The Fire Service and the BlackBerry: A Powerful Combination

  Smart phones have made their way into public safety communications in a big way. This article will focus on the BlackBerry by Research in Motion (RIM) smart phone, which has become one of the most popular choices by public safety agencies for a...


  Smart phones have made their way into public safety communications in a big way. This article will focus on the BlackBerry by Research in Motion (RIM) smart phone, which has become one of the most popular choices by public safety agencies for a number of reasons. Those reasons include...


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Third-party applications further enhance the BlackBerry capabilities. AlertMatrix helps to maximize efficiency of your messaging by creating a proactive filter and alerting capability. Rules can be set to identify specific emails and/or messages and create distinguishing alerting features like the color of light or specific sounds for new messages. NextMail (http://nextmail.org/) is a subscription program that uses multiple BlackBerry features and allows the user to combine and send an audio message, digital image, and a geospatial map location to one or many people. Freeance (http://www.freeance.com/) is another application that brings live BlackBerry access to your locality's geographic information system (GIS) data. Other applications include barcode scanning for inventory, Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) programs for personnel and unit tracking, radio scanner applications can now allow for monitoring of some public safety radio systems, facial recognition and vehicle license recognition. Many more mission-specific applications are being developed and available daily.

The BlackBerry smart phone is a very powerful tool that, if used to its maximum, can create huge benefits in efficiency and effectiveness. Every user needs to fully understand the capabilities and the various programs available for the BlackBerry to further demonstrate its true value to the individual using it as well as the organization/agency being served.

One last note: Even though the BlackBerry and other smart phones provide great value to public safety, they cannot and will not replace the need for mission critical land mobile radio systems for a significant time into the future.

Future articles will report on Social Media, LTE and Public Safety and 4G smart phones.

CHARLES WERNER, a Firehouse® contributing editor, is a 34-year veteran of the fire service and chief of the Charlottesville, VA, Fire Department. He serves on the Virginia Statewide Interoperability Executive Committee, Virginia Secure Commonwealth Panel, National Public Safety Telecommunications Council Governing Board and IAFC Communications Committee. Werner is chair of the IAFC Technology Council, first vice president of the Virginia Fire Chiefs Association and chair of the DHS SAFECOM Executive Committee.