart911 application, the 9-1-1 call taker can receive immediate information about the location of nearby AEDs.

Rave Panic Button, another application that ties into Smart911, gives authorized employees at a location the ability to connect with 9-1-1 and immediately notify their coworkers of the location and nature of the emergency they are witnessing through a single button press. Through Smart911, 9-1-1 call takers also can deliver a rapid notification to onsite employees at a facility that uses Rave Panic Button, to allow them to initiate an onsite response. All of these capabilities combine to make for a fully integrated approach to cardiac arrest response, not to mention any other type of emergency.

February is American Heart Month, with a goal of preventing 1 million heart attacks and strokes by 2017. So, what can you do as an employee, a parent, first responder or 9-1-1 telecommunicator to participate and even strengthen the Chain of Survival?

  • Prevention is the first step. Know your blood pressure, take medications as prescribed, quit smoking, exercise regularly, and reduce sodium intake.
  • Recognize the early warning signs of heart attack and stroke.
  • Get trained in hands-only CPR and the use of an AED.
  • Become a champion at your workplace – encourage your employer to train employees in CPR and purchase an AED. Work with local first responders to help establish an internal response team, and practice the response plan frequently, until it becomes second nature. Eliminate single points of failure in the plan. For example, don’t keep the AED in a locked office that only one or two people have access to.
  • Learn more about how the capabilities of Smart911, Rave Panic Button, and Smart911Facility can strengthen the Chain of Survival in your community and in your workplace by clicking here and ask your employer and local officials to do the same.

The next person who goes into cardiac arrest will be thankful that you did.

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Is 9-1-1 Still the Number To Call in an Emergency?

February 4, 2016

Over the past few years, technology has transformed entire industries – from Uber’s rewriting the rules for the ride-for-hire industry, to AirBnb’s impact on the short term rental market, to GPS-based mobile apps that provide directions and nearby restaurant recommendations (putting a huge dent in my duties as my wife’s personal OnStar). This same transformation is coming to emergency communications. The big question is how to reconcile the new communications technologies with robust, proven response processes and protocols. In the end, a key question is if 9-1-1 is still the number to call in an emergency.

emergencyOf course we in the emergency communications industry know the answer is a resounding yes, but I would not hold it against any consumer for thinking otherwise given the increasing “buzz” around smartphone apps that profess to improve emergency response by actually side stepping the 9-1-1 system. Whether a phone app that calls a third party center which then relays a call to a PSAP, an app that dials a local law enforcement center’s 10-digit line instead of 911, or an app that “calls 911” via a 10-digit line routed through a VOIP-positioning center – the reality is that consumers are increasingly being bombarded with a message contrary to the message to “dial 9-1-1 in an emergency” that the industry has spent years cultivating. Further, many of these solutions put an expectation on PSAPs to modify their protocols to accommodate their commercial solution (we all know who will get blamed if something doesn’t work). As Trey Forgety, NENA Government Affairs Director, writes in the Winter 2016 edition of The Call magazine, “a truly universal means of contacting emergency services, regardless of location or affiliation, is preferable… it will become increasingly tempting to opt for quick-and-dirty fixes. Together, however, we have the power to make sure that this dystopian view of future 9-1-1 systems never comes to fruition.”

What is that “dystopian view”? Imagine a caller trying to figure out which app to use to call for help based on their location. Is this supported here? Am I supposed to use my dialer to call 9-1-1? Ooopps… don’t have internet here, I better call 9-1-1 directly now. On the call taking side, you are left trying to interpret call types or special fields and invoke custom processes that are rarely used. That is “dystopian” and a recipe for disaster.

Unlike these “end around” means of contacting emergency services, 9-1-1 system providers are accountable to regulators (one need look no further than the massive fines handed out by the FCC last year as proof), 9-1-1 is ubiquitous and understood by consumers (“911” is perennially one of the most recognized brands), and PSAPs have proven processes for managing emergency calls for service. Additionally, while there is clearly lots to be done to improve indoor location accuracy, and accelerated the adoption of NG911 so that we can better support new call types, the 9-1-1 system is far more reliable and robust than most commercial communication technologies (any Skype user can attest to this fact). The reality is that many commercial technologies upon which these new entries to the public safety market depend, are not designed for the highly availability and fault tolerance necessary for a life critical service. Opening your Google Maps app and waiting for it to hone in on your location is great for navigation, but the time required to fetch an accurate location can seem an eternity while someone is facing a life or death emergency. The current emergency communication architecture, and the improvements being actively worked on by the industry as a whole, have things like redundant location gathering methods and extremely short call set up times as core requirements (meaning – when you dial 9-1-1, there is no delay in the call being connected).

Roger Hixson, NENA Technical Issues Director, refers in the same edition of The Call magazine, to technological disruption “leading to the non-integrated world that predated the adoption of 9-1-1… apps need to be used in conjunction with NG9-1-1, not to partially or completely bypass it.” I couldn’t agree more. We need to work together to help secure the necessary funding and political support to accelerate NG9-1-1 adoption.
9-1-1 is and should be the basis of emergency communications. We have invested countless hours working in NG9-1-1 working groups and committees to help design a robust system that addresses the changing communication preferences and technologies of today’s consumers while providing PSAPs with unique capabilities that provide them flexibility and unique tools under the umbrella of vetted operational and technical standards. In the end, this collaboration both enables innovation while also ensuring the appropriate system robustness.

At Rave, our applications are designed to augment the existing 9-1-1 system and are proven to inter-operate with both E911 and NG911 systems – our Smart911 system touches nearly 10% of calls in the country, Rave Guardian is the most widely deployed campus safety app, and Rave Panic Button is used to connect users at schools and other critical infrastructure settings directly to 9-1-1 while also notifying key on-site personnel. We work with agencies to integrate our solutions into their processes, and make contractual agreements around liability and availability of the solution. We look forward to adding even more capabilities and products and PSAPs come online with NG9-1-1 and the associated enabling architectures in those systems

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Looking Backward and Forward at “Panic Button” Technologies and Requirements

January 27, 2016

The first month of a new year is a natural time to look back at what was learned and look forward to opportunities for applying your hard-won knowledge. Sometimes you change direction, but hopefully you did a few things right over the past year and look to “double-down” on those activities in the coming year.

panic1blogpostThis year, our retrospective included Rave Panic Button. This is an area of great growth for Rave’s public safety platform. In reviewing our original understanding of the challenges faced by our clients, we feel the guiding principles we established when first developing this product continue to hold up, even while supporting thousands of new Rave Panic Button sites, including a state-wide deployment.

2015 was a break-out year for the panic-button solution category, and we expect interest to grow further. Consequently we expect many public and private organizations will spend 2016 evaluating such technologies to better protect the health and safety of employees, customers, students, patients, and visitors.

If your organization’s New Year’s resolutions include improving safety and security, we encourage you to consider what we at Rave believe panic button solutions must do to effectively serve a community:

  • Active Assailant Situations are high intensity and short duration. Good safety technology must embrace this:
    • On-site personnel must be immediately notified so response plans can be put into motion without delay.
    • The selected technology must be easy to use and work from any device. Make sure you consider those that rely on landlines or non-smart (a.k.a. “feature-phone”) devices.
    • checklistMost facilities are not castles. Even incidents identified “off-campus” can present a threat to your community. How might you be able to stay ahead of this?
    • 60% of active shooter incidents are over before police arrive. Therefore 9-1-1 will be in charge during the event. They must have the information and tools to coordinate the right response.
    •  The tools provided to public safety must fit seamlessly within existing 9-1-1 workflows and technology. You cannot expect adherence to a non-standard process during a high-intensity event.
  • Good safety technology must support all health and safety incidents. Fortunately, active assailant incidents are rare when compared to other daily health and safety needs.
  • Good safety technologies should bring schools, hospitals, businesses, places of worship closer to 9-1-1 and first responders through the selection, deployment and use of the solution.

This year, we are excited to have new Rave Panic Button features under development. If you are a client, we look forward to improve your safety with this new technology and getting your continued feedback. If you are not yet a client, I hope this list helps. And I am always available to speak with you to better understand your needs, answer questions, or get general feedback..

