Better Alert Types

This is how we currently classify alerts

The pie chart is getting an upgrade

We have added some features to our website so alarms can be classified by type.

Many of you are familiar with NFIRS codes.  Codes starting with 100 mean “fire”.  For example:

NFIRS 162. Outside equipment fire. Includes outside trash compactors, outside HVAC units, and irrigation pumps. Excludes special structures (110 series) and mobile construction equipment (130 series).

NFIRS is a US standard, but we have modified our system to support other systems as well.  Currently NFIRS is the only classifier that is programmed; if you want another classifier, you will have to let us know what your system or country uses.

  1. We have added a column on the alerts tab that lists the alert type for easy reference
  2. You can select an alert type by clicking on the alert and scrolling to the bottom of the window.
  3. You can do a full text search by name or by code number.  We have also reorganized the codes into an easy-to-browse list. When you have made a selection, push “save”.
  4. “See also” suggestions, if any, will be displayed below the description.  NFIRS codes are complicated, we have tried to make it easy to choose the right one.
  5. We are adding a server component to learn from your selections and auto-select types for future alarms. In order to train our server, we are asking users to log into their web consoles and manually classify a couple dozen recent alarms.  We can use this data to perform machine learning.

Some users have pointed out that a machine can not be accurate 100% of the time, especially since an alert classification often changes based on what is found on scene.  A “651 smoke” alarm might turn into a “111 Structure Fire” or a “733 Smoke detector malfunction”.  This is reasonable. To ensure clarity, human classified alarms will be shown in dark letters with the full 3-digit code on the Alerts tab.  Computer classified codes will show the century digit only and will be grayed out.  For example:

111 Fire (black, 3 digits) = Human classified

100 Fire (gray italics, 1 digit) = Computer Classified

Of course, if the computer gets it wrong you can always correct it manually.

The next step (once alarms are being classified right) is for us to update the pie graph to show the new classification system.

 

 

 

A Good Tech Policy Will Make Your Department Safer

Active911, like other modern tech tools, is a great help for emergency responders.  I just got back from a trip to Saltillo, Mexico where the local FD has used Active911 successfully to reduce their average response time by over 50%.   Most departments in the US already have low response times but still benefit from the communications and coordination that Active911 provides.

But what happens when we have a server outage and these tools suddenly disappear?  As a leader in a tech organization, it’s not a subject I really want to talk a lot about because, well, we’re not supposed to go down.  Ever.  Nevertheless, it happens.  Several weeks ago we got a call from a department  who had trouble reaching their local responders because of a completely unrelated internet problem miles away in Texas.  It wasn’t our “fault” or theirs, but something in the internet caused our servers to be unavailable when they needed it.

Events like this underscore the fact that we must all have a plan in place to deal with unexpected outages, and we must make sure that everyone knows and practices the plan.  To this end I’ve written a policy writing guide to assist chief officers in creating a tech outage plan.  This guide can be useful not only for dealing with Active911 but for any tech service with lots of moving pieces.

I encourage all administrators to examine the tech that they rely on and ensure they have a plan in place for when, not if, that technology, suffers an outage.   Even if you never have to use it, you’ll be prepared to take care of the people who depend on you when the unexpected happens.

Geocoder Service Update (“Wiz”)

Yesterday, we pushed an update to our geocoding service that extends its capabilities by handling another format of addresses. We’ve received a lot of geojson files containing grid addresses like the following: “W123N404 Main Street”; but the initial design of this service didn’t include ways of properly parsing and geocoding them. With this update they can be treated like the rest of the original set of supported address formats.

One interesting topic relevant to this update is how interpolated addresses are calculated. Here’s a simplified example to illustrate how it works:

Say you need to locate the following address:

202 Main Street

…but the geocoder is unable to find a match in its dataset.

If it extends its search and finds the following neighboring locations (address @ lat/long):

200 Main Street @ 124.0/50.0

204 Main Street @ 124.2/50.0

…Now rather than returning w/ “failure”, we can return an educated guess (the target address is likely in between the two addresses above):

So the interpolated result for 202 Main Street is: 124.1/50.0

And how does this pertains to this latest update? We needed to included the same feature for grid addresses, which was done by adding a dimension to the calculation for these cases. Now instead of finding the two nearest addresses, we will possibly be finding the four “nearest”, one in each cardinal direction (N, E, S, & W) from the unknown address which forms a bounding rectangle. The interpolated result is then located inside this rectangle.

Well that’s an inside look at one of the many algorithms that underlies our services. We are constantly working on a lot of exciting & interesting things here at Active911 and it’s always a pleasure to be able to share them with you.

