It’s hard to think of a time when countries all over the world had to rely on their emergency services more, and for such a sustained amount of time. The challenges presented by a global pandemic have put a unique set of pressures on emergency services, who are expected to constantly operate at, or beyond peak capacity, while distributing demand across a reduced workforce. In just the first week of March 2020 alone, the UK National Health Service’s (NHS) 111 helpline answered 390,000 calls, which is 120,000 more than the same week the previous year.1
When lives are on the line, there are no seconds to waste. Now more than ever, implementing mobile technology can provide the right tools and support needed to deliver consistent quality care and service to citizens in need.
Advancements in mobile device capabilities, and broad adoption of the Internet of Things (IoT), enable the emergency services sector to deploy devices to effectively manage their distributed field workers, securely communicate and collect data, update records and ultimately save lives. So, what do emergency services need to consider when reviewing their mobile technology?
Efficiency is of the utmost importance for public services, but never has it been more crucial than during times of crisis management. A police car, for example, has upwards of 50 connected endpoints, all linked to a central computer within that vehicle. If harnessed properly, fleet managers can remotely manage, perform diagnostics and maintain vehicles without them being taken off the road for sustained periods of time. This helps to ensure the vehicles adhere to insurance requirements, and protects the safety of the public and the crews in the vehicle.
Greater visibility and control over the connected endpoints found within emergency services vehicles ensure that any issues can be addressed before they cause significant delays and downtime in operations. Emergency services personnel can focus on providing consistent quality care knowing the mobile technology at their fingertips is going to enable them to do so. Ensuring frontline workers have devices that give them the crucial information on where they are needed and what situation they are facing, will also help them do their jobs more efficiently. However, IoT can go beyond the tracking of large assets, such as vehicles and computer equipment.
It can be used for inventory tracking in ambulances and police cars to ensure they are fully stocked with supplies and crucial Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) before they respond to a call. By digitizing this process rather than manually tracking inventory, problems can be identified quickly and human error reduced. For example, France’s healthcare system is using 45 million face masks a week2, and with global PPE shortages being widely reported around the world, every single piece of equipment counts.
During COVID-19, Bar Code Direct’s partnership with SOTI is enabling hospital customers to distribute essential supplies using SOTI MobiControl. When frontline hospital staff experienced connection issues on the mobile devices used to distribute PPE and medication, SOTI provided knowledgeable support to immediately troubleshoot the issues remotely. During this global pandemic, SOTI’s expertise has been invaluable in helping hospitals continue to support frontline workers.
The sharing of information is crucial in any crisis response. In a pandemic, information needs to be passed between emergency workers, while social distancing protocols are adhered to as much as possible. In this scenario, having effective mobile technology that can integrate and share information, is the glue between responders, teams and agencies.
When dealing with missing persons, such as criminals on the run or public order issues, giving teams on the ground access to information on rugged devices, such as aerial video feeds from helicopter crews above, can also aid their decision-making and intelligence, rather than relying on radio support.
During a crisis, it’s likely that auxiliary staff, agencies and equipment will need to be brought onboard quickly to support ongoing operations. They will need to be given access to the tools and information to do their jobs to the best of their ability. This could require integrating new systems, onboarding new devices or allowing auxiliary workers and volunteers to use their own devices.
Scalable systems need to be in place that manage all mobile and IoT-enabled devices, operating systems (OS) and usages such as: Bring Your Own Device (BYOD), Corporately Owned, Business Only (COBO) and Corporately Owned, Personally Enabled (COPE). These should also have enrollment capabilities to rapidly deploy devices, content and apps that may be needed as the crisis develops.
Dealing with Security Risks
Hackers and cybercriminals will exploit global disruptions for their own ends. In mid-May, for instance, there were reportedly 192,000 coronavirus-related cyberattacks per week, a 30% increase compared with the previous weeks.3
As such, the UK Health Secretary, Matt Hancock, recently used emergency powers4 to give the UK’s cyber intelligence agency, Government Communications Headquarters (GCHQ), special dispensation to access data on the NHS’s IT systems to better protect it from cyberattacks.
By the very nature of their being out in the field and off a secure network, mobile devices are weak points in any system if they are not managed properly. It’s important that IT organizations can lockdown their managed devices anytime, anywhere, to maintain security, compliance and protect sensitive data.
Mobile technology means more than just new tools in your arsenal. Combined with an integrated business-critical mobility strategy, mobile technology can enable emergency services organizations to realize performance gains, see an increase in worker productivity, an improvement in community satisfaction, and most importantly, help ensure responders are safe and connected in times of crisis.
Emergency services industry leaders who invest time in developing a comprehensive mobile strategy, supported by the right integrated platform of management solutions, can save their organization time, money and even lives.