Thank you to EaseAlert™ for contributing the following guest blog post. EaseAlert™ is a state-of-the-art Fire Fighter Alerting System (FFAS) designed to reduce stress and improve efficiency for fire and EMS crews. Zetron is thrilled to partner with a company doing ground-breaking work to improve the health of firefighters. You can check out the original post on their blog here. If you’d like to learn more about EaseAlert™, we’ve included more resources at the end of this post. The first documented system of fire alerting goes back to 1658. Firefighters would patrol the city streets armed with buckets and ladders, searching for the telltale signs of fire. Should they happen upon a fire, they would ring their bells and shout warnings to the local community. It was a woefully inefficient system, but it was the most effective alerting method of the time. Fortunately, improvements were made towards the 1800s when a series of bell towers, or fire towers, were strategically placed around a city’s neighborhoods that could warn the surrounding community should a fire break out. The arrival of the telegraph during the 1850s allowed for a slightly more advanced fire alerting system. Two alarm boxes with telegraph keys were connected via a telegraph cable. One box is kept in the central alarm station, and the other is placed somewhere easily accessible out in the neighborhood. Alerting the station was a two-person job, with one operating the crank handle to generate the electricity for the signal while the other operator would use the telegraph key to rapidly tap out a morse-coded message detailing the location of the fire. A telegrapher at the central station would then relay the address to the fire department. Technology kept advancing, and our first electric fire alarm system went into widespread use before the turn of the 20th century. This new style of fire alerting system was the first to use a thermostat as a trigger to power an alarm bell and set sprinklers off to help contain the fire. It was primitive by today’s standards but still a step in the right direction. Fire Alerting Systems for the Modern Fire Station Since those early days, communication centers and fire stations have adopted more advanced forms of fire alerting using radio-based systems. These systems are capable of relaying critical information to first responders that let them know where the fire is and what they are up against so they can prepare in advance. Radio-based systems are still in use, but they have significant downsides for larger operations, including not being able to alert multiple units at a time, misunderstood messages, and putting distressed callers on hold while alerts are sent out. They are an excellent system for smaller fire stations, but they are also used as a reliable backup system that complies with requirements for redundancy according to NFPA guidelines. Fortunately, new technology and research are creating many opportunities for emergency services to implement even more advanced systems that benefit first responders and the community they serve. Automated Fire Station Alerting (FSA) Urban expansion and growing populations often put a lot of strain on fire departments dealing with more calls using the same or fewer resources. Automated FSA systems deliver a solution for cash-strapped fire stations that are increasingly asked to do more with less. An automated FSA system can significantly enhance the capabilities of CAD, as all the information related to the emergency can be delivered to first responders without having to put the caller on hold. Fire station alerts can be configured in various ways, including: Voice dispatching Automated “rip and run” printers Starting countdown timers Activating multi-unit indicator lights Opening bay doors Shutting off gas stoves Switching over traffic lights for faster exits As you can see, an automated FSA system can automate many procedures and cut response time down by the precious few seconds needed to save lives. With all the bells and whistles that CAD and FSA systems bring to the table, there is still more that can be done to improve fire alert systems, especially when you consider the health and safety of the crew. Resources EaseAlert Explained Want to know about new posts? Subscribe today and receive periodic alerts on what’s new on the Zetron Z-wire blog!
The Zetron Blog: Z-Wire
Thank you to CivicEye for contributing the following blog post The transition from active-duty law enforcement to retirement can be difficult. Career officers can struggle with a loss of purpose, a lack of camaraderie, and the sudden life changes retirement brings. With such a difficult adjustment, many former officers take up new hobbies, travel, and enjoy their newfound freedom. Others begin second careers in non-law enforcement centered industries. And some retirees continue to look for ways to be a positive influence on their chosen profession and serve their communities. Retired Deputy Chief Gary Holliday served with the Knoxville Tennessee Police Department for almost 30 years, retiring in 2019. “At 52 years old I wasn’t finished. While my career in active law enforcement was complete, I still felt I had something to offer my profession. I felt like, in a small way, I could still make a difference”. Deputy Chief Holliday found a way to make a difference by leveraging his years of experience and training into the law enforcement software industry and starting his second career at CivicEye, a cloud software company for law enforcement. Bringing Law Enforcement & Software Together The development and support of law enforcement software and hardware is a tremendous opportunity for retired law enforcement officers and for the organizations that hire them. They provide a unique perspective, centered around years of practical and tangible experience. These retired officers also bring a real-world perspective to product development, user interface, and system design. They understand the pitfalls and pains of new technology, but also have the knowledge and forethought to develop innovative strategies to overcome issues of change. Retired law enforcement officers bring added benefits to an organization aside from the development of trade tools. Some have worked in the higher levels of their police agency and have a great knowledge of the purchasing process, RFPs, and the internal mechanics of large projects and contracts. “Just three years ago, I was the customer. When I speak with our clients now, I always keep that in the back of my mind. What would I want to hear from my vendor representative? How long would this contract take me to get signed? What were my goals?’” said Gary Holliday. Continuing to Make an Impact Officers spend their careers making a meaningful impact on their communities. For many, it’s important to still have that sense of purpose and drive post retirement. Being able to transition into a second career that is still centered around making a difference not only benefits the retired officers, but the organizations they become part of, and in turn, the products they help develop. The partnership of retired law enforcement professional and innovative business is beneficial to all, and most importantly, to the communities they serve. By: CivicEye Want to know about new posts? Subscribe today and receive periodic alerts on what’s new on the Zetron Z-wire blog!
