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FEATURE

City of Bowling Green Uses Mobile Wireless Technology For Public Safety

October 15, 2007

The Cisco Mobile Government solution encompasses a set of products and partners that enable more efficient and effective decision-making for public safety and mobile workers, through the use of collaborative wireless mobility technologies. The city of Bowling Green, Kentucky, is capitalizing on the benefits of wireless and mobile technologies at a time when their value and investment are growing within public sector circles, due to increasing citizen demands. News@Cisco talked with Lynn David Hartley, chief information officer for the city of Bowling Green, about the goals and strategies of the city's wireless mobility initiative.

What was driving the need for wireless mobility initiative in Bowling Green?

Lynn David Hartley: The major driver was for public safety. The Fire Department actually initiated the project. Prior to wireless, the city used radio and voice communications with dispatch. When we got into the wireless mobility project, we went through a detailed analysis to assess both the police and fire department needs, prior to selecting a solution. For the past year, we've had MDTs (mobile data terminals) with limited usage in fire trucks, and we are now installing them in police vehicles.

What do you see as the benefits over what you were using prior to wireless?

Lynn David Hartley: From a public safety perspective, the benefits are significant. The technology allows the firefighters to look at maps while enroute to incidents, saving valuable time in getting to their destination-and getting the right trucks dispatched to the area. Additionally, they can look up details about the location, including HAZMAT issues, whether there are combustibles, and obtain other helpful information in advance, so they can be better prepared.

What other benefits do you see in implementing wireless technology?

Lynn David Hartley: Mobile wireless technology enhances the agility, efficiency, and effectiveness of our law enforcement agencies, fire department, and other public services. But there are many other areas where this technology could bring major benefits in productivity and cost-savings. For example, a housing inspector, using a laptop in the field, could make more inspections and do the data entry on site, reducing the number of hours in the office. There are a number of uses we don't even know about yet, but we will find out.

What other wireless implementation plans are in the works for Bowling Green?

Lynn David Hartley: For now, of course, we are concentrating on public safety implementations first, and then we will include the Housing and Community Department, public works, and field personnel. We've had requests to provide free internet access to citizens, and we may consider wi-fi hotspots in city parks, but for now, our concentration is on public safety. The city has an annual program, where high school seniors give us suggestions, and one was about offering wireless networks and the other was public access. If other cities are considering offering free internet access to citizens, I'd recommend that they do their research, and look carefully at the internet service partner they will work with.

What about the costs of implementing wireless technology?

Lynn David Hartley: Wireless is not inexpensive. But for public safety, can we really measure costs? If this helps with us rescuing someone from a burning building five seconds sooner, or if we get to a drowning victim faster, it is worth the price. There are so many intangibles to consider. Time is so critical. Wireless can improve communications, and help police and fire personnel deploy vehicles faster. If we can get much-needed help to people faster, we may be able to avert further disasters.

Would you recommend wireless technology to other municipalities?

Lynn David Hartley: Yes, definitely, for municipalities that can afford to move to wireless, I think it is the right direction. But it really depends on the goals they have. We have to keep in mind that these costs are carried by the taxpayers, but public safety issues are important to citizens. I advise that before implementing wireless, city planners do their homework-talk to people, get advice. Wireless technology is only going to grow and expand. And there are definitely multiple public safety and disaster recovery issues that wireless can address. None of us can predict what the technology will be in ten to fifteen years, so I'd advise other municipalities to just pick a spot and jump in, which is what we did.

 
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