In Texas, software ties together first responders' radios

Emergency crews from multiple jurisdictions can communicate regardless of systems

First responders in the Forth Worth, Texas, area can now react and cooperate more effectively thanks to new software that allows all of their communications gear to interoperate. The capability permits organizations to coordinate emergency response operations without having to spend limited funds on new gear.

RadioConnect software allows emergency management organizations to integrate equipment such as push-to-talk radios, cellular telephones and text messaging devices with a command center’s IP telephony infrastructure. Pulling all of these different sources into a single network allows groups such as the police, firefighters, health care providers and government officials to coordinate with each other regardless of their communications gear.

Developed by IBM and UnifiedEdge, RadioConnect is being used in Fort Worth and Tarrant County’s joint emergency operations center (JEOC). The system was put to the test in February to help manage the security for the week before Super Bowl XLV, which was held in Arlington, Texas, IBM said.

More than 40 agencies and departments helped the city of Fort Worth and Tarrant County manage the event, IBM said in a release. These organizations included city and county departments, the Texas Department of Public Safety, the FBI, the American Red Cross and the U.S. Homeland Security Department. To coordinate the event, a contact list of more than 290 officials and more than 30 radio-over-IP channels was maintained.

Adding to the complications was a massive winter storm that hit the area a week before the game. Officials in Fort Worth’s Office of Emergency Management said the new software allowed the participating agencies to set priorities and manage post-storm snow removal. The software then helped the JEOC to coordinate all of the activities for the Super Bowl with minimal delay, including planning, operations, logistics, city management and community services.

Because hundreds of radios are often used in emergency management centers, background noise and miscommunication due to radio frequency interference are common problems. RadioConnect allows operators to receive radio calls via their desktop computers. The software also features the Sametime instant messaging capability that permits users to communicate with individuals, groups or teams. IBM officials said the software provides an IP-enabled radio system that can operate over existing communications networks or through an Internet portal.

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