No matter the hazard, preparedness and mitigation are the keys to improving community resilience in the face of disaster. That said, it can take years to develop and establish well-organized and actionable emergency plans. As part of the preparation, multi-level partnerships and community relations must be forged to ensure necessary capabilities and capacity are present throughout all phases of an event. Equally challenging, besides learning how to identify risks, coordinate resources, and communicate effectively, stakeholders must also work to create social capital and build trust on all levels. Along these lines, first responders can act as a conduit for powering community resilience. Not only are they experts in planning for and managing emergencies, they’re also well-versed in disaster management concepts, such as the National Incident Management System (NIMS), Incident Command System (ICS), and the National Response Framework (NRF). Most important, because first responders are often members of the communities they serve, they already have an established rapport and comfortable familiarity with other residents and neighboring agencies. Therefore, they are in a prime position to inform and motivate the community to remain proactive, vigilant, and engaged. With this in mind, let’s explore some simple steps an emergency responder can take to contribute and support disaster resilience in their community. Purpose-Driven Conversations From cultivating awareness of disaster management programs to hosting fun and informative public events, emergency responders can translate the topic of disaster resilience into a community conversation that generates real results. As far as the content and structure for these events, the possibilities are endless. For instance, your agency could host a monthly community meeting to openly discuss ideas for mitigation or review plans for addressing specific hazards and concerns inherent to the area. To switch the topics up a bit, why not invite local businesses, utility representatives, insurance agents, and contractors to explain how their products or services can benefit the community during an emergency? Aside from supporting neighboring businesses, these meetings can help community members better assess their preparedness levels and act early to address potential issues. Going further, emergency agencies can request local experts in emergency planning, structural engineering, and federal grants to address disaster preparedness and recovery options available to both the community and individual residents. Likewise, volunteer agencies and non-governmental organizations can be a great source of information. Not only can these complementary agencies help drive home the message of long-term resilience, but they can also inspire residents to find creative ways to get involved and help others. Emergency-Building Activities Workshops, classes, and Q&A sessions can also help community members gain the knowledge and skills they need to become more self-efficient during an emergency or disaster. For example, why not host a workshop on how to assemble a household emergency plan and go-bag? Or a class that can demonstrate various ways residents can stockpile emergency supplies over time. Even better, informal question and answer sessions can also spark insights from both sides. Similarly, emergency responders can create programs for school-aged children that explain how to stay safe during various emergencies. Adding to the fun, these programs can be delivered in a game format to include giveaways like flashlights or wearable emergency beacons. Further still, if space or schedule is a problem, any of these events can be hosted online or posted as webinars on an agency’s website and social media channels. Remember, there are no limits to the level of creativity or engagement. The point is to generate momentum before disaster strikes. Often proper guidance and a gentle nudge are all community members need to get more involved in shoring-up their family’s safety and future security. Leadership-Emphasizing Exercises While many emergency responders possess inherent leadership qualities, not everyone is comfortable taking charge in adverse situations. And while this thought-process is normal and acceptable in many instances, the fact remains—learning how to step-up and lead during an emergency can help save lives. With this thought in mind, emergency responders can help coach and instill leadership qualities in every member of their community, including senior residents and those with fundamental needs. In these instances, modified tabletop and scenario-building exercises can help give introverted and hesitant residents the confidence and courage to take action or speak up and vocalize their thoughts on navigating the event. Better yet, tabletop exercises are a great way to address misconceptions and encourage higher public autonomy and accountability. What’s more, these exercises can also function as a springboard to identify which disaster assistance services may be needed in the community. For example, suppose several participants express anxiety over the ability to evacuate their families without assistance. In that case, emergency responders can forward these concerns to public officials as proof of the need to implement better public outreach and evacuation programs. Summing Up While this post isn’t an all exhaustive list of all the ways responders can help, we hope it will serve as an idea well moving forward. As the last decade has presented us all with unsurmountable challenges in the emergency services and disaster management sector, it’s essential to empower our communities with the knowledge and skills necessary to help themselves and others before, during, and after a crisis.
Hard to believe we recently (December) hit the four-year mark since Zetron first announced the award of a contract with the Iowa Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (IDHSEM) to provide statewide Next Generation 9-1-1 shared technology services. At the time, statewide contracts weren’t necessarily typical, and shared public safety technology services models were even less common. It was a pretty big deal. Not just for Zetron, and not just in the Hawkeye state. When I joined Zetron in May of 2018, the ink on the Iowa contract was practically still wet. Zetron, RACOM (Zetron’s implementation and services partner on the contract locally in Iowa), and the IDHSEM were still very much in the planning phase of initial PSAP deployments. And what I kept hearing, both inside and outside of Zetron, was, “All eyes are on Iowa.” What I would soon come to find out was “all eyes on Iowa” meant something different internal to Zetron than it did in the market at large. Inside Zetron, what it meant was simple; this is an important initiative and making it successful is a company-wide commitment. But externally, what “all eyes on Iowa” meant was more like, “this raises a lot of questions.” Would a statewide shared services model work financially? Could the technology flex and scale to meet the expansive network aspirations? Would individual PSAPs buy in? How would the shared technologies integrate with the existing PSAP infrastructures and tools already in place at the local level? Would it be more disruptive than beneficial at the local PSAP level? Lots and lots of questions. As such, many Iowa PSAPs were understandably reluctant to clamor to the line to sign up when the contract was first announced. But as curiosity turned to interest, and interest turned to early adopters, Iowa shared services deployments began late in 2018. And since then, what’s been delivered (other than a lot more deployments) is a lot of questions answered With the anniversary of the December 4, 2017 contract award announcement, there are now (as of the date this post is publishing) 38 Iowa county PSAPs fully installed and deployed on the IDHSEM Next Gen 9-1-1 shared services contract, and another 26 have since signed and are in the process of having their implementations scheduled. They say bad news travels fast, but sometimes the same can be said for the good stuff too. Recently the IDHSEM and communications professionals from PSAPs that have deployed their new systems under the state contract were asked to talk a bit about the benefits of the statewide contract and how it’s working out. If you prefer video over text, read no further, check out the brief (3 minutes) video capturing sentiments conveyed here. But if reading is more your thing, let’s cover some highlights: The statewide contract was carefully researched and crafted in order to make enhanced next gen 9-1-1 technology available to every county and community in Iowa. Rural or urban, large or small, densely populated or no. Sharing technology infrastructure across the network enables PSAPs to save money and reallocate funding at the local level. The shared services contract ensures all PSAPs on the contract always have the latest and greatest versions of software, without having to expend large amounts of money on an annual basis. The technology provided through the contract is scalable, easily expandable with additional optional applications and services, and integrates with other existing systems, such as CAD. The Zetron next gen 9-1-1 systems offer the best user experience at the operator level in the market. Iowa 9-1-1 operators are using the new systems seamlessly, enjoying a user experience that’s intuitive, easy, and that saves them time. 24×7 centralized monitoring assures reliability. The systems simply have to work, always. PSAPs don’t have to worry if the software is functioning. “The shared services really provide 9-1-1 answering points the reliability, the ease of use, and the financial incentive to bring their center into next generation 9-1-1.” – Blake Derouchey, Iowa 9-1-1 Program Manager “It’s met every one of the needs and expectations that we have. It couldn’t come more highly recommended from us. That’s for sure.” – Andy Buffington, Hancock County Emergency Manager Seriously, you should check out the video. If all eyes truly have been on Iowa, so far there’s a lot of great reasons to like what they’re seeing. Over the first four years of the next gen 9-1-1 shared services program, Zetron has been tremendously proud, honored, and deeply committed to delivering time, cost, and life saving solutions to the state of Iowa and are looking forward to continuing to expand on what’s been a great start. Zetron didn’t make the video, but we’re certainly humbled and gratified to see the impacts of the great partnership that’s been forged with the IDHSEM and the difference it’s making in communities all across Iowa. By: Jim Shulkin Want to know about new posts? Subscribe today and receive periodic alerts on what’s new on the Zetron Z-wire blog!