Best wishes for a happy, healthy, and safe new year!

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What are you overlooking during your emergency notification system evaluation?

January 20, 2016

ENS1Over the past few years, Emergency Notification Systems (ENS) have evolved from simple alerting to comprehensive communication systems that integrate phones, mobile devices, email, social media, alarms, and many more communication channels.

ENS now intersect and interact with national weather and emergency systems. They are no longer used for only emergencies. Many institutions leverage emergency notification systems for internal alerting during non- emergency situations. With the latest capabilities, alerts aren’t always blasted out to the entire system. Instead, administrators can segment audiences to ensure the right person is getting the right message at the right time.

When evaluating mass notification systems, a lot of time and effort focuses on system up-time and capacity. Indeed, those metrics are critical to any decision, and many vendors won’t pass that test. However, beyond that first level of analysis, a number of overlooked areas can determine why notification systems, not just the technology – but the system of notifying people of an incident — succeed or fail.


One of the emergency notification evaluation areas I want to highlight today is process.

Lack of clearly defined processes often lies at the heart of emergency notification issues. Fuzzy approval criteria or poorly defined lines of authority can result in a delay, or ambiguous message content can contribute to confusion.

Implementing a sound ENS process includes:

brain• Document clearly defined roles. Identify who can send alerts and what approvals are required. Within your emergency notification system, take the time to set up the proper privileges for your users.

• Establish criteria. Determine which types of notifications are sent to which groups of individuals in what time frames. Separate your management and operations into distinct notification groups.

• Create templates. Whether there is an active shooter or campus closing for a snowstorm, a template lets an administrator send out an alert fast. Pre-created templates develop consistency and make it easy to send accurate communications in highly stressful situations.

ENS_AREAS to ConsiderA clearly defined process is one of 6 overlooked criteria highlighted in the white paper, “Emergency Notification Systems Evaluation: 6 Overlooked Areas to Consider.”

As you implement or upgrade your emergency mass notification system, reduce the likelihood of a failure by considering the entire spectrum of issues in Rave’s full guide here.

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National Stalking Awareness Month

January 11, 2016

stalking111Today, there is heavy focus on campus safety, particularly on the threat of active shooters.  In January during National Stalking Awareness Month, we are asked to take a step back and focus on another threat to college students: stalking.

The statistics are shocking. 7.5 million people are stalked each year in the United States. About half of all stalking victims are under the age of 25.

According to a recent Centers for Disease Control Report, the most commonly reported stalker tactics include:

  • Approaching the victim or showing up in places when the victim didn’t want them to be there;
  • Making unwanted telephone calls
  • Leaving the victim unwanted messages (text or voice)
  • Watching or following the victim from a distance
  • Spying on the victim with a listening device, camera, or global positioning system

Given that the highest rate of stalking occurs with 18-24 year-olds, college students can take the following steps to improve their safety:

Stalking Safety Tips:

  • Trust your instincts. If you’re somewhere that doesn’t feel safe, either find ways to make it safer, or leave.
  • Vary your routines, including changing routes to work, school, the grocery store, and other places you frequent regularly. Limit time spent alone and try to shop at different stores and visit different bank branches
  • stalking22If possible, have a phone nearby at all times. If you have a smart phone, download the Rave Guardian app. The Rave Guardian app lets you notify people you trust to check in on you if you are alone or in an unfamiliar place. You can easily communicate with those you trust within the app and you can call safety officials directly for help.
  • Treat all threats, direct and indirect, as legitimate and inform law enforcement immediately.
  • Consider obtaining a protective order against the stalker. Some states offer stalking protective orders and other victims may be eligible for protective orders under their state’s domestic violence statutes.

Stalking is one of the few crimes where early intervention can prevent death. Remember to trust your instincts and rely on those you trust for help. Use the above safety tips to remain safe on campus and call Campus Safety or 9-1-1 in an emergency.

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A Look Back: Top 5 Emergency Communications Trends of 2015

December 29, 2015

It’s that time of year when we look back at the past year and forward to the next. To understand where we are going, it’s helpful to look at the road we’ve already traveled. In that spirit, here is a look back at the Top 5 Trends that had the biggest impact on Emergency communications in 2015.

20156Costly Failures. 9-1-1 needs to work. This message was heard loud and clear by service providers when earlier this year, the FCC doled out fines totaling more than $20 million to Verizon Communications Inc., CenturyLink Inc. and Intrado Inc.. No technology is perfect, and occasionally issues happen, but the FCC’s aggressive response clearly showed that our public safety communication infrastructure needs not only redundancy at all steps but rigorous process and timely notification and visibility into corrective actions. As the industry moves to enhance networks, software and processes we can’t lose site of the difference between the cost of a consumer application not working and a public safety service not working. If an app “locks up”, a data connection drops, or a 10-digit call fails, we simply try again. We don’t really know or care why it didn’t work. It is simply a minor annoyance. It’s more than a minor annoyance when lives are at stake. 9-1-1 is different. It needs to work and we need to continue the process of continual improvement to build resiliency into the entire emergency call handling chain.  It’s why we tell people to call 9-1-1 and not some other number.

Kari’s Law. While the tragic death of Kari Hunt Dunn was in 2013, 2015 was the year her impact on public safety was most felt. Starting with legislation in Suffolk County, Long Island, it spurred changes in the existing Illinois law, and new legislation in Maryland, Pennsylania, and Texas where it came to the attention of Congressman Louie Gohmert who filed a Bill in the U.S. House of Representatives that would expand on the Texas law requiring direct dialing of 9-1-1 and on-site notification for multi-line telephone systems.  The tireless work of the Hunt family and supporters like FCC Commissioner Pai and Avaya Public Safety Architect Mark Fletcher, ENP resulted in rapid action across the country. While the changes to the MLTS configurations are clearly needed, this event makes my Top 5 list because of the example set in turning a tragic event into trend to solve a “hidden” issue, resulting in untold lives saved in the future.

Location, Location, Location. I grew up with a mom who sold real estate. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve heard about how it is all about location. Well, that is true in 9-1-1 as well, and 2015 was the year the FCC took aggressive action to improve both visibility into the location information being provided to PSAPs as well as the quality of that data (especially indoors). In February 2015, The FCC issued enhanced locations standards. Following on the indoor location roadmap endorsed by NENA, APCO, and the 4 leading wireless carriers in late 2014, the rules drive improved location accuracy for indoor callers over the next 7 years. The carriers, the CTIA and ATIS took quick action in developing standards and moving aggressively towards improving location. While meeting the standards will take a mix of different technologies, an RFP has already been issued for the NEAD (National Emergency Address Database) which will provide location information on WiFi access points – a key part of the indoor location mix. While those of us in public safety always want things to move faster, the reality is that a national roll-out, of a public safety grade solution, done correctly, on the timeline required is an aggressive undertaking and I applaud the FCC for creating consensus and driving the process. Within a short time frame, we will begin to see vast improvements in indoor location accuracy delivered by the carriers to PSAPs.

FirstNet Drives Public Safety Investment.  In December 2015, FirstNet’s board approved the Request for Proposal (RFP) to deploy the nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN) and directed management to take all necessary actions to release the RFP in early January. While this is clearly a huge step towards a first responder network, the work towards defining the NPSBN and the level of momentum sustained by FirstNet is why this made my list for 2015. A by-product of this effort is an increased level of interest and investment in public safety by both the venture capital community and established companies that have traditionally been active in tangential markets (e.g. federal, defense, health care). The level of innovation and resources brought by these companies can only serve to help improve the options we have available to us in providing better service and response to citizens.

