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Customer Spotlight: Alabama Dept. of Transportation Reduces Travel Expenses with Video Solution

One of the biggest issues state governments face in their day-to-day governing is the sheer size of the state itself. Even in average sized states, it can take quite some time to get from place to another, and it’s particularly burdensome for state government workers who live and work in cities far from the state capital. It can be difficult to effectively communicate with other employees in the capital and in other cities, and employees spent precious time and money traveling all across the state.

One such state with this issue is Alabama. The Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) manages all forms of transportation in the state, including one of the longest navigable inland waterways in the nation, six commercial airports and a large seaport on the Gulf of Mexico. To ensure these multiple forms of transportation run smoothly, ALDOT has over 5,000 employees spread out across the state. Its large number of employees and their geographic sprawl, however, meant ALDOT was having trouble getting everyone to meet in one location for mandatory training sessions.

While training was the main issue, ALDOT generally needed a more sustainable way to host meetings with employees scattered across the state. Years ago, ALDOT division chiefs from distant corners of the state would have to drive to Montgomery, Alabama, every Monday to attend one meeting, which was not a productive use of time and incurred costly travel expenses. Clearly, it needed a cost-effective solution to make it easier for the department to host trainings and meetings for its far-flung department. Read More »

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Public Safety Series: EOCs Harness Video to Improve Emergency Response

Last month, I had the opportunity to speak with PoliceOne about how Cisco solutions are helping to improve public safety in an area most people aren’t aware of: emergency operations centers. Emergency operations centers, or EOCs, are the center of disaster response efforts, helping to coordinate the first responders and distribute information to decision-makers in a chaotic emergency situation. EOCs facilitate communication across agencies to allow for coordinated efforts. And in an emergency situation, which is hectic and can be confusing, the clear communication and up-to-date information an EOC providers is vital to helping mitigate the disaster.

Since speed, accuracy and collaboration are all crucial to an EOC’s mission, the centers are constantly investing in new technologies to help them improve in these areas. In more recent years, one of the most effective collaboration technologies EOCs have harnesses is video. Why video? Video improves data gathering, which leads to more increased situational awareness, which ultimately allows for a more coordinated response.

The types of video systems vary. Digital signage, for one example, can be used to display information such as television streams, maps or graphs on a large screen visible by all in the EOC. This type of video system also can function as a display for group videoconference that allows agencies on the local, state and federal level to coordinate quickly and clearly.

A video collaboration tool like Cisco WebEx enables users to share the information on their computer screen while engaging in desktop-quality video chat, and Cisco TelePresence allows for high-quality online face-to-face conferencing. Using these technologies helps build relationships and ensure communication is clearer, as body language can be interpreted and expressions shared.

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Public Safety Series: How the City of McAllen Transformed their Judicial Process with Video Solutions

In my last blog post in the Public Safety Series, I discussed how police forces could use video technologies to improve their training programs. In addition to training, there are numerous other ways that law enforcement agencies can utilize video solutions to both operate more efficiently as a department and improve officers’ ability to protect their community. Today, I want to share with you a real-life example of how one government agency is using video solutions to make tangible changes in how the judicial process in their city works.

The City of McAllen, located in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas, is increasingly turning to innovative technology solutions to improve the city’s operations. As a smaller city with limited personnel and resource, McAllen realized that technology can help them operate at a high level and continue to provide excellent service to its residents. Previously, the city had deployed Cisco Call Manager as a solution to its formerly fragmented phone system, which helped simplify and management of its phone system and save money.

Next, the city turned its sights to exploring more efficient ways to connect court activities with police departments and officers in the field. It had always been difficult to obtain warrants from off-duty judges, wasting time and adding unnecessary roadblocks in the judicial process. McAllen hoped that with video solutions, police officers could connect with the city’s judges and receive paperwork for a warrant immediately.

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On-Demand Video Can Transform the Way our Police Departments Train

While we most often think of the Internet of Everything (IoE) as transforming public safety forces out in the field, change can actually begin before an officer is even leaves the station. Classroom training for officers is crucial, enabling them to stay safe and perform at the highest level out in the field. Current events highlight just how important good training is, ensuring officers know how to act in all situations and act as good example of public safety in their communities. The problem is that police officers work on shift schedules, which makes it extremely difficult to get everyone in the same room at the same time for training.