Peer Support Programs – Mitigating the Emotional Effects of Vicarious Trauma Experienced by 911 Dispatchers
When in crisis, we call for help. In North America, it’s 911. In other regions of the world, it’s a different number. But what’s more important than the number, is who’s on the other end – the emergency response professionals on the front lines during our greatest times of need. From fires to automobile accidents, natural disasters to violent crimes, and so much more, their ability to calmly, efficiently, and compassionately comprehend the situation and tend to the immediate needs of the caller/texter, while simultaneously setting a coordinated response in motion, is inarguably the stuff of superheroes. Beyond the critical, tactical, logistical, and operational aspects of the job, the emotional heavy lifting that emergency telecommunicators and dispatchers must handle is taxing. And all too often overlooked. Perhaps inevitably, many face at least some form of compassion fatigue or secondary traumatic stress at some point in their career. For years now, we at Zetron have made a concerted effort to recognize the toll this work takes on the emergency response professionals in those hot seats and raise awareness for the vital wellness support needed to keep them healthy and safe, just as they work so hard to do for all of us. In the past two years specifically, we’ve held wellness webinars, (Part 1: Wellness & Peer Support Programs – Part 2: Integrating Peer Support in the PSAP) conducted surveys, published posts, and connected our emergency response audience with professionals that specialize in creating wellness programs to promote the mental, emotional and physical health of emergency responders. Suffice it to say, we’re invested in the wellness of superheroes. So, when we came across the published thesis, “Peer Support Programs: Mitigating the Emotional Stress of Vicarious Trauma Experienced by 9-1-1 Dispatchers,” by Melissa Alterio, Director of Emergency Communications at Cobb County 911, we felt compelled to share her fantastic work on this very important topic. Melissa’s passion and appreciation for the profession are evident. She explores the key concepts of compassion fatigue from shouldering the traumas of others through the lens of someone who sits in the seat and intimately understands the work. In her paper, Melissa shares the story of New York Fire Department Dispatcher, Gloria and her experience during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. So often, we think only of field First Responders and Military personnel when we consider the need for trauma support. Melissa’s paper reminds us that Emergency Response Dispatchers are heavily impacted by the fallout of traumatic events too, even without necessarily being exposed to them physically. The study of the health and wellness of Emergency Dispatchers is an understandably growing field, and we’ll continue to share content and resources in support. While not our own obviously, this work is too good not to share. We humbly thank Melissa for her great contribution to this important cause and her graciously permitting us to share it with you on Z-Wire. The following are brief excerpts from Melissa’s paper. You can read the full paper, Peer Support Programs: Mitigating the Emotional Stress of Vicarious Trauma Experienced by 9-1-1 Dispatchers here. Abstract Public safety telecommunicators, often referred to as 9-1-1 dispatchers, experience a significant compassion fatigue and secondary traumatic stress. Their job duties include listening to highly emotional callers provide specific details on current, tragic, and often horrific critical incidents in volatile working conditions. This paper focuses on a systemic review of research that identifies the working conditions and responsibilities of 9-1-1 dispatchers and the subsequent emotional effects of sustained exposure to vicarious trauma. The research recognizes a minimal amount of documentation regarding the stress 9-1-1 dispatchers’ experience which supports a fundamental need for comprehensive, longitudinal studies in this job classification. This review also seeks to prove the lack of intervention programs employed to reduce or mitigate the emotional effects of vicarious trauma, compassion fatigue, and secondary traumatic stress, thereby resulting in the irrefutable need for workplace peer support programs to combat these conditions felt by public safety telecommunicators. Introduction A research study conducted in 2015 at a national dispatch conference reported 17% of 205 participating public safety telecommunicators experienced symptoms of acute stress disorder (ASD) during their careers, a notably higher percentage than the general population (Trachik et al., 2015). Public safety telecommunicator (PSTs), (referred to in this document also as 9-1-1 dispatchers, 9-1-1 professionals, or emergency dispatchers) have a significant risk of exposure to secondary trauma due to experiencing critical incidents unfold through 9-1-1 callers descriptive information about traumatic scenes while in a highly emotional state of panic and distress (Rigden, 2017). Further research has shown that PSTs suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), with a significant correlation to peritraumatic stress, showing PSTs do not need to be physically present during a traumatic event for it to negatively impact their wellbeing (Pierce & Lilly, 2012). The frequency with which PSTs are subjected to highly emotional calls, paired with the presence of PTSD symptoms, can seriously jeopardize a PST’s everyday judgment and decision-making abilities on the job (Pierce & Lilly, 2012). Studies have shown peer support in the workplace minimizes distress and angst experienced by emergency service workers as a result of trauma and those who suffer post-stress related reactions following a critical incident (Scully, 2011). Background In the early morning hours of September 11, 2001, Fire Department of the City of New York (FDNY) dispatcher Gloria A. (personal communication, June 30, 2020) began her shift shortly after 6:30 a.m., arriving earlier than scheduled. Her specific assignment was dispatching Emergency Medical Services (EMS) units for the city (Dispatcher G.A., personal communication, June 30, 2020). With her partner calling in sick, Gloria was assigned the dispatching duties for all of Manhattan on this particular morning. As a military veteran turned public safety dispatcher… Read More Resources If you are a 9-1-1 Dispatcher who is struggling or in crisis, you deserve help: National Alliance on Mental Health https://nami.org/ NENA Wellness Continuum https://www.nena.org/general/custom.asp?page=WellnessContinuum APCO International – Health and Wellness https://www.apcointl.org/community/human-resources-toolbox/health-and-wellness/ National Suicide Prevention Lifeline – Call 988 https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/ Follow Cobb County: https://www.facebook.com/joincobb911