Stay Safe!

New Colors and Chat Rooms in the New iOS Release!

iOS version 1.5.16 has been released! Below we have outlined the new features and bug fixes. You can download this new version in the the App Store today.

Features

Updated and extended colors for map markers

The existing set of colors for devices and locations has been refreshed across the app and a few new colors have been added to the mix as well.

IMG_2177

Agency Chat Rooms

The new chat tab contains a list of each agency that you are a part of. Each agency has it’s own chat room which you can use to send and receive messages to the whole agency.

Note:

You are only logged into these chat rooms while the app is open – any messages received while the app is backgrounded or closed will not be received. Also when you completely close the app o your phone, the chat history will be lost in the app. This is the first version of this feature, and we are looking to add more features to it. We would love to here feedback about what you want, so we can design it properly!

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Apple Maps Directions and Routing

One of our goals for this release was to get the features from Apple & Google Maps to be more in sync. We’ve added visual routing to alerts on the map and a list of turn by turn directions for when you are using Apple Maps now as well. We’ve also added an app setting for turning off the auto-routing that happens when you view the map from an alert that you can use if you’d like to revert back to the old behavior of Apple Maps.

Note:

There will be discrepancies for both the alert location shown on the map (if geocoding from an address) and the directions themselves between Google and Apple Maps. This is because in both cases we are using the associated provided services for these mapping features and it’s two entirely separate set of services for each map type.

Response Sorting

Now you can sort the responses list by either type or device name.

Minor Changes

  • The Alert Report/Log view has been simplified to save a step for some users workflows.
  • You can now use a new ‘Automatic’ assignment option for moving a device to assigned.

Bug Fixes

  • Fixed an issue where some users were unable to edit alerts and it would instead default to creating a new alert.
  • Fixed a case with precise background GPS reporting where devices would drop off the map if stationary for more than 5 minutes.
  • Fixed a problem where reduced accuracy background GPS reporting wasn’t reporting any position updates.

Squashing Bugs in the Android App

We made some pretty major changes under the hood in Android 1.5.7.5, which resulted in a few more bugs than usual. This week we have released 2 minor updates to fix some of the most reported bugs.

The app was crashing when:

1)  trying to load responders’ info into the map view,

2) opening the alert report, backgrounding the app, and then reopening the app in quick succession,

3) the background location update restarted after other apps used up all the resources on the device.

These crashes have been fixed, as well as, the permissions bug. We also received feedback about wanting the responders view sorting feature to stay sorted across all alerts. We have made that improvement with the latest version. You can find the update in the Play Store on your Android device.

Thank you for all your feedback and stay safe!

Webview Update

For some time now, a bug has been reported on Webview where it will not automatically reconnect without refreshing the page. It has been very difficult to figure out where the problem lies, whether it’s the devices internet connection or a problem with webview connecting to our servers. Being unable to successfully reproduce the issues on our machines, we needed to take a shotgun approach to at least narrow down the problem. Today we rolled some changes that will detect when webview cannot stay successfully reconnected and automatically reload the page for you. We believe this should fix the problem for most of our webview devices that disconnect sporadically, but have a relatively stable connection. For webview devices with an erratic and unstable connection, a warning will populate after reloading 20 times in a 48 hour period, indicating that webview’s has lost its internet connection at least 20 times in the past 2 days. If you see this warning, please follow the instructions shown on the error and, if you require additional assistance diagnosing internet connectivity, contact us at support@active911.com.

Backend Update – Bugfix: The app taking a long time to load recent alerts

We made a change to the access server this week that will help people who have multiple agencies with the same device code. There was a bug that could introduce long load times for alerts when you opened the app after a certain period of time.

Basically, whenever our app is opened it calls our access server for all of the unread alerts for that device, then attempts to download the alerts that have been sent while the app was closed. When devices did this, they did it for all the agencies they had ever been a part of. If you were part of a department a year ago, we were still trying to get all the messages sent to that department since you had left. Depending on how busy that department was, it could add anything from seconds to minutes to the message downloading process.

To fix this issue, the initial call for what alerts your device needs to download longer try to get ones that belong to agencies you are no longer a part of. We still keep those alerts in the database, so if you accidentally remove yourself from an agency and then add yourself back, your device will be able to fetch those unread alerts.

It took us a long time to recognize the problem, but we fixed it as soon as we figured it out. For everyone impacted by this bug, we thank you for your patience and apologize for not finding it sooner.

Android Version 1.5.7.5

Features

Background Location

This main feature for this release is the Background Location reporting feature.