How do police departments guarantee their officers are trained at the highest level despite this scheduling issue? Video training. Police departments and training officers can use video to produce high-quality educational training tools that can be viewed online at an officer’s convenience. On-demand video recording tools like Cisco’s WebEx are straightforward and easy to use, and allow educational materials to be accessed anywhere via the cloud. These on-demand video presentations help make sure everyone is receiving the same level of training, improving the way public safety agencies operate before anyone even steps foot in the field.

Here are four more benefits that stem from on-demand videos for classroom training:

1. Reduce the need for trainers to be physically present at all classroom trainings

It’s still extremely important for police departments to conduct live training exercises. But by replacing classroom sessions with video training, training officers’ time is freed up to focus more on live training exercises. This makes certain officers are still receiving the training they need while helping departments operate more efficiently.

2. Eliminate the burden of shift scheduling to accommodate training

Juggling day and night shifts with training schedules is a hassle. Agency leaders have to analyze staffing, pull people off regular shifts, fill those spots with other agents and often have to pay overtime to do so. It also involves paying trainers to be onsite for multiple days. Video training allows officers to stay on their regularly-scheduled shifts, preventing the confusion and difficulty of shifting schedules and allowing officers to access training videos at a time that is convenient for them.

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New Collaboration Cloud Harnesses the Power of IoE to Improve Public Safety

To see the growing role that technology is playing in law enforcement, all we need to do is turn on the news. From the growing call for police body worn cameras to the lack of physical security surveillance capabilities in an aged correctional facility system, there is an increased demand for law enforcement organizations to respond more quickly and effectively and with greater transparency to crises. In order to improve the collaboration and communication within agencies and with the broader community of public safety officials, Cisco and Verizon have teamed up to create a national public safety collaboration cloud for the eco-system of public safety organizations.

The National Sheriffs’ Association Collaboration Cloud will enable sheriff offices to easily acquire, deploy and communicate using video technology. The Sheriffs will also expand this collaboration to their public safety partners in all 3080 counties of the United States, so law enforcement organizations will be able to allow their personnel to quickly communicate within their own department or with other local, state or federal agencies to conduct their business. Using the cloud, law enforcement organizations can respond more effectively to real-time incidences as they occur and work together on inter-department or inter-agency task forces with ease.

The new cloud based collaboration technology will improve many areas of law enforcement activities, including patrol vehicle applications and drug and gang task force collaboration. The areas of probation and parole will also benefit from this service as they interact with correctional facilities, prosecutors, defense lawyers and the courts.
For example, the collaboration cloud can be used for video meetings and hearings with attorneys, judges and inmates at correctional facilities. This helps law enforcement organizations to significantly reduce transportation and overtime costs for personnel. It can also reduce other public safety risks including reduced movement of incarcerated individuals by enabling legal teams and providers of numerous inmate services to communicate with inmates via video.

The National Sheriffs’ Association Collaboration Cloud will give law enforcement organizations better access to resources to train their personnel on emerging response tactics and mandated training certifications. By equipping training rooms for remote training and accreditation services, organizations will be able to expand their programming significantly. This collaboration cloud also enables real-time communication between patrol cars, emergency operations centers, 911 centers and dispatch locations using a myriad of devices including tablets, smart phones and laptop computers. It opens the pathway of reducing the largest budget number in corrections through the delivery of telehealth in county jails, juvenile detention centers and state prisons.

Overall, the public safety collaboration cloud greatly enhances the ability of local, state and federal public safety organizations to collaborate and work together to preserve and enforce public safety. The National Sheriffs’ Association recognizes the transformative power this collaboration can have on public safety. During their annual conference this past June, the National Sheriffs’ Association Executive Director and CEO Jonathan Thompson thanked Cisco and Verizon for making it possible.


(Click through to see the video on C-SPAN.)

As the demand for technology in public safety grows, Cisco remains committed to working with these organizations as they move into this new technology-driven future. Whether through connected justice initiatives, cybersecurity or collaboration efforts such as the Sheriffs’ Association’s Collaboration Cloud, Cisco is dedicated to improving efficiency across all areas of public safety, harnessing the power of the Internet of Everything (IoE) to transform the eco-system of justice and improve community public safety.

To learn more about how Cisco is leveraging IoE in the justice, public safety and security sectors, click here.

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