The industry is still obviously dealing with the continued impacts of COVID-19. And while we aren’t off this wild rollercoaster yet, we’re hopeful 2022 will start to provide our industry with new opportunities and beginnings. Health and wellness are both mental and physical games. It’s important to have healthy telecommunicators that have the awareness and the right tools to live well throughout their career, both on and off the job. We surveyed attendees at the NENA (National Emergency Number Association) 2021 trade show and APCO (Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials) International 2021 trade show to discover how their organizations are continuing to evolve by acknowledging the need for wellness programs and bringing them into agency life. Based on the survey results, some developing trends in public safety wellness appear evident for 2022. Enhanced Safety Protocols After a long wait, in-person gatherings are once again becoming more prominent and frequent. With this ability comes great responsibility, and agencies across the globe are rising to the challenge! Many PSAPs are taking a “safety in layers” approach to plan a return to in-person workstations. In our recent wellness survey, 98% of respondents had at least one, and as many as seven new safety, health, or hygiene models implemented to protect their employees. To enter agencies, we’ll see continued health screenings like temperature checks and rapid COVID-19 testing, 37% of those surveyed shared screening and rapid testing were already being utilized in their PSAP. Some state agencies are requiring vaccination to enter. Onsite workers will adhere to mask policies and social distancing. In addition, 67% of our wellness survey respondents indicated work from home options were introduced to their PSAP. Working from home is definitely on the rise and will continue to become a more accepted and normal mode of operation. All of these methods and more will help create a multi-layer approach that gives our first responders everywhere a safer way to be together. Find out more on remote working here. Supply Chain Disruptions Will Have Major Impact The supply chain issue has hit every industry, and unfortunately, public safety is no exception. We’ve talked about this with many of our partners and this problem has hit every aspect of PSAP life. So, what does it mean for 2022? Agencies can expect to see prices rise and shortages occur. They may not be able to get exactly what they’re looking for precisely when needed, so being flexible and working with your partners to develop an acceptable and/or interim plan B may be more necessary and frequent. Labor shortages will be even more challenging to overcome than price increases and supply shortages. Only 7% of wellness survey participants indicated they were using A/B/C teams at their PSAP. However, implementing this sort of system in the coming year could help deal with labor shortages creatively. The nationwide labor shortage has caused wages to increase as much as 20% – 30% in some regions. The United States has around 95,000 police, fire and ambulance dispatchers throughout the country, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. They handle around 240 million calls in the United States every year, according to National Emergency Number Association (NENA). It is imperative to retain these skilled individuals, as three out of five hires do not proceed past training on average. Peer Support Programs or Groups for the Public Safety Industry The pandemic dramatically brought our lives to a halt. Yet, this pause allowed us all to reflect on what matters and how we incorporate easily maintainable strategies and a positive outlook for wellness in the workplace. We want to retain our staff and continue to have them healthy in this stressful time. The rise of peer support programs and/or groups are being formed at every size agency, as evidenced by 59% of our survey participants sharing that their centers now have peer support systems in place. Covid has taught us the importance of taking care of oneself, both mental and physical. And this is being carried into small PSAPs with the formation of a once-a-month group talk to larger agencies where a formal program has been created with trained Peer Support leads. This has become a necessary part of agency life going forward. For more information on how to create your own Peer Support program, please feel free to review our webinar series. Click here for more information. Flexibility Will Reign Scheduling supervisors will need to continue to meet staff where they are at and offer flexibility in how people participate. Staff will expect meetings to have both in-person and virtual options for attendance. Some members will still need to quarantine on occasion but will want to be part of important updates. So, making sure the team remains updated, wherever they are, will need to continue. Flexibility will also go beyond the in-house experience. Directors will need to continue to be flexible as we enter our new normal and adjust to local health department recommendations and adapt in the face of supply chain issues and labor shortages. We still can’t control much with new variants still on the rise, so being flexible and having backup plans will be key! 93% of those surveyed at APCO and NENA agreed and answered yes to whether they had an existing backup plan in place. Public Safety Industry Focus on Continued Education There is no sugar coating it. The public safety industry was flipped on its back when the pandemic hit. First responder professionals everywhere had to figure out how to create a safe workplace, work remotely, and do so fast to survive. Many of us never want to be in that position again, so we’re doing something to prevent it. Across the country, many agencies are seeking certifications for staff. These certifications (gained in regional training or at the larger national shows, such as NENA and APCO) help to bolster knowledge and allow professionals to gain new skills. As a result, we have seen a big spike in education surrounding staff and supervisors (lots of new ENPs – yay you!). At Zetron, we believe there is always room to learn and grow, so this is definitely a trend we can get behind! Conclusion: 5 Wellness Trends that Will Influence the Public Safety Industry in 2022 As you can see from these trends, our industry still has a lot of uncertainty. They aren’t the wellness trends you used to read in years prior, but they are reality. That said, we’re still feeling positive and believe 2022 will be a big year for our industry! Creating a wellness program that reduces agency liability and turnover due to improved morale effects the individual, agency and overall response performance. Use these trends and predictions to plan your wellness program for 2022. They will help guide your decisions and inspire your processes. What wellness trends do you predict for 2022? Comment below and let us know! Want to know about new posts? Subscribe today and receive periodic alerts on what’s new on the Zetron Z-wire blog!