Technology Adoption Marches On… and Into Public Safety. According to the CTIA, more than 47 percent of American homes use only cellphones, and 71 percent of people in their late 20s live in households with only cellphone. According to a 2015 Pew Research Center Study, “nearly three-quarters of teens have or have access to a smartphone and 30% have a basic phone, while just 12% of teens 13 to 17 say they have no cell phone of any type”. To improve service and offload the rapidly growing network traffic, the carriers have begun enabling WiFi calling on mobile devices (see this blog post for our WiFi calling to 9-1-1 testing results and implications). Well known to any parent, Pew also reports that Facebook remains the most used social media site among American teens ages 13 to 17 with 71% of all teens using the site, even as half of teens use Instagram and four-in-ten use Snapchat. So what does this mean for PSAPs? Already nearly 10% of the country gets additional data on calls from Smart911, regions are rapidly rolling out NG9-1-1 to facilitate new call types, and despite the worries of many about getting swamped with text messages, texting-to-911 is becoming common place across PSAPs. Social media is also creeping its way into public safety with an increasing number of fusion centers and crime centers actively monitoring social media. As communication trends evolve, so too will our emergency communications capabilities.

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WiFi calling to 911: Testing Results and Implications

December 15, 2015

Recently, mobile carriers began enabling Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) calling on specific devices, where the device is connected to a Wi-Fi access point. Such VoIP calls are placed from the phone’s native dialer, yet are completed over Wi-Fi rather than the carrier’s traditional mobile phone network. Of the “Big 4” TMobile was an early adopter, followed quickly by Sprint and then ATT and Verizon. Each of the carriers has taken a slightly different route to enabling devices on their networks, turning it on different operating systems and specific handsets, but the net results is the same: an increasing portion of calls are being off-loaded from the carriers networks to VoIP. This obviously has benefits to the carriers in reducing costs and load on their networks, but also has significant implications (and benefits) to public safety especially as the number of devices supporting WiFi calling rapidly increases.

Rave Mobile Safety recently worked with select clients to determine what affect mobile VoIP calling to 9-1-1 has on the experience of the 9-1-1 caller and Public Safety Answering Point (PSAP) staff. While not exhaustive, and we continue to refine the testing scenarios, the initial results and some potential implications are listed below.

Initial Findings

• This limited testing demonstrated mobile VoIP 9-1-1 calls to be similar to 9-1-1 calls placed over the carrier’s traditional mobile network. While some variances were identified, none of the variances appear to have impeded the 9-1-1 caller’s ability to communicate with PSAP personnel, nor did the variances appear to degrade the information available to the PSAP.
• Devices seamlessly move to WiFi/Voip without any action from the caller when the connection to the carrier network is degraded (the exact definition of “degraded” seems to vary per carrier but in each instance was seamless). Once enabled on a device, Wi-Fi calls are placed through the phone’s native phone dialer; no additional “apps” need to be installed, nor is the end-user actively involved in selecting which network (carrier mobile or local Wi-Fi) is used to complete a given call. There was no additional call set up time or manually processes required.
• On some carriers, calls are routed as a wireless class of service and on others they are routed as VOIP class of service
• When completed to the PSAP, all calls were accompanied by ANI data which correctly identified the device placing the 9-1-1 call and provided call back information and the caller location. On some calls, the ALI was accompanied by the address pre-registered with the mobile Wi-Fi service, in addition to an estimated location.
• Where attempted, the 9-1-1 call did not interfere with the calling device’s ability to receive an SMS message sent through one of Rave Mobile Safety’s SMS Short Codes
• The location information provided by the caller was accurate, although more testing needs to be done in adverse indoor locations or areas where caller location information is known to be poor.

The implications

From the perspective of public safety, the benefit of Wi-Fi calling includes support for mobile 9-1-1 calls from locations where there has traditionally been poor carrier mobile network coverage (including indoors). This works natively without any change to user behavior (e.g. use of a special app) and does not require any change to existing PSAP operations or training.

Because the class of service was handled differently than traditional wireless calls in some cases, there is a significant potential impact on secondary PSAPs. In some regions, staffing is designed around a primary PSAP triaging mobile calls and then transferring as need be to local or secondary PSAP (e.g. most of the state of Massachusetts operates under this model). Because more wireless calls will be routed as VOIP, they will go directly to the secondary PSAPs, increasing their call volumes (potentially significantly).

Because the phones did not go into “emergency mode”, the devices were actually able to perform data functions that are some times locked out when a caller is dialing over the usual mobile networks.  For example, call takers can communicate via text with the callers (this is a feature of Smart911) and even share photos or videos back and forth (e.g. picture of patients wound or nearby landmark).

While most calls are handled effectively by the existing mobile networks, it is fantastic to see the carriers improve the ability for callers to communicate with 911 even in places where poor mobile network coverage may exist. WiFi calling also works exactly the way consumers expect it to – they simply dial 9-1-1 and the call is answered by the nearest PSAP, without any need for special steps or a custom app. Where Smart911 is installed, the additional features enabled by Smart911 also work seamlessly with WiFi calling – providing call takers additional information on the caller and enabling text based communications with callers who are unable to verbally communicate. We applaud the carriers for what seems to be a well thought out and beneficial implementation!

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How to Speed up Response to Active Shooters in Higher Ed

December 7, 2015

By their nature, higher education institutions are generally open environments with minimal control over who has access to their facilities and grounds.  In today’s world, that means colleges and universities are forced to address the reality of increased active shooter incidents across the country. The number and frequency of active shooter incidents is increasing, and the amount of time first responders have to respond and impact the event is limited and seems to be decreasing.

The recent FBI study found that 69% of active shooter incidents last less than five minutes. In such a short time period, it’s no surprise that officers arrive before the end of incident only 31% of the time.

The window for students, faculty, and staff to respond in an emergency is also small. Even the best notification systems require key personnel to be notified, access the notification system, draft, and send the emergency alert. As past active shooter incidents show, there is not enough time for even the most prepared staff to respond.

As outlined below, you can see how the current chain of reporting consumes precious minutes and delays responders from arriving to the scene.


This chain of notification slows down response time and costs lives.Rave Panic Button short circuits that notification chain and immediately  and directly  notifies staff, faculty, 9-1-1 and key personnel of an emergency, the type of emergency, and it’s location on campus.


This eliminates built-in delays in notifying campus security, 9-1-1, and first responders of an emergency on campus.  When seconds matter, Rave Panic Button saves time and lives.

ravepanicbutton11111Rave Panic Button Speeds Up Emergency Response By:

  1. Immediately notifying on-site resources of an incident with a 90% improvement over traditional notification systems.
  2. Instantly engaging on-site personnel so they can initiate lockdown procedures and send help.
  3. Improve situational awareness for first responders by providing caller’s location and type of emergency.

When you consider technology to speed up emergency response on your campus, remember that your planning and SOP development should include not just officials at your institution, but also your local 9-1-1 center and first responders. These are the people and agencies you will rely on in an active shooter scenario and it’s in everyone’s best interest to be on the same page when it comes to saving lives. We’ve found that when Rave Panic Button is deployed it helps develop closer working relationships and trust among schools, local law enforcement, 9-1-1, and first responders.


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IACP 2015 Insights – Predictions on New Technology Impacts on 911

October 28, 2015

Outside of the very cool armored vehicles and weapons on display, there were some clear technology trends at this year’s International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) show in Chicago and many of them will have a direct impact on 9-1-1 operations in the future. As I’ve stated before, a number of technology trends (NG911, FirstNet, mobile applications, cloud services) will all drive a change in 9-1-1 and dispatch operations as PSAPs become true communications centers and virtual operations centers (you can read more about the changing world of the telecommunicator in NG9-1-1 here ). Here’s some food for thought based on what was displayed at IACP…

armoredDrones will be based out of PSAPs – Predictions are that more than $100 Million will be spent this year by consumers on drones, and the total drone market will be over $1 Billion within 5 years ( ). Given the number of companies either directly selling drones or showing video supplied by drones in their solutions, it looks like the public safety market will be a rapid adopter of the technology as well. Drones are by their nature about real-time information. Given their range, there really is no need for someone to drive a drone to an incident scene where it is launched. There is also a clear return on investment for a sharing of this resource (and the trained pilots) across different response agencies and jurisdictions. So, if it’s a shared resource and should be centrally located, it makes sense to be based out of a center with redundant communications to the different agencies and the ability to merge that real-time information into the response and command and control process.

