Blackberry to the Rescue

Public Safety agencies are using the Blackberry handheld wireless device for a variety of wireless applications.


In Charlottesville, the use of Research in Motion's (RIM) Blackberry device to simply receive email through its wireless capabilities was an effective way of extending office computer information to the field. However, it became readily apparent that much more could be achieved through the use of features already within the Blackberry device in addition to enhanced features that third party applications can add.

On the surface, the Blackberry (BB) can easily be setup to forward email either through its redirector client (included with the Blackberry), by web client or through a Blackberry server. Each has unique features and some are more limited than others.

The simple desktop redirector application will send your emails to the BB but does not provide access to attachments. While you can often get the subject of the message, you cannot read any details that may be contained within the attachment.

The web client (free) allows setup as a BB user and requires emails to be forwarded in order to receive them at the BB.

The BB server requires the purchase of a computer server that houses the BB application and requires the purchase of BB licenses to accommodate the number of subscribers. The BB server generally works in tandem with another email server like Microsoft Exchange, etc.

The BB also synchronizes with Microsoft Outlook and reconciles such things as email, contact updates, calendar and more all done wirelessly.


Initially the City of Charlottesville began to use the BBs simply as a means of receiving and responding email but quickly began to move into new areas of functionality once learning of additional applications. Perhaps the most important aspect of new functionality came in the basic use of the BB personal identification number (PIN) to send messages. This allows BB to BB messaging independent of any email services which is of particular importance should the email server or services fail. This is of particular importance when text messaging or messages may be providing critical information during an emergency. BB pin-