Paging Alerts U.K.’s First Responders
Tuesday, December 08, 2009 | Comments
Photo courtesy PageOne
By Chris Jones
PageOne recently introduced two-way paging to the United Kingdom. The new service not only allows users to quickly acknowledge receipt of a message, but also adds GPS location tracking to each device. In effect, two-way paging closes the loop on traditional broadcast messaging by providing a control center with the ability to determine the availability and location of staff. Message recipients can choose from eight reply messages; with each GPS-enabled pager, the control room receives recent location information of every reply message received, providing guaranteed end-to-end messaging for the first time.
The company provides paging technology to many first responder organizations, including police, fire and ambulance services; lifeboat teams; hospital doctors; and mountain rescue services. Many of these services have first responders with different skill sets and expertise, requiring careful management of teams that may be spread over a geographical area. Hampshire Fire and Rescue service uses paging technology to effectively and instantly communicate to and deploy its firefighters. Paging was vital during major flooding in the Hampshire area in 2007, where the area’s electricity had been disabled; specialist teams were swiftly mobilized so power could be restored before any major issues escalated.
Similarly, Essex County Fire and Rescue Service uses paging to ensure key operational and support workers such as fire officers, administrators and specialist teams can be contacted easily from the control room. The Essex service also uses paging to call out various specialist groups to incidents across the county; for example, the British Red Cross fire victims support service, which helps with insurance issues and organizes emergency accommodation for those made homeless by any disaster. The introduction of two-way paging allows these services to more efficiently deploy groups by re-routing a fire engine to another job or identifying specialist crews’ whereabouts without having to make contact first. This removes a layer of communications and response to emergency situations, improving overall response times.
Rural areas have their own set of challenges that paging overcomes. The Northern Ireland Ambulance Service covers both urban and rural areas where many mobile communications methods are often blocked by mountainous terrain. If a crew requires precise information about a location, any delay in receiving information could jeopardize a patient’s life. Two-way paging will allow control centers to pinpoint the location of specialist personnel instantly, saving vital time in getting to emergency scenes.
As an island, the United Kingdom has many volunteer lifeboat crews that need to quickly respond to situations. The Portishead Lifeboat Trust has used tone-only pagers for its rescue alerts for more than 10 years. On average, the crew can launch the lifeboat within 12 minutes of receiving a callout from the coast guard in Swansea. Launching the lifeboat as soon as possible requires a team of eight people in addition to the three crew members. Paging allows the coastguard to notify crew members with instructions simultaneously in real time.
For more details on paging, see the Quarter 1 issue of RadioResource International.

Chris Jones is chief operating officer (COO) of PageOne Communications. He was appointed COO in May 2000, following more than five years as chief technical officer. Jones is vice chairman of the Wireless Messaging Association (WMA) of the United Kingdom, and since 2000, has been a board director for the European Mobile Messaging Association (EMMA). 
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