It works in much the same way as the iOS feature,  but a key difference is that Android has no indication when apps are using background GPS.

To turn the setting on, go to your setting in the app, and select the “Background GPS Mode” setting.  This will show you the 3 options for the Background GPS.

Screenshot_20170704-160537  Screenshot_20170704-154304

The top option, “High Accuracy”, will update the location of the device in the background at the same frequency it would while the app is opened.  This will likely increase battery usage by a fair amount, but will give the most accurate position and update the most frequently.

The middle option, “Battery Saving”, will use update the location of the device  at most once per 5 seconds. This will use less battery, but also update less frequently.

The bottom option is “Off”, which is selected by default, means the app will not report your position after you have backgrounded it.

Important Notes:

This new setting only applies when Active911 is in the background, it has no effect on the position reporting when the App is open, the Foreground GPS setting still controls that.

If you reboot your device, the Active911 app must be opened at least once before Background GPS will start working again.

Also, if you are ever stationary for more than a few minutes, the app will stop reporting your position until you start moving again. Therefore, you may disappear from the map, but then reappear when you start moving again.

 

Drag and Drop Map Markers

Long-pressing on a Map Marker will now allow you to drag the marker to a new location on the map.

Screenshot_20170704-154556

You can drag multiple markers, and then press “Save” to save the location of all the markers.

Important Notes:

If you drag multiple markers and press “Edit”, the edit screen will still be for the first marker you started dragging.  The same holds true for the “Delete” button.

This Drag and Drop control, as well as editing map markers, is being redesigned in an upcoming Android release to make it easier to use.

Sorting Responders View

In the responders view for an alert, you can now tap the button at the top of the view to toggle between sorting by the device name and sorting by the response type.

Screenshot_20170704-154354

Location Following

The last change made to the Android app is the way our “Follow My Location” feature works on the map.

Screenshot_20170704-161821

Previously, whenever you long-pressed on the “My Location” button on the map, it would pan and zoom to your location at a default zoom level, then pan to keep you location centered on the map.

This caused some frustration for users who wanted to be zoomed in to a specific level while having it follow them.

We’ve now changed it so that, upon entering “Follow My Location” mode, the map only pans to your location without zooming.

We know that some people do like the zooming functionality of the button, so we have left single-tapping on the “My Location” button the same.

To zoom to your location and have it follow you, you just need to single tap on the “My Location” button, wait a second for it to zoom to you, and then long-press on the button.

PC App Version 1.1.6 is Now Live!

We have just released version 1.1.6 of our application for desktop PCs! There have been some bug fixes including fixes to position reporting and issues with GPS logging. The GPS system has also been overhauled for improved accuracy when using external GPS devices. Now the PC app should have as good of an idea where you are as your phone does!

In addition to the bug fixes, we have added some new features. You can now clear all alerts easily from the settings window, and you can toggle the debug mode on in order to collect logs from the settings window.

If you have further questions about this version, please send them to our support team at support@active911.com.

Stay Safe!

iOS Version 1.5.15 – Background Location Reporting

Hey everyone, we just released iOS Version 1.5.15 to the App Store and I want to give you an overview of our latest feature, Background Location Reporting.

This new setting, “Background GPS” can be selected below the old GPS setting, which we have renamed “Foreground GPS”.

IMG_0001

There are 3 options available for this setting.

By default, this option is set to “Off”, so the app will behave as it always has unless a new option is selected.

IMG_0002

The first option that can be selected is “Precise Accuracy”.  This will likely increase battery usage by a fair amount, but will give the most accurate position and update the most frequently.

While “Precise Accuracy” is on, a blue bar will appear when Active911 is backgrounded, showing that Active911 is still broadcasting your position updates.

IMG_0007

The other option that can be selected is “Reduced Accuracy”.  This will use less battery, but also update less frequently, only triggering a position update if you have moved 500+ meters.

(For more technical information on the iOS feature we use for “Reduced Accuracy”, see this page)

While “Reduced Accuracy” is on, there will not be any indication to the user while the app is backgrounded since we are only accepting passive updates from iOS.

Important Notes:

This new setting only applies when Active911 is in the background, it has no effect on the position reporting when the App is open, the Foreground GPS setting still controls that.

Because of strict controls in iOS, the app must be opened once in order to initialize this kind of background reporting. This means that, if you reboot your device, the Active911 app must be opened at least once before Background GPS will start working again.

Also, if you are ever stationary for more than a few minutes, the app will stop reporting your position until you start moving again. Therefore, you may disappear from the map, but then reappear when you start moving again.