A note from our President, Scott French Year end is often a time of reflection. 2021 was inarguably a year like no other. Two years ago, it would’ve been unimaginable how dramatically the lives of virtually every person on the planet would be impacted and how different the world would look as a result of a worldwide pandemic. Just one year ago at this time the outlook felt cruelly uncertain, after an exasperating initial ten months of virtually endless and unprecedented bad news. As we reflect on 2021, there’s no question we’re not out of the woods yet. Variants and vaccinations continue to trade punches in an ever-changing battle to bring back normalcy, which still feels a ways away and will likely look very different than our conventional definitions of “normal.” But. Fortunately, this year, there is a definitive but. Finally, we have started to see some of that light at the end of the tunnel, as at least some of the personal and professional conveniences we unknowingly took for granted have slowly and cautiously started coming back, including our abilities to travel, gather, and connect in person. We’re not there yet, but at the end of this year there is at least finally legitimate cause for enduring optimism that’s been missing for nearly two years. We’re getting there through the efforts, education and hard work of so many, it’s truly a time once again to be thankful and hopeful. Optimism is in the air. As you probably know by now, 2021 was a big year of change, and optimism, for Zetron as well. In March, we announced the acquisition of the company by Codan, and then subsequently announced the closing and merger of Zetron and the LMR business of Codan Communications (another Codan portfolio company). Since that time, we’ve been hard at work integrating two highly synergistic and complementary businesses to become the new Zetron. Collectively, we provide a new end-to-end mission critical communications platform. It’s two businesses that are absolutely and simply Better Together. Better Together became a Zetron theme in 2021 and is the source of our optimism for 2022 and beyond. As a global community we’ve discovered we’re better working together against a global pandemic, and at Zetron we are also better as a combined company that’s capable of delivering the complete communications continuum, be it for public safety, federal, or commercial applications where communications are the lifeblood of mission critical operations. Integrating companies is not easy, and we still have lots of work to do. Our focus has been on making it as seamless as possible for our customers and partners. While the outcome will benefit all, we understand the critical (in many cases, lifesaving) work of our customers never stops and doesn’t necessarily care today about the value being Better Together at Zetron will bring tomorrow. So, the commitments to legendary quality and customer service, not coincidentally shared by Zetron and Codan, remain our top priority while we integrate. But because I’ve proclaimed year end 2021 as a time for optimism, I’d like to share just a glimpse of the upside and promise that Better Together means for Zetron customers and partners worldwide. Better Together means Zetron customers now, and going forward, will have access to a fully integrated end-to-end mission critical communications platform that’s wider, deeper, more capable, and more valuable than ever before. Better Together means Zetron legitimately stands and delivers at the intersection of Command & Control, Land Mobile Radio, and Broadband. Able to deliver The Power to Respond and BE HEARD for customers regardless of where they are today or have aspirations to go in their technology journey to better serve their respective communities and customers. Better Together means new and true choice for mission critical communications customers. Zetron’s unrivaled commitment to open standards, interoperability, and flexibility means whether Zetron is your platform, or your point solution, you’ll never be locked in, cornered, or strong-armed to use technology that’s not best of breed for YOUR specific use case. Better Together means new innovation across the entire incident response continuum, backed by two of the most proven and trusted brands in mission critical communications. Now standing together, as one team, with only one mission…it’s all we do. Needless to say, we have a lot to be optimistic about for 2022 and beyond, as do Zetron customers and partners. Together, we will ALL be better. To our customers and partners, we genuinely appreciate your ongoing business and trust, and are excited to work with you in the new year. To everyone, we wish you the happiest of holidays, a hopeful and healthy new year, and we look forward to sharing more about the new Zetron in 2022. Best Regards, Scott French President Zetron, a Codan Company
Did you know October was National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM)? Yes, October is now officially in the books, but cybersecurity is a topic that needs to be top of mind twelve months a year. NCSAM is a collaborative effort between the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and its public and private partners — including the National Cyber Security Alliance — to ensure every American has the resources they need to stay safe and secure online. This is especially important in public safety and organizations that provide critical communications for obvious reasons. As such, in tribute to NCSAM, and as a reminder that it needs to be a priority year round, Zetron is pleased to provide the following guest post by one of our trusted technology partners, SecuLore. Cyber-attacks on government networks are growing exponentially, and in some cases – with lethal consequences! Public Safety networks are under cyber-attack because they are a high value/high vulnerability target to hackers. The very nature of ‘always-on’ computers and mission-critical 9-1-1 services make Public Safety networks the perfect target for ransomware and cryptomining/cryptojacking, and the impacts are significant. For the first six months of 2021 cryptojacking volume hit 51.1 million registered attacks, as published in the 2021 mid-year SonicWall Cyber Threat Report. Similarly, SecuLore’s Cybersecurity Attack Archive indicates there have been over 100 Public Safety cyber-attacks and more than 250 Local Government cyber-attacks (disclosed) in the USA in the past 24 months (a rolling quantity, often higher). By the end of 2021 Cybersecurity Ventures reports that ransomware is expected to attack a business every 11 seconds, and ransomware damages are estimated to hit $20 BILLION. How Are Hackers Attacking Public Safety? The most common attack methods used by hackers against Public Safety include (not limited to): • Brute force attacks, compromised Remote Desktop Protocol and Virtual Private Network credentials are the top three