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.

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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.