Are mobilisation apps the evolution of pagers?

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Why Fire and Rescue Services should consider smartphone mobilisation 

[UPDATE]: Considering the feedback that we received on this article, we expanded the section “App + Pager: the most reliable combination” to explain the power of combining the reliability of pagers with the intelligence of smartphone apps to achieve the best mobilisation solution. 

For almost 40 years, pagers have been the most reliable mobilisation system for emergency services, including fire services, medical staff and lifeboat crews.

There were good reasons for that: pagers had been around for many years before cellular phones and they have better and more reliable network coverage.

The modest improvement in reliability meant that, while mobile phone networks were patchy or slow, the dedicated paging network offered a slight advantage in reception and reach. However, the constant improvement of cellular networks by providers and more WiFi networks available, have allowed smartphones to catch up.

In this article we will discuss the pros and cons of pagers and smartphone apps and at the end you will read about the most resilient combination: smartphone + smart pager.

Aging technology

Until 2017, in the United Kingdom there were two network providers: Vodafone and Capita. However, back in May, Vodafone decided to shut down its pager division.

According to Vodafone, their preferred option was to sell its paging division to Capita’s PageOne. In response, the Competition and Markets Authority announced plans to run an in-depth investigation into the agreement, because it was concerned that a merger of the only two providers would result in price increase for customers and a poorer service.

The company communicated that the expense involved with a prolonged investigation forced them not to pursue the transaction so it made the decision to close down this business.

Vodafone’s withdrawal from the market will mean PageOne is the UK’s only remaining supplier of paging services.

The next step

A more hectic lifestyle and have made retained firefighters’ availability less predictable, and along with an increasing level of specialisation have made it harder for Fire and Rescue Services to rely only on the quality of the network to ensure a timely mobilisation of fire crews.

Among the proposed solutions, the most natural option is to take advantage of the broad use of smartphones and cellular networks to mobilise first responders.

A mobilisation app needs to demonstrate why it’s superior to pagers and how it can play a bigger role in the challenge of maintaining resilience and operational preparedness.

One piece of the puzzle

Smartphone apps for mobilisation are just an individual piece of an entire system designed to ensure readiness and reduce response times of fire stations.

A mobilising app starts to add value to the process long before the alert comes in, and it keeps adding value well after the initial beeping sound.

FireServiceRota provides seven tiers of resilience to ensure preparedness and a timely response to fire stations:

  1. Plan: firefighters schedule their availability. FireServiceRota, continuously monitors whether there is full crew complement available, and warns the right crew members ahead of time in case of shortfalls.
  2. Geofence: Personnel receive a warning when they accidentally travel outside the fireground/response area of their fire station while booked available. They are also offered the option to change their rota and book unavailable with one click.
  3. Alert: At the moment of alert, all available users are notified via Push Notification and (optionally) SMS. Users can confirm their attendance by responding the the push notification on the lock screen of their smartphone.
  4. Confirm: Personnel accept or reject the alert via their smartphone. Their response is immediately visible on a special Station Monitor in the station and within the app.
  5. Fallback: The system monitors confirmations, and compares responding crew against minimum Crewing Levels. If a shortfall is detected, the system falls back to (re)alerting all personnel possessing the missing skills, regardless of their availability.
  6. Response: While personnel are travelling toward the station, their real-time location and estimated time of arrival (ETA) are shown on the Station Monitor.
  7. Report: The officer in charge registers who is part of his crew via the app. This is immediately reflected in the pre-filled incident report, which also contains time stamped crew responses, and flags discrepancies between crew availability and their actual response status.

FireServiceRota’s mobilising app provides peace of mind to managers with 7 tiers of security to avoid understaffing.

Maybe the most important thing to consider when deciding if a mobilisation app is the right technology is how it integrates with the rest of the process, before, during and after incidents.

Different from pagers, an app integrates and interacts constantly with other systems and is able to receive, process, generate and transmit data.

An app is able to send information about the user’s schedule to the availability management system. It can also receive and reply to messages generated by the system or other users to maintain constant and relevant communication with the manager and the rest of the crew. In summary, an app can do more than mobilisation alone.

It is also able to track and capture data such as attending crew, turnout and travel times, and visual evidence of the incident that can later be used for reporting and to continuously improve the quality of service.

App + Pager: the most reliable combination

The most reliable solution is to use both by combining the reliability of pagers with the intelligence of smartphones.

The Swissphone s.QUAD Voice connects to smartphones via Bluetooth to integrate the best of both worlds.

The Swissphone s.QUAD Voice two-way pager, for example, can connect to select smartphones via Bluetooth, which allows firefighters to interact with both devices and get the best of both worlds.

The s.QUAD runs on a single AA battery and has outstanding reception, making it a robust and reliable device under the most severe conditions. 

Adding the capabilities of FireServiceRota’s app to assist crew planning and mobilisation will allow Fire and Rescue Services to achieve better response times and a better job satisfaction for firefighters.

FireServiceRota can provide this ultra-reliable combination. Contact us and let’s discuss the possibilities of a smartphone mobilising app and a 2-way pager for your Fire and Rescue Service.


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