Body Cameras Will Outpace Fixed Video In Terms of Their Impact on PSAPs – You couldn’t walk down an aisle at IACP without seeing a solution related to body cameras. While many comm centers have struggled with access controls, privacy and retention rules around video sourced from non-public safety sources (e.g. shopping malls, schools), these issues are less complicated with body cameras. To be clear, I’m not saying the issues are easy, but because they have to be addressed by the source of the video (the agency actually deploying the technology), the issues do not have to be independently addressed by the PSAP. Clearly, the applications of this technology for quality control, officer safety, and litigation mitigation are powerful. However, the ability to have a real-time view into what is happening on the scene can drastically change dispatch processes. Whether a traffic stop gone bad, a domestic violence situation escalating out of control, or an evolving active shooter situation – the PSAP is the one entity actively monitoring incidents. Today we rely on radio transmissions, but video can provide an even more powerful early indicator of the need for back-up, and as importantly can provide units in the field with “virtual back-up” from the PSAP until other units can arrive. Imagine a dispatcher watching as individuals start to get more agitated. Instead of the officer having to activate his radio, and perhaps further escalating the situation, the dispatcher can simply dispatch additional units. Similarly, an officer in a traffic stop altercation can focus on subduing the suspect knowing someone is monitoring the situation visually and sending help. Many cities have taken to creating special real-time crime or fusion centers to support tactical situations. For agencies that don’t have those resources, call takers and dispatchers may take on that monitoring role. This obviously has huge impacts on everything from recruiting, staffing, training and stress counseling.

Social Media Will Become an Important Part of the Response Process. Solutions for monitoring and delivering alerts for risks identified on social media or providing post-event forensic analysis are seemingly everywhere. I spoke with 5 different firms all offering very similar solutions. What does this have to do with 9-1-1? Social media is often an early indicator of an issue or the magnitude of an already-identified incident. The IACP show itself was a great example as protestors coordinated and promoted demonstrations over social media. With the proper filters and analytics, social media events can actually generate calls for service. Additionally, social media posts can provide context to traditional calls for service. Whether posts of an on-going fire by bystanders or posts about an active shooter incident indicating there are multiple shooters, the information gained via social media can be crucial in helping better understand a rapidly evolving situation. The key is in providing this information as a resource during the call in a way that is helpful and not overwhelming or distracting.
To sum up, while change can be frightening if not planned for correctly, technology can also create amazing opportunities for improvement and revolutionize the way we provide services to the public. The predictions above are not far out in the future. Already, through products like Rave Mobile Safety’s Smart911Connect and others, a number of different real-time data feeds have been delivered to the telecommunicator’s desktop – from streaming video to telematics data – in an easily managed and consistent framework. We’ve seen the value and enhancements to the response process that can be delivered when properly integrated into procedures that make sense.

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How Does E911 Work?

September 9, 2015

Over the past few months, I’ve found myself describing how E9-1-1 wireless call routing works. I’ve struggled to find a simple way to describe it. Looking at the ENP study guide didn’t help simplify things any. After searching around, I found a nice description on an obscure page on the Sprint web site. I modified it (hopefully keeping it accurate) to include commonly used acronyms.

I hope this helps those of you who just need a simple overview. For those of you experts out there that have improvements (or corrections!), feel free to comment below. And thanks to Sprint for the great start!

user_places_call1. The user places a wireless call, which transmits the caller’s voice and his or her number to ”best” tower, which is often, but not necessarily, the closest tower (which can impact the routing of the call. See # 4, below).

msc2. The tower transmits the caller’s voice signal, the wireless phone’s callback number, and the tower’s ID code to a mobile switching center. The mobile switching center assigns a temporary unique 10-digit routing number to ID the call (pANI), and groups the information into different electronic packets sent to different parts of the 911 system.

PDE3. Notified of the emergency, the position-determining system uses one of a few different types of technology to find the caller’s location. Some technology is based on the location of the wireless tower or antenna orientation (known as “Phase I” location), other technologies such as GPS, A-GPS, or AFLT attempt to directly locate the wires caller’s phone (known as “Phase II” location). The pANI and associated latitude/longitude location data is sent to a 9-1-1 location information database (ALI Database). This process happens while the voice call is being handled by the local exchange carrier. Typically this initial location data is calculated via Phase I technologies, but under optimal conditions, a Phase II location may be provided.

LEC4. The local exchange carrier (LEC) receives the voice signal and the pANI. The local exchange carrier’s switch is notified of the emergency call, and the switch (a.k.a selective router) decides automatically, based on the caller location discovered through the pANI, which emergency call center is most appropriate and routes the call.

PSAP5. At the appropriate emergency call center, (known as a Public Safety Answering Point or PSAP), the call taker receives the 9-1-1 voice call from the LEC and the call taker’s equipment (CPE) receives the call’s pANI. Using the pANI, the CPE searches the ALI database and retrieves the caller’s wireless number (Call back number), the tower information, carrier ID, and any available Lat/Long for the caller’s location. The call taker can check for updates to the caller’s location (in hope of acquiring more accurate Phase II location data, or to determine if the caller has moved). This is referred to as the re-bid process (and may be either automated or manual). This re-bid provides any updated location information acquired by the Position Determining System since the call was routed and answered at the PSAP. This ALI data can also be made available to the Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system, via the CAD or ALI Spill.

responders6. The call is either handled by a telecommunicator who handles both the call taking and dispatching (blended role) or by a team of call taker and dispatcher who tag team the incident. In some cases, the call may be transferred from the primary answering PSAP to a secondary PSAP if the caller is determined to be located in a jurisdiction covered by a different PSAP, or if a secondary PSAP handles specific call types. The former is most common with wireless calls, and the latter with medical and fire emergencies.

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Separating Fact from Fiction in Your Public Safety Technology Decisions

June 23, 2015

The public safety market is undergoing a technology transformation unlike any it has ever seen. From public safety broadband networks, to NG911, to smartphones, to wearable cameras and other devices under the Internet of Things (IoT) umbrella, technology is coming to market faster than the operational and regulatory processes can handle it. Along with this technology comes more than a pinch of marketing hype. As companies try to differentiate and promote their service it becomes more and more difficult to separate the wheat from the chaff. How do you, as a public safety official, separate fact from fiction and make the right choices for your agency?


With all the vendors making claims it’s important to proper due diligence which for new technologies may be different than the typical RFP process to which you are accustomed.

Understand the product maturity and your risk profile. In some cases, it is perfectly acceptable to try a new, untested product. For example, I recently saw a very cool app to help collect investigative information in a very structured manner. If it didn’t work, the worst that would happen is the investigator would have to revert to their manual process – evidence wasn’t lost, and more importantly lives weren’t lost, just a bit of time. You work through the bugs, try it again, and if it increase efficiency you have a win. On the other hand, emergency communications tools are mission critical. Whether it be secure messaging between responders or accurately identifying the location of a caller, emergency response technologies where lives are on the line leave little room for error.

Evaluate the end to end process impact. Just because a technology is cool or something is technically possible doesn’t mean it should be. A few years back a solution came to market promising to deliver enhanced information on 9-1-1 callers. The problem was it required the call takers to manually enter every call back number that was received into a web-based interface to check if data was available. The process impact was a non-starter even though the technology to look up information based on a phone number is pretty basic. Does the solution fit into any existing protocols? If not, does the flexibility exist to modify those protocols? Are any accreditations impacted?

Evaluate your exposure and liabilities. Do you have a contract with this vendor ensuring their availability (both technical and from a service and support standpoint)? Many apps assume public safety agencies will adapt to their work flow without establishing service levels that meet with agencies stringent public-safety grade requirements. Even “free” solutions are usually far from costless. Are you comfortable promoting something without a contractual commitment to support your endorsement? Are you promoting an end-user behavior that is inconsistent with best established best practices (e.g. dialing a 10-digit line instead of 9-1-1 or texting instead of using a voice call to 9-1-1 when it’s not a necessity)?

Check references. Where possible, always check references. If it’s not possible, question why. Again, for a nascent product there may not be references, but if the vendor is claiming to have a proven technology, find out with whom and how it was proven. Just because someone has a background in public safety or a specific technology doesn’t mean what they are selling does what you need it to do. Thankfully we are in an industry that gladly shares information. Leverage the willingness of your peers to learn about their experiences.