common infection vectors. Reciprocity reports there were 377.5 million brute force attacks on RDPs in Q1 of 2021. • Phishing / Social engineering • Compromise of Active Directory via various techniques including credential stuffing. Enables the intruders to effectively distribute malware and collect data using AD itself. • Hackers probe targets using Exploit Kits to deposit various malicious “payloads” e.g., ransomware. Exploit kits can be acquired as a service (RAAS) via the dark web (Internet, the cloud, etc. • TDoS and DDoS attacks cause service disruptions at PSAPs that can be life-affecting when real callers cannot reach the help they need. Additionally, there can be costs associated with these attacks that certainly include the time wasted when Telecommunicators have to triage between real and fraudulent calls. Steps Public Safety Should Take to Harden the Target Holistic Security Approach ✓ Continuous behavior-based cybersecurity monitoring of your network is the most important aspect of protection! ✓ Vulnerability assessments – Per the Task Force on Optimal PSAP Architecture (TFOPA), vulnerability assessments should occur at a minimum of every 90 days across the whole of the infrastructure to ensure your cyber-defense preparations are functioning as expected. Exception per CSRIC VII: if the type of cyber monitoring in use provides weekly reports and regular external analysis, then vulnerability assessments could instead be done annually. ✓ NIST 800-53 Rev 5 CA-7(1) recommends employing independent assessors or assessment teams to monitor the controls in the system on an ongoing basis. ✓ Recommended Mitigation Methods for Ransomware include: • Comprehensive backup strategy which includes frequent backup testing (see below). It is the most important step in ransomware recovery. • Preventative architecture techniques including employing least privilege, especially with admin credentials (Limit admin permissions to the lowest level required to perform each person’s job responsibilities). • Endpoint protection ✓ Create strong passwords, requiring sufficiently high entropy. SecuLore recommends 12+ character password from an unrestricted alphabet (include special characters!). A computer-generated password ensures a high entropy result. (NIST SP 800-132 Recommendation for Password-Based Key Derivation – December 2010 describes Entropy as; “A measure of the amount of uncertainty in an unknown value”). ✓ Train your staff in cyber hygiene. Training is widely available and can help reduce risk by up to 40% (e.g., SecuLore’s Cybersecurity Hygiene Training). ✓ Hide your super-secret info (encryption keys, API keys, etc.), in an encrypted wallet or vault rather than plain text files. ✓ Use MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication) and only access the network via IT approved devices. ✓ Lock down remote access. Any remote access to critical systems should first enter a sandboxed environment (i.e., via VPN). If it is not operationally necessary to provide remote access, remove it entirely. ✓ Secure your ports by controlling access with a firewall and closing ports that are not being used. ✓ Keep patches up to date (police your vendors too!) ✓ Have a well-thought-out Incident Response Plan in place and test it on a timely basis. See TFOPA. ✓ Keep complete/regular backups using the 3-2-1 approach and test them on a prescribed schedule to ensure they will work when needed. Questions to consider when testing your backups: • What needs to be backed up? Are you considering all your critical data? • How often should you test? Are you testing too often or too little? • Are you able to restore the data? • Was the recovery accurate and effective? • Was the recovery reliable? • How to test without putting your “production” system at risk? Implementation Planning Considerations • Have contingency plans for offline operations • Ensure personnel are trained in offline operations • Have manual methods of performing mandatory functions • Partner with nearby ECCs for support • Consider vendor and 3rd party services, and make sure they have contingencies too! • Prepare physical copies of critical documents and store them safely and keep them updated • Have printed lists of emergency contacts and store them safely and keep them updated • Consider cyber insurance to help pay for 3rd party assistance, NOT for paying ransom (paying ransom should be an absolute last resort) Cybersecurity References Applicable to Public Safety • DHS Cyber Risks to Next Generation 9-1-1 • DHS Cybersecurity Directives • APCO Cybersecurity Introduction • TFOPA Reports • NIST Cybersecurity Framework • NENA Security for Next-Generation 9-1-1 Standard (NG-SEC) NENA-STA-040.2-201X (originally 75-001, v1) (under rewrite at this time) • CISA & SAFECOM Transition Resources for NG9-1-1 • CYBERSECURITY | iCERT 2021 (theindustrycouncil.org) • Cybersecurity Guidelines | Resources | SecuLore Solutions • 911.gov Cybersecurity • The National Institute of Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework is an excellent source of best practices to defend against or improve the odds of recovering from a successful cyber-attack. • In August 2020 the FCC’s Advisory Committee, CSRIC-VII included reference to the ‘Center for Internet Security® (CIS) model for improving cybersecurity practices. CSRIC-7 also formally recommended implementing the appropriate industry-recognized cybersecurity controls in their entirety where possible, or in phases if necessary, during the transition to NG9-1-1. See Appendix D of the CSRIC Report. On September 30, 2021 while announcing CIS Community Defense Model 2.0, CIS stated that the bottom line is that implementation of CIS Controls, and specifically IG1, are a robust foundation for your cybersecurity program. • The NIST’s “A Guide for Managed Service Providers to Conduct, Maintain and Test Backup Files” is a great resource for the Managed Service Providers (MSP) that typically operate the ESInet for Public Safety to use to improve their cybersecurity and the cybersecurity of their PSAP customers. Additional details relating to topics mentioned herein may be found at SecuLore’s Webinar Archive, or contact email@example.com. By: Tom Breen, Cybersecurity Liaison, SecuLore Solutions, LLC Want to know about new posts? 