Podcast: Tailoring Public Safety

There’s not one pattern for how a public safety agency should use technology to meet their needs. And Canada is no different. In this podcast, I talk with Intergraph’s Rod Martinsen who has over 25 years of experience in helping police, fire and emergency management service (EMS) agencies set up a system that’s right for them.

Laura Beth: Thank you for joining us for an Intergraph SG&I podcast. In today’s podcast, we are talking with Rod Martinsen who is a managing consultant with Intergraph SG&I. Rod is based in our Calgary, Canada office. Rod, thank you for joining us.

Rod: You’re Welcome

Laura Beth: Today we are talking with Rod about the public safety sector in Canada. While that may seem like a broad topic, we’re going to focus on how public safety and security may differ in Canada from the rest of the world. What tactics do they use that others could learn from and what technology are they using to help protect Canadian citizens

Laura Beth: Rod, first just tell us about yourself and what you do at Intergraph?

Rod: Well, as you stated I’m a managing consultant here in the Calgary office, and I’ve been with Intergraph now for 29 years. Twenty-six of those have been in the public safety division. So, working with various customers throughout Canada and the United States in the public safety world. What we do here in Canada is essentially a broad gambit of things; we do the design of the system when we first talk with the clients, help load up their data, do the configuration for the various forms, and then take the systems into live operations.

Laura Beth: And how have you seen the public safety world change over the years? You said you have been kind of working in public safety for 26 years.

Rod: Yeah, so the big change I’ve seen from an Intergraph perspective is that we moved our software out of a UNIX platform into Windows, which was an exciting time for those of us who were going through that one. But also to see the changes that we see at our customer sites. I was onsite at a police service for almost five years. When we started there they had an open door policy. You could walk in. Any person off the street could meet with a police officer. Now when you walk in, you are greeted by a security officer. You are scanned before you even get a chance to get to the front desk to talk with people. So, from the perspective of what happened on September 11th has really impacted how the police interact with people, and how we get to interact with them.

Laura Beth: So how is public safety handled differently in Canada than others parts of the world?

Rod: The main difference that I observe and see with Canada is that generally our customers are a stand-alone customer. So I don’t have a system that has a lot of multi-agencies. Something I saw when I was working down in the states at a various number of sites is that there would be police, fire and EMS on I/CAD. Here in Canada, it tends to be police. We do have some that are fire and EMS together but, generally, the police are off on their own for their security requirements that they have, and to keep the data separate, and to make sure everything that they encounter is going to stay secure.

Laura Beth: And you’ve kind of made the point about how you kind of work within the I/CAD system and building the CAD system that each different police or fire needs, and we kind of have that all over the world. And then we talked about how you might not have multi-agencies as much in Canada; but, we can still tailor the software to be used by those agencies. And we’ll talk about that a little bit later. So how do you feel public safety practices can differ so much from one region of the world to another?

Rod: It all comes down to: what does the agency need and what are their policies? It’s different. As I work here in Canada and as I go from one police agency to the next, their policing policies and their ideas of how they can best meet the needs of their citizens are very different. Same with fire departments. As you go in and you’re looking at the fire department, we have some people who have to worry about large industrial complexes. Others are just a small rural fire department looking after grass fires. Home fires are nothing really major in what you would encounter in the city on some of these big industrial complexes. So, the big difference is what are the local needs and how can we meet those needs. I had the opportunity to be in Europe this year and I was talking to another Intergraph employee there. And he was telling me that in his city - essentially the same size as Calgary where I’m at - they only have one or two patrol cars per every division every night. Here in Calgary, we will put far more than that. We have far more police on the streets. So very, very different.

Laura Beth: So let’s talk about technology, though. Intergraph has customers all over the world, like you were just stating that all handle public safety differently. There’s no one written book on how it should be done but they all are able to use our technology and customize it to their needs. The biggest being our computer-aided dispatch software. How does this work?

Rod: Well, what Intergraph has provided to our customer is a great interface that allows people - like myself and my co-workers - to go in and design the software to meet  their workflow requirements to capture the data that they feel is important. And as I said before, each police agency has different workflows and different ideas of what they want to do. Some agencies want to capture data saying that this is going to be a part of my strategic policing for the month. And if I encounter any kind of event I want to tag that. Other police agencies are not interested in doing that on the front end. So, we at Intergraph provide very flexible software that we can use to help people make it fit with their workflow needs, even to mobile computing in the car. A great opportunity for our police agencies is to come in and say  that this is how we do our policing. The fire guys come in and say we don’t need to have all of that functionality. We would like to keep it down to a simpler interface. And we have that opportunity to design and change the interface to match what they need.

Laura Beth: Now there are also solutions that are used at a regional level. Tell me about any technologies used in Canada that help meet public safety needs there.

Rod: Well we have a couple of ways we do that here in Canada. We have some custom code that was developed here to help us transfer patients. And that has been extrapolated to ask how do the police transfer prisoners, taking them from one place to the next and keeping track of them. But one of our new ideas that we have is using Intergraph Planning and Response (IPR). IPR gives our clients the ability to take pre-planned events such as here in Calgary we have the Calgary Stampede. So, we could take our IPR software; and we could put all the planning that’s required for the many police resources, for fire resources, and for EMS resources that are needed for that parade to actually take place. And we have other types of festivals and parades that are the same thing. So, what this software allows us to do is take it and do some very thorough planning. Do some desktop exercises with that and then give the agency the ability to exercise the plans in making sure that everything that should be done, should be covered. And you do all this thought process and it allows you to do some ad hoc tasking to say, oh we forgot this part or this is new. And you can put that into the plan. So, IPR essentially wants to take it away from the emergency dispatch people because they’re extended type of events with multiple resources and you handle them in a different fashion. There's not always going to be an emergency operation that would go into the traditional emergency operations centers, but still something that needs to have some kind of command center or somebody who’s in control, ensuring that everything is happening properly and in a timely fashion.

Laura Beth: Why is this important to have technology solutions built this way?

Rod: Well, it’s to allow our customers to best meet the needs of their clients, if you will, or the citizens they serve. It’s that our software helps them to be more efficient. It helps them to be able to get to the data that they need to make the proper decisions that they are faced with every day - when they are out on the street. Whether it’s police, fire or EMS they get that ability. And our dispatch staff that uses this system can hook into various interfaces, allowing them to access better and more complete data, so that they can be much more efficient in what they’re doing.

Laura Beth: Rod I asked you earlier about how you have seen the public safety world change over the years. But now where do you see it going, particularly in relation to Canada?

Rod: What our clients are telling us is that we need better integration to external systems, whether that’s an alerting system or whether that’s a records management system. Often times as major events come on, they have to go and do some work in this system and then go and work in that system. And they want to have that better integration. Intergraph is working very hard to bring integration closer together with products like our EdgeFrontier, which can be used to tie a lot of different external systems all into one. So the users enter the data once. The data it pulls through to the other systems. They can query other systems. We can do automated responses to automated checks. We can go look at a weather channel or cameras that are on roadways. Whatever the dispatcher or the command staff needs to see.

Laura Beth: Well Rod, we appreciate your time and thank you for being our guest. You can learn more about Intergraph SG&I Public Safety solutions by visiting our website.

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About Laura Beth Ezzell