We are in an exciting time for public safety. The wave of technology change, driven by improved computing power, high bandwidth internet access, and open interfaces that has swept through other industries at incredible pace is creating amazing possibilities. Outdated processes and technologies will fall away and we’ll be able to provide a vastly improved experience to citizens. During this exciting time, it is important that we continue to apply some of the rigor developed over years of experience procuring public-safety grade solutions to this new wave of products. Personally, I’m proud of the fact that as a company, Rave has always stood by its claims and welcomes the opportunity to prove the value of its solutions and address any questions you may have.

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Scott McGrath

Campus Safety Apps Are for Staff and Faculty Too

May 11, 2015

Mobile Safety Apps Help The Entire Campus Communitylibrary

Mobile safety applications such as Rave Guardian have garnered a lot of attention as tools that help students build a social safety net on campus and provide Public Safety with critical information such as “see something say something” tips and personal information that turbocharges an effective response from responders during a crisis or urgent situation.

One factor that is sometimes overlooked is the value an app provides to faculty and staff on campus, in hospitals, and in related facilities, as well. First and foremost, staff are specifically concerned with environmental safety, potentially more “on the lookout” for issues that might be occurring that require investigation or mitigation from Public Safety.

Safety tips to Public Safety from a concerned leader in your community have a very high value. Your staff are more focused on what should and shouldn’t be happening in their immediate vicinity. Staff familiar with the everyday workings of your environment are likelier to notice more nuanced anomalies – suspicious behavior, suspicious packages, an emerging violent situation or rioting, or just someone in need of assistance.

Staff teaching in remote locations, working non-standard hours, walking to remote parking areas, also want and deserve protection, even when the risks associated with the environment are not “panic” scenarios but instead are less specific concerns – reasonable concerns about individual safety while conducting the daily routines of your institution or enterprise.

With the number of high profile events such as active shooter scenarios, as well as ongoing threats such as erratic student behavior, many institutions have installed or been asked to install physical button devices in classrooms. While these provide a critical safety point during a panic event, they do have limitations:

  1. Obviously, the user needs to be in close proximity to the button, but what happens if an event is occurring in hallways or remote locations not near the user?
  2. Such devices limit control over who uses them; false activations may become a problem.
  3. The information such devices convey to responders is limited.

A mobile app provides an additional tool, carried nearly all the time as a ubiquitous device on the modern smartphone, that extends the reach of safety to connect faculty and staff to public safety resources. On college campuses, Rave Guardian provides the social safety net and connection point for inbound tips that can be used to extend the eyes and ears of public safety.

In addition to Guardian, Rave’s innovative Panic Button application can add situational awareness to panic events, notifying key responders during an active shooter or serious medical emergency – very much the mobile extension of the physical device.

So while a mobile app provides a high profile safety program that protects students in a college campus and helps parents feel more comfortable about how the institution is being proactive about campus safety, don’t forget the additional value point for the people who teach, instruct, and manage your campuses.  They have a lot to contribute to your environmental safety, and they are the heart and soul of the mission of your university and a high priority for protection and safety.

For more information about Rave Guardian and Rave Panic Button, please contact us.

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Re-Thinking the Role of Call Taking and Dispatch in a NG9-1-1 World

January 28, 2015

Whether you’ve thought about it as the ability to support text messaging, IP-based call routing, getting additional data on a caller, or something completely different, NG9-1-1 is finally becoming a reality for many jurisdictions. NG9-1-1 is formally defined by NENA as a system comprised of Emergency Services IP networks (ESInets), IP-based Software Services and Applications, Databases and Data Management processes that are interconnected to Public Safety Answering Point premise equipment. It changes the type of “calls” we receive AND provides the ability to enhance the response process with additional information about the incident. Intimately tied to the enhancements to the capabilities inside the PSAP, is the deployment of a public safety broadband network which will enable seamless data transfer to and from units in the field.

But what does that mean for those handling emergency calls for service? We’ve spent a lot of time talking about cool things that are enabled by this new technology, and even the training, recruiting and stress factors involved, but perhaps not enough about what it really means to how the telecommunicator’s role is really defined. In the traditional PSAP environment, a call is answered, triaged through a specific script and dispatched (either by the same individual or a separate dispatcher). In a Next-Gen PSAP (I’ll use the term Next-Gen to differentiate between the NG9-1-1 technology, and an entire process transformation), the “call” may come from a sensor indicating a dangerous condition. The “call” may be enhanced with other data such as nearby video feeds or building floor plans indicating locations of hazardous materials. Once the first responder is on site, additional information may flow from the scene such as wearable gas sensor data. This is just the tip of the iceberg with regard to data that will be at the fingertips of responders and call takers – from drone video feeds, to infrared optics that can look through buildings, to detailed medical histories. Already a whole new crop of aggregation, analytics and dashboards are emerging, not unlike those seen in a network operations center.
None of the scenarios listed above are probably seen as science fiction to most anymore. The real issue is how does this information change what we do. Triage is a term that is very applicable. Who will process new information, identifying what is relevant and distribute it to the appropriate parties? Many responders will tell you it is unreasonable to expect a responder running into a “hot” environment to be looking at their mobile device for situational awareness. Additionally, the traditional on-scene incident command model may be outdated. With video, drones and sensor technologies, far more information is available digitally than through our naked eye. The result is that incident commanders end up taking time to setup physically on scene in a sub-optimal environment (poor bandwidth, small screens, etc.) communicating what they see on screen over the radio or via messaging apps. So… does it make more sense to reconsider the PSAP as incident command? If so, what does that mean for the telecommunicator? Do they become a communications specialist supporting the incident commander?

Many larger cities like Albuquerque, Chicago, Miami and others have taken a Real Time Crime Center approach. These centers are basically fully staffed a support centers which engage oin more complicated calls for service, providing analytical support and even taking the role of incident command in some situations. For a larger center, this is a compelling model and one that makes sense given the sheer number of incidents they can effect. Smaller centers may not have the luxury of permanently staffing such an operation and will need to look at how they quickly spin up a mini-real time crime center inside the PSAP with existing personnel.

In our work around active shooter incidents, we’ve seen this type of model already in place in many PSAPs, albeit not with the full array of technology mentioned above. Because of the short duration of most active shooter incidents, responders recognize that it is not feasible to setup on scene incident command and simply run the initial phases of their operations from the PSAP. SOPs may dictate that a law enforcement shift supervisor deploys to the PSAP to coordinate the initial response. Inside the PSAP, the incident commander can draw not only on technology assets (video feeds, structure plans, emergency notification tools, etc) but also on the 9-1-1 staff for support. Making this model work requires a new way to view the job of 9-1-1. Because of the impact information can have on the response and the fact the availability of that information will continue to evolve over the life of the incident, telecommunicators can’t view their job as complete when responders are on scene. They must view themselves as a virtual responder, providing eyes and ears and helping to triage information for those in the line of fire.

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Public-Private Partnerships: Some Considerations

January 20, 2015

There has been a lot of buzz lately around public-private partnerships (PPP). Forums have questions like “we’re considering a public-private partnership, what lessons can you share to help us?” Sometimes these questions are based on a misconstrued perception that a public-private partnership is some form of magical entity or process. The truth is that most agencies are already involved in a number of public-private partnerships, and it’s really more of a question of how effective the partnering aspect of the relationship is and the goals of the partnership. Further, the business model providing the framework of the partnership has a huge impact on the collaborative nature of the relationship(s).

The National Association of State Chief Information Officers provides a great framework for thinking about PPPs in their 2006 paper, “Keys to Collaboration: Building Effective Public-Private Partnerships” ( ). Several useful definitions of a PPP are put forth in that document. The Canadian Council for Public-Private Partnerships defines a public-private partnership as “a cooperative venture between the public and private sectors, built on the expertise of each partner, that best meets clearly define public needs through the appropriate allocation of resources, risks and rewards.” An alternate definition for Wendell C. Lawther’s 2002 report, Contracting for the 21st Century: A Partnership Model, further defines PPPs as: “Relationships among government agencies and private or nonprofit contractors that should be formed when dealing with services or products of highest complexity. In comparison to traditional contractor- customer relationships, they require radical changes in the roles played by all partners.” Wendell’s report emphasizes that the complexity of a project requires closer collaboration than a traditional vendor-customer relationship.