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Fieldwork is dangerous—especially when working alone or in small teams and remote areas. However, there are often no alternatives for professionals in the utilities, construction, transportation, safety, and security industries. Wires must be repaired, lines must be checked, equipment and materials must be transported, and security posts must be staffed. Risks are part of the job, and variables are everywhere. Classifications of lone workers are wider spread than most of us ever consider. After all, anyone who works isolated from others can be considered a lone worker. This includes those working in fixed positions, such as dispatchers, guards, or even mobile workers, as well as outside reps, project managers, auditors, and traveling nurses. And while many of these jobs typically don’t include hazardous environmental factors associated with heavy equipment, volatile chemicals, or downed wires, they can still be dangerous in certain circumstances, for example during a medical emergency or when an unexpected heated confrontation with others occurs. Understand the Risks and Responsibilities According to the International Data Corporation’s 2020 stats, frontline workers account for 57% of the total U.S. worker population. And that’s just in the United States. The numbers are much higher globally, hovering between 60%-70%, depending on the source. More surprising, IDC predicts only 49% of frontline workers are currently enabled with a mobile device. Not great numbers, given the rapid migration towards non-traditional workspaces. With these thoughts in mind and the fact that all employers have moral and legal responsibilities to provide for their workforce’s health and safety, it stands to reason organizations should have mechanisms in place to ensure offsite staff has access to emergency alert applications and intuitive communications technology. The same holds for operations centers. Operations coordinators and supervisors must be able to contact or ascertain an employee’s status not just for safety reasons, but also to relay additional information, updates, and reassignments. So what’s the solution? Simply put, hindsight, foresight, awareness, and action. Like most mission-critical situations, it’s essential to reflect on past incidents, present circumstances, likely or unlikely possibilities, and tactical and strategic options. So for lone worker environments, the information should be utilized to facilitate changes that can be made to streamline both day-to-day information flow and heighten safety and security. Commit to Practical and Proactive Approaches On the technology side, lone worker safety can be built-in into everyday tools, such as two-way radios, cellular devices, or even wearable personal alarms or cameras. Besides voice communications, technology integrations that include AVL components, geofencing, or sensor-based alarms can automatically detect changes in patterns or positions and relay that information back to central operations staff and management in real-time. Other options consist of interfaces that allow field and in-house personnel to connect or send text and voice alerts through mobile applications on company or personal devices. Likewise, if your organization is looking for a simplistic and discreet solution, one-touch pendant alarms, smart ID badges, and wristbands can be easily customized and configured to align with other workforce management solutions. Along with smart technology, awareness and engagement are your best means of preparation and defense. Although most organizations ensure their employee safety and security programs comply with government and industry regulations, enthusiastic and consistent attention to maintaining current best practices is key. Rather than viewing safety talks and annual trainings as check the box events, it’s imperative management and personnel collectively engage in constructive discussions, lively tabletop exercises, and realistic and reflective scenario-based drills. Without a doubt, positioning safety as a part of your everyday company culture can have a profound and powerful effect on your organization, your mission, and the customers and communities you serve. Right now is a great time to assess your organization’s commitment and approaches to prioritizing lone worker safety. And while you’re at it, why not share your thoughts, stories, or suggestions that may help others protect their lone workers as well. Your experiences and lessons learned could help protect and even save lives of others that are often on their own at work. Want to know about new posts? Subscribe today and receive periodic alerts on what’s new on the Zetron Z-wire blog!
Will Land Mobile Radio (LMR) ever go away? Will cellular Push-To-Talk (PTT) solutions, such as 3GPP Mission Critical PTT (MCPTT), replace LMR? Opinions vary, but one thing is certain, the LMR technology known as Project 25 (P25) is the standard against which public safety users in North America compare all alternative solutions. The 3rd Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), the global cellular standards body, has used today’s LMR capabilities as the baseline requirements for its own MCPTT standards. In keeping with the 2012 Spectrum Act legislation, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) conveyed the USA’s requirements to 3GPP, which were well documented in a series of reports from the National Public Safety Telecommunications Council (NPSTC). In developing these reports, NPSTC heavily relied on the capabilities of P25. Whether today’s P25 users anticipate an eventual end to their LMR systems or not, many are planning or have begun augmenting their P25 systems with MCPTT because it’s now offered by multiple carriers in North America. To do so, it’s helpful to understand the key differences between P25 and MCPTT capabilities, which are outlined below. The capabilities referenced are those enabled by P25 standards developed by the Telecommunications Industry Association (TIA), and MCPTT open standards as developed by 3GPP. The comparison is extremely useful if you plan to offload non-critical users from a P25 system to MCPTT, as you’ll want to know whether the features LMR users have been accustomed to will be supported on MCPTT. And if you have plans to interwork your P25 and MCPTT solutions for LMR/LTE interoperability, only capabilities that exist on both networks will be able to make that traversal. High Level Comparison Table 1: High Level Comparison Aspect TIA 102 P25 3GPP MCX NOTES Number of Groups supported Up to 65,534 Virtually unlimited Number of Users supported Up to 9,999,998 Virtually unlimited Number of Users per Group supported Up to 9,999,998 No technical limit. But the practical limit may be a few hundred on unicast networks (no limit on multicast eMBMS networks) Few multicast MCPTT networks currently exist Voice Calls Yes (AMBE+2 narrowband vocoder) Yes “MCPTT” (AMR-WB wideband vocoder with other vocoder options) MCPTT’s AMR-WB vocoder has noticeably better fidelity compared to P25 Simultaneous Media Streams One voice stream per SU/radio Multiple streams per UE/device MCPTT enables monitoring multiple groups at the same time Data Yes – Narrowband, Slow Speed (9600 bps) Yes – “MCDATA”. Broadband, High Speed Used for text/SDS, location, file transfer and mobile CAD Video Calls No Yes – “MCVIDEO” (Private & Group) Priority & Preemption Yes (trunking only) Yes Emergency Levels 2 (Normal, Emergency) 3 (Normal, Imminent Peril, and Emergency) Dynamic Prioritization No Yes Authorized users can remotely change the priority of designated MCPTT users/groups Power Levels Portables – typically 5 watts+ Mobiles – typically 50 watts+ User equipment (UE)/handsets – typically 0.2 watts High Power UE (HPUE) – up to 1.25 watts 3GPP Band 14 HPUE are now available, but generally not as handheld devices Off Network Communications Yes – “Direct Mode/Talk Around” (FDMA conventional) Yes – “ProSe” (Proximity Services – limited range due to low power level) 3GPP ProSe is not yet generally available Encryption Yes (optional) Yes Over the Air Programming (OTAP) Yes (optional) Yes Over the Air Rekeying (OTAR) Yes (optional) Yes Detailed Comparison Table 2 below provides a more detailed comparison, including standard P25 capabilities and whether they translate to 3GPP MCPTT capabilities. The feature name used in this table is the common name for the P25 feature used in the TIA standards documents (specific P25 vendors may have different names for them). Where a different name for the equivalent feature is used for MCPTT, it is shown in quotation marks in the MCPTT column. Table 2: Detailed Comparison Project 25 Feature Name TIA 102 P25 3GPP MCPTT Talker ID (aka PTT ID) Yes – numeric with optional text alias Yes – textual with optional supplemental info Groups Calls Yes – Confirmed or Unconfirmed Calls Yes – Chat or Pre-arranged, Pre-established or On-demand Emergency Group & Individual Calls Yes Yes3 Emergency Alert (w/o voice) Yes Yes Emergency Cancel Yes Yes Individual Calls (aka, Unit-to-Unit Call) Yes – half or full duplex, with or without Availability Check Yes3 – “Private Call” (with or without Floor Control, Auto or Manual commencement, Pre-established or On-demand5) Discrete Listening (aka, Private Call Eavesdropping) Yes No Group Regrouping Yes (not yet available over ISSI/CSSI) Yes User Regrouping Yes Yes Radio Unit Monitor (RUM) Yes (timed only) Yes – “Ambient Listening” (On/Off, monitored audio may be sent as Private or Group) Call Alert Yes Yes – “Private Call Back Request” Dispatcher Override & Preemption Yes Yes Priority Yes (trunking only) Yes Preemption Yes (trunking only) Yes Announcement Group Call (to multiple groups) Yes Yes – “Broadcast Group Call” Broadcast Call (one way) Yes (trunking only) Yes – “Group Broadcast Call” System Call (aka, All Call) Yes Yes3 – “User Broadcast Group Call” Radio Inhibit (aka, Radio Disable) Yes Yes – “Remote Device Disable” Radio Un-inhibit (aka, Radio Enable) Yes Yes – “Remote Device Re-Enable” Radio Check Yes Yes “Presence” Text Messaging to Individuals Yes Yes – “Short Data Service – SDS” Location Conveyance from Field Radios to the Network Yes Yes Capabilities Unique to MCPTT Although P25 does have some advantages over MCPTT (e.g., off network operation and subscriber unit power levels), 3GPP MCPTT has a number of capabilities not found in open standard P25 systems, such as those shown in Table 3below. Table 3: Unique MCPTT Capabilities 3GPP MCX Feature Name Feature Description Imminent Peril Group Call A group call with priority between normal and emergency (chat type only4). First-To-Answer Private Call Invitation A private call invitation sent to a group of users. The first to answer enters into a 1-to-1 private call with the initiator. Adhoc Group Creation The ability for authorized users (typically dispatchers) to dynamically create a new group (3GPP may be rescinding this capability for security reasons). User Group Query The ability to remotely discover the group affiliation of a specific user. Remote User Group Invitation/ Assignment (aka, “REGA”) The ability for authorized users (typically dispatchers) to remotely invite or assign a user to affiliate with a specific group. Priority Dynamic Uplift/Downgrade The ability for an authorized user (typically a dispatcher) to dynamically change the priority of an individual user or group. Remote User/UE Call Initiation/Termination The ability for an authorized user (typically a dispatcher) to remotely initiate or terminate a private or group call of another user/group. Broadcast Group Calls (two way) A two-way broadcast group call. This may be with pre-established or on-demand establishment5. SDS Text Messaging to Groups Sending text messages to a group (including broadcasts to multiple groups). SDS Text Message Delivery Confirmation Confirmation that a private text message has been delivered to the destination device. SDS Text Message Read Notification Confirmation that a private text message has been read by the targeted user. MCData File Distribution The ability to attach files (e.g., audio clips, video clips, location coordinates) to private and group text messages, with or without mandatory download. Location Conveyed with Voice/Text Media The ability to convey the originator’s location along with the originator’s media (voice/text/video). Location Conveyance from/to Field Radios The ability to convey the originator’s location to other users, including dispatch consoles. What Capabilities Can Your Providers Support? Note that few manufacturers implement all the capabilities supported by the standards. In addition, few system owners (including cellular network operators) enable all the capabilities offered by the manufacturers. Some manufacturers choose to achieve comparable capabilities, using non-standard, proprietary methods, while others choose to implement capabilities not supported by the standards (which of course are also proprietary). Therefore this capability survey may not reflect what is actually supported by your P25 LMR system or your MCPTT cellular provider. But at the very least, the comparison can serve as a starting point for discussion with your LMR and MCPTT suppliers to see what they can actually support, and when they will be able to support it. Footnotes 1For a definition of the P25 features see the DHS Statement of Project 25 User Needs (SPUN): http://www.project25.org/images/stories/ptig/10-06-2020_P25-SPUN_FINAL-r1_508c.pdf 2P25 Group Call Confirmation: Confirmed vs Unconfirmed: A confirmed call or data transfer attempts to secure RFSSs, sites, and users before starting the transmission. An unconfirmed call or data transfer makes no particular effort to guarantee the participation of particular RFSSs, sites, or users. 3These MCPTT capabilities are also available in 3GPP ProSe (off-network mode). 4 MCPTT Group Call Type – Pre-arranged vs Chat: Group Call types can either be pre-arranged or chat. When a pre-arranged Group Call is initiated by one of the group members, all other preconfigured/affiliated group members are automatically invited to the call. Designated users in the group can enter or exit the call for the duration of the group call. When a Chat Group Call is initiated, all group members are not automatically invited to the call. To participate in a Chat Group Call, a group member has to explicitly join the