By their very nature, most public safety projects entail collaboration amongst many different parties to be effective. Consider the number of agencies touched by a CAD migration project. Similarly, deployment of our Panic Button solution, while not technically complex, involves 9-1-1, responder agencies, and school officials working on joint procedures across multiple levels. The highest impact technology changes, not necessarily just the most complex technologies, often drive the most process change and improvement and thus the need for close collaboration between those deploying the technology and those using it.

The NASCIO report details different types of contractual agreements that define partnerships. Contracts are clearly a necessary component of any partnership, but perhaps the most important insight of the report is:

Collaborative partnerships are non-legal working relationships that often occur between the public and private sectors to meet a common objective or goal. Primarily goodwill gestures, collaborative partnerships are often used to provide knowledge exchange or collective leverage resources for a specified goal. – NASCIO, “Keys to Collaboration: Building Effective Public-Private Partnerships”, 2006.

Collaboration, not just a contract, is the key to any form of public safety oriented partnership. A level of trust must exist between all parties that there is a common objective or goal.

Most PPP definitions and models focus on the implementation of a solution to a well-defined complex project. In fact, the Canadian Council definition above specifically highlights a project that “meets clearly define public needs”. A different type of public-private partnership that is often overlooked is joint product development. From “hack-a-thons” to white board sessions, these are far less about the successful implementation of a specific project as taking a completely new view of a challenge and “white boarding” what is possible. For Rave, our product development sessions during our annual customer conferences have resulted in some amazing innovations that neither my company nor the attendees even conceptualized before coming. These type of open brainstorming sessions where there the only agenda is breaking the old way of doing business are empowering for all involved and, I believe, are a model of what is possible in a true PPP.

Interestingly, a technology evolution and the resulting changes to contracting approaches has actually transformed the nature of many vendor-customer relationships into collaborations regardless of the project complexity. Traditional software license models created a natural us vs them mentality. The client negotiates what is to be delivered, purchases based on that expectation, pays and then hopes that they get what they expected. The large up-front cost locks the client into the vendor for a “cycle” regardless of how happy they are with the solution. Software-as-a-Service models are dependent on an on-going relationship. Many first year contracts actually cost the vendor much more than they bring in. The vendor depends on a happy client continuing the service for their very viability.

As you look at any project or joint product development effort, regardless of the complexity, consider how you can make the relationship collaborative. A public safety agency understands their unique requirements and business processes, while a vendor often brings to the table unique technical skill, resources and a vantage point across many clients. From evaluating the people you will deal with and their vision of success, to the technology fit, to the contracting model, each aspect of your relationship plays a role in determining the success of the project. Done correctly, a PPP can truly be a 1 plus 1 equals 3 situation.

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Scott McGrath

Campus Alerts Are Safety Hygiene

January 15, 2015

I recently asked an emergency manager I know at a large midwestern university about how she made the judgment call on late night alerting for Clery Warnings. Her comment was “well, I get complaints if I do send the message and complaints if I don’t send the message. It seems obvious that since I can’t keep everyone happy, I should err on the side of sending the message.”

It’s a common dilemma, particularly with regard to messages such as Clery warnings where the threat may or may not be universal around the campus community but our institutions are required to send the message.

The Chronicle of Higher Education’s recent piece called “Too Many Campus Alerts” on overuse of emergency notification focuses on concerns and complaints about ‘message fatigue’, the concern that too much messaging introduces something like a “cry wolf” effect with campus notifications. The fact is, on every campus, a large percentage of mass notifications come down to judgment calls where it will often seem most prudent to send rather than not send.

I work for a mass notification vendor and in the course of my work get a lot of messages myself. Personally, I’ve never really found it all that big a deal to just browse past a message that’s not relevant to me, but clearly some take umbrage. Is it that college age humans just feel invulnerable, so it becomes fashionable, almost hipster, to sneer when my university tells me about a potential threat to public safety? It’s not that hard to read and remove a message when it’s not immediately relevant – especially when it may have lifesaving potential for others on campus.

Most campus public safety officials I’ve met seem genuinely concerned both with “actual” safety issues on campus and are committed to the need for greater transparency that is, we should remember, the reason behind directives for Clery Warning messages. There are many complexities to balance here….the need for openness, the need to keep students, staff and faculty feeling both protected and secure, and the fundamental need to make judgement calls quickly and effectively.

There are certainly best practices such as saving the most urgent channels for the most urgent messages via a prioritization policy thought out well in advance as part of routine emergency and public safety planning. And let’s also face the facts: it is probably unreasonable to expect that every member of a large campus community will put the same value on our safety information.

But I also think that we need to remind the campus every now and then that our mass notifications are a core safety hygiene, and just as we may not always find taking our vitamins or brushing teeth convenient, in the long view these are the rudiments of good health and worth the effort.

Additional Article Link: The University of North Carolina Daily Tar Heel provided some additional local commentary on the Chronicle article. Tat’yana Berdan covers the story in UNC students weigh in on Alert Carolina.

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10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Smart911

November 4, 2014

Over the years, Smart911 has evolved significantly from when it was first introduced.  Here are some things you probably didn’t know about it:Top10

  1. It is not just about opt-in personal profiles… facility information displays based on the location of the caller, even if the caller did not register and can include floor plans, emergency response plans, etc.
  2. As an additional data gateway, it has been deployed on both IP and legacy networks on all major types of call taking and CAD combinations, and serves as a functional component of NG9-1-1 architectures.
  3. You can create cloud based notes on any call received, including in most cases Non-Service Initialized (NSI) phones. Call takers can view the notes and quickly see if the NSI phone is an elderly recipient of a free phone or a frequent prank caller.
  4. You can text back callers on dropped/hang ups. Clients using this feature report as much as an 80% improvement in closing cases.  All messages are logged for audit purposes.
  5. Integrated with Rave Panic Button, it provides the only fully integrated application for school and corporate safety and gives 9-1-1 a scalable way to communicate with everyone at a facility.
  6. Smart911 is a National System and by the end of the year will touch nearly 10% of all 9-1-1 calls in the country.
  7. Through Smart911 Connect, which allows third party data sources to be delivered to 9-1-1, Smart911 was the first to demonstrate the delivery of real-time telematics data to a 9-1-1 center as well as data from third party apps.
  8. Smart911 is a product of Rave Mobile Safety, a leader in public safety software serving over 1,000 communities and 1,000 colleges and universities.
  9. Smart911 is integrated into Rave Mobile Safety’s emergency notification system which delivers 100s of millions of timely emergency messages per year.
  10. Smart911 has won awards from groups as diverse as the International Association of Chiefs of Police, Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials, American Business Awards, and CTIA (The Wireless Association).
  11. One additional bonus point – and the one we are most proud of –  Smart911 has positively affected the outcome of responses across the country, helping d by delivering medical data, allergy information, language preferences, photos of missing children, enabling texting with callers who had a poor connection, and augmenting caller location information.  Read some examples here.

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PSAP Survey Results: Internet, Device and Social Media Policies

October 22, 2014

This is the sixth post on results from Rave’s 2013 PSAP Survey to which 610 PSAPs from 50 states responded.  This post covers polices around social media and internet access.  See the fifth post here on NG9-1-1 implementation statuses.

Q1: Is Internet access provided at each Telecommunicator workstation? For example, can a Telecommunicator access a web browser and perform a basic task, such as running a search in Google, Bing, or another search engine?














2. Is E-mail provided at each Telecommunicator workstation?














3. Does your social media policy address access and use while:














4. Do you permit your Telecommunicators to access Social Media while on duty and at their workstation?













5. Which, if any, of the following PERSONAL electronic devices do you permit your Telecommunicators to use while on duty?


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Lessons Learned on Creating Lasting Relationships with Your Clients

September 29, 2014

A recent advertisement from USAA got me thinking about customer loyalty and satisfaction. I have been a loyal USAA customer for 25 years. I’ve never even looked around to see whether I could get insurance or loyalty_programsbanking and investment services anywhere else. It doesn’t even cross my mind. Recently at Rave we did a Netpromoter-like survey to gauge customer satisfaction and their likelihood to recommend us to their peers. I’m proud to say our scores were fantastic and when coupled with our 99% client retention rate, are a testament to the hard work of our team; however, the question remains: how does a company deliver service in such a way that clients don’t even consider other options. Based on my personal experience with USAA, here are some simple keys to building a long-term partnership with your clients:

1) Deliver what you promise and make sure the promise is what the customer needs. At the core of customer satisfaction is a feeling that you received fair value for what you paid. One of USAA’s main products is insurance. Over the years I’ve had several occasions where I needed to call them (that one time a tree jumped in front of my car on a snowy day, the ice dams on the roof that caused a shower to form in the middle of our kitchen, etc.). The immediate response wasn’t them sending me a form to justify reimbursement. In the case of home repairs, one time they asked what the repair estimate was and sent a check before I had any written invoice. With car repairs they simply told me to get the car to the shop and they would handle everything. They truly delivered what they promised – I pay for insurance to just make the problem go away when an accident occurs. That has real value to me. Knowing that the service is just there, no questions asked. Similarly, the primary goal of a public safety application must be that it just works. When there is an emergency on campus, the button needs to send out messages quickly. When a 9-1-1 call is made, we need to deliver information we have about the caller. No bell or whistle can compensate for a solution not working at advertised when it’s needed. It hasn’t been easy, but over the years we’ve had to turn down many potential clients because we knew we weren’t the best solution for their needs. Ultimately, any relationship will go bad if you overpromise and under-deliver.

2) Listen to your customers. A large percentage of USAA’s client base is active duty military. They move often and are never near a USAA branch office (in fact, I don’t know that there is such a thing). ATM fees can be painful when the only way you have to get cash is to go to another bank’s machine. So, how did USAA respond? They reimburse the fees paid to use someone else’s ATM. Does this cost them? Sure. But, I’m sure those fee costs are off-set by the low customer churn they experience. I have no idea if the interest rate on my account is better or worse than another bank, but I know that as I travel around I don’t have to worry about paying additional fees. My bank understands and has addressed a need expressed by their customers. One of the things we have done for a number of years at Rave is host a client advisory group. We bring in our public safety clients and bounce ideas off them. It isn’t us just telling them our roadmap, it’s them creating our roadmap. We’ve created new initiatives from this process that never would have come about organically and killed ones that would have resulted in failure. I’m excited that in the upcoming months we’ll be reinvigorating that same model on our Higher Education side of the business. No one knows their needs better than the customer themselves, the key is to listen to them not just speak at them.

3) 3) Follow the Golden Rule. As I mentioned above, when I’ve had an issue that required me to engage with my insurance provider, I didn’t have to justify why I was calling or fill out forms in triplicate before getting a response. When you need insurance it usually isn’t your best day, you just want to be treated with respect and fairness. That doesn’t mean that you don’t eventually have to do the dirty paperwork, or that you won’t have a question over why you were paid X instead of Y. Questions inevitably occur when money changes hands, but questions don’t result in conflict when both parties treat each other with respect and understanding. One aspect of our culture that I am very proud of is our customer-centric focus. Whether someone can’t remember how to perform a certain function with one of our tools, or is chasing down details on an incident, our services team treats every incident like they were the one with the Chief or Chancellor breathing down their neck for action. When respect for others is at the core of your culture, it pays dividends most during stressful situations.

Successful companies are built on long-term relationships with their customers. We are proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish, but like any company need to continue to evolve and learn from others. USAA provides a great model for us to emulate, but most importantly we have a team passionate about helping our clients improve safety.

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PSAP Survey Results: NG9-1-1 Implementation Status

September 22, 2014

This is the fifth post on results from Rave’s 2013 PSAP Survey to which 610 PSAPs from 50 states responded.  This post covers the state of NG9-1-1 implementations.  See the forth post here on training and workforce statistics.

Q1: Which statement about Next Generation 9-1-1 (NG9-1-1) most accurately reflects your PSAP’s current position?  As you can see from the chart below, most agencies are awaiting state level action.


Q2:  Which statement about Text to 9-1-1 most accurately reflects your PSAP’s current position?


Q3:  What single initiative would you undertake in 2013, but are unable to due to budget constraints?  The word density map below shows the frequency of response terms.


Next up, use of Social Media in the PSAP…

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Survey Results: PSAP Training, Turnover and Staffing

August 13, 2014

This is the forth post on results from Rave’s 2013 PSAP Survey to which 610 PSAPs from 50 states responded.  This post covers PSAP training, turnover, staffing and other work force stats.  See the third post here on 9-1-1 call answer times.

First, a couple general stats of interest from the responses:

  • Average Vacancy Rate =  7%
  • Average annual turnover rate (percentage of staff lost in most recent 12-month period) = 9.5%
  • Average percentage of your total personnel cost associated with overtime = 13%

Q1. Do you have blended call taking and dispatching roles or separate roles?  66% report that calls are answered and dispatched by the same telecommunicator.  Larger centers were more weighted toward separate call taking and dispatching functions.

 Q2: What is the composition of the PSAP’s workforce?

Q3: What type of shifts does your telecommunications staff work?


Q4: What Telecommunicator shift length do you believe to be ideal for achieving operational efficiency, effectiveness (employee performance and cost), and an adequate work-life balance?

 Q5: If your answer to the ideal shift length question was different from the actual shift length utilized in your PSAP, please select the reason(s) for not changing it.



Q6:  How many hour of training are REQUIRED per year for a Telecommunicator?


Next up, NG9-1-1 and New Technologies…

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PSAP Survey Results: 9-1-1 Call Answer Time Performance

July 14, 2014

This is the third post on results from Rave’s 2013 PSAP Survey to which 610 PSAPs from 50 states responded.  This post covers call answering performance.  See the second post here on 9-1-1 call volumes and use of scripted protocols.

What is the performance standard or goal for call answer time (i.e. time interval from call receipt at PSAP to first Telecommunicator answering)?


Note: Respondents met the call answer performance standard in the most recent 12-month period on average 87% of the tine

What is the performance standard or goal for call processing time (i.e. answer to call dispatch time)?


Note: Respondents met the call answer to call dispatch time performance standard in the most recent 12-month period on average 96% of the time

Next up, training, turnover and other workforce statistics…

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PSAP Survey Results: 9-1-1 Call Volumes and Scripted Protocol Use

July 1, 2014

This is the second post on results from Rave’s 2013 PSAP Survey to which 610 PSAPs from 50 states responded.  This post covers 9-1-1 call volumes and dispatch volumes as well as the use of scripted protocols.  See the first post here on the respondents funding and oversight models.

When we look at the average number of emergency calls processed per day per position versus the number of primary call taking positions at the PSAP we see clearly that the smaller PSAPs are not at the same utilization rate as the larger ones; however, there is also an interesting peak of “business” around the 5-7 calls position point.


As expected, most dispatched calls are for law enforcement.  The “other” category included such things as animal control and miscellaneous after hours municipal services.

Dispatched_callsMost agencies utilized EMD protocols, but far fewer use scripted and structured calls for Fire and Law Enforcement response.  For those that were not using scripted protocols for either Fire or Law, about 60% stated they were currently evaluating moving to using them.

Next up, performance statistics…



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2013 PSAP Survey Results: 9-1-1 Funding and Oversight

June 27, 2014

In the early summer of 2013, Rave conducted an anonymous survey on 9-1-1 operations, work force management, and technology initiatives.  610 PSAPs from 50 states responded to the Survey, with 96% being primary PSAPs and 4% secondary.   Due to the survey methodology, we could never assign a true confidence interval and sampling error to the study and thus it languished and wasn’t ever published.  I recently dusted it off and pulled out the data which is unambiguous and provides clear trends and insights, if not always 100% statistically accurate.  Over a series of posts, I’ll share the results.  First up… some basic information about 9-1-1 funding models and oversight on the agencies that responded.

What entity is responsible for oversight of your PSAP?

Oversight_responsibilityPlease indicate the funding source(s) for your PSAP by reporting the approximate percentage of each funding source. The chart below shows compiled averages for all respondents.

Funding_sourcesFor how many jurisdictions (i.e. towns, cities, counties) and agencies (i.e. law enforcement, fire, EMS, etc.) does your PSAP provide service?  This provides a good picture into the average size of agencies responding representing a broad spectrum.


Next up, Call Volumes and Use of Scripted protocols





Noah Head Shot

Reducing Reaction Time to Active Shooter Incidents Through Technology

June 15, 2014

Time. Time is the single most important variable when we look at mitigating the impact of a mass or active shooter incident. Despite the current discussion over whether there have been 15 or 74 school shootings since Sandy Hook (depending on your definition of a school shooting), we can all agree that there are too many. Preventing further mass shootings on school campuses, in businesses, places of worship and elsewhere will require a multifaceted approach and should be a top priority. We also need to spend considerable effort on mitigating the consequences when one does occur, as we are unlikely to ever fully eliminate their occurrence.

Researchers and law enforcement agencies have studied active shooter incidents from every conceivable angle – the frequency of attacks, the location of the incident, the predisposition of the shooter to committing the act, the number of victims, what caused the resolution of the incident, etc – but one indisputable fact is that the longer the incident lasts, the more casualties it will produce. According to a 2012 NYPD study only 16% of the 230 active shooter incidents reviewed ended without applied force – either by PD, security, bystanders or the attacker. That is to say, until someone – law enforcement officer or otherwise – confronts or challenges the shooter, he keeps firing shots. By reducing the notification time of bystanders on scene and responding police officers, the attacker has a smaller window to kill and inflict injury.

In another study of 84 active shooter incidents occurring between 2001 and 2010, researchers J. Pete Blair and Hunter Martindale found that in just over half of the cases (51%, or 43 out of 84), police arrived on scene while the shooting was still ongoing. In 49% of the cases, police arrived after the conclusion of the incident. In those cases, either the shooter stopped the attack by committing suicide, walking away, or victim intervention stopped the attacker. The breakdown of the resolution of these 84 incidents is depicted by the following graphic:


While the recommended actions taken by bystanders and law enforcement differ, both serve to reduce the target potential for the attacker. The first two elements of the now familiar “Run > Hide > Fight” guidance for bystanders directly impacts the number of targets through a combination of fleeing and restricting the attacker’s access to more victims by initiating lockdown procedures. As the attacker runs out of targets, it is a reasonable assumption that he will attempt suicide (40% of the 230 cases reviewed by the NYPD). If he does not, then at least he has fewer targets, and the police have fewer bystanders impeding their ability to contact the shooter. When evacuation and hiding are not viable options, then the guidance is for bystanders to forcefully attack the shooter with whatever improvised weapons they can find.

Minimizing the time interval between the first indication of an attack and bystander and law enforcement notification and intervention will limit the number of casualties. I’ll call this the reaction time. How can reducing the reaction time be accomplished most effectively? In addition to training school officials, students and first responders, we at Rave believe strongly that technology plays a critical role. Leveraging the unique features and widespread use of Smart911, we have developed Rave Panic Button to enhance school security. By arming school (or any other industry) employees with a smart phone based app that, when activated, does several unique things. Firstly, it dials 9-1-1 to allow for a verbal exchange of information between the reporting party and the 9-1-1 call taker. Secondly, it automatically launches the Smart911 viewer at the 9-1-1 call taker’s workstation. The Panic Button viewer displays a profile of the school, including floor plans and access points, key procedures, contact information of administrators, and much more. Because the app is integrated with Smart911, any landline, VoIP device, or hard-wired panic button can also be tied into and used to trigger the system.

Lastly, Panic Button provides a real-time notification and communications platform for collaboration among school officials, employees, 9-1-1 and first responders. The app can be configured to send all users an automatic message the moment that someone activates the system. This immediate notification, and subsequent hosted in-app messaging platform, affords everyone on scene with the ability to take immediate action – Run > Hide > Fight – or whatever their procedures call for. Responding officers are provided with situational awareness that they simply do not have today. It is impossible for every officer to be familiar with the layout of every school or commercial facility in his or her jurisdiction. Simply knowing the access points and layout of the campus allows for more rapid contact with the aggressor, which, in turn, leads to a faster resolution and lower number of casualties. All of these features reduce the reaction time of both bystanders on scene and responding law enforcement personnel.

As Rave continues to support public safety agencies and educational institutions across the country, we are constantly developing and enhancing the capabilities of our solution stack. Panic Button is just the latest example of how we translate the needs of public safety into functional software and smart phone applications. Frankly, Rave’s collaboration and industry involvement is what prompted me to leave the public sector and join their team, and assisting with the development of products that make a difference in people’s lives on a daily basis is extremely rewarding for all of us here.

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Building/Buying An (Safety) App Is Not a Strategy

June 12, 2014

We see a lot of requests for proposals for various safety applications, and many have this question: “Does your solution have an app?”.  Umm… well, yes.  Lots.  In fact, one of our apps (Rave Guardian) is probably more widely deployed than all other campus safety apps put together (ok, end of the self promotional horn tooting).  Does that give me a higher score on the RFP?  Then yesterday I saw an announcement from the new head of a government agency outlining their strategy as “building more apps”.  What is wrong with both of these scenarios?  An app is not a strategy.

appsLet’s first define an app.  While app is short for application and can apply to any type of software which performs a function, most folks now mean software designed to run on a mobile phone, more specifically smartphones.  Apps are typically downloaded onto a phone via an app store, the two biggest obviously being Apple’s iTunes or Google’s Play Store.  They can be self contained, meaning all the functions and user experience run natively on the device or they can leverage a mobile data connection to interact with other services on the web.

So, back to the original statement… why is an app not a strategy?  An app is simply a mobile interface for performing some function.  Ideally that function is solving a problem for the user.  You are applying technology to a challenge, hence the name “application”.  Google maps is a good example.  The problem being solved is making it easier to find something.  You access it from your desktop computer via a web site (a web “app”), via a mobile friendly web site (maybe the same site accessed from your web site that is responsive to the device viewing it), or via an app on your smartphone.  The app is merely taking advantage of some unique capabilities afforded through the mobile operating system (e.g. access to your GPS location) to make the “problem solving experience” smoother.

When an RFP asks “does your solution have an app” it is not clear what problem they are trying to solve.  Is there a problem with cell coverage that requires a function to run natively and operate without a data connection?  Are they trying to make the experience of sending a notification easier from a mobile phone?  Are they trying to enable students or citizens to more easily interact and share information with responders?  A mobile app is a means of solving a problem, and often a very powerful one, but the key is to understand the problem.  A strategy addresses a “customer” need.  That customer might be a lost traveler trying to find the nearest gas station or a deaf caller trying to report a car accident.

There are a number of reasons this is important for public safety to get their hands around.  First, don’t spend money on apps unless you understand what you are trying to accomplish.  Just getting an app is not a strategy.  Second, remember that an app is just one way to perform a function.  I’ve been working in a standards group looking at how apps interact with public safety.  Looking at apps in a vacuum is short sighted.  If history has taught us anything, we know that technology will evolve faster than we anticipate and in ways we can’t guess.

An app on my iPhone might be all the rage today, but in 5 years people might wonder at how clunky it was to click buttons with your finger while they speak into a voice enabled cloud.  Driven off a wristband that uses 2-factor authentication based on their voice, DNA, or finger prints the user may simply say “get me to the nearest 4-star rated steak house” and have the route visually projected in front of them.  If they say “that looks good” the route is projected via Bluetooth to their driverless car and they are instantly taken to the restaurant.  There may be no concept of an app, just seamless access to on-demand services without any downloads or click through interfaces.

So how strategic is it really to say your strategy is to build (or buy) an app?  Be wary of those trying to sell you a service on the grounds of the service being delivered as a phone app.  Instead, make sure you are buying something because it solves a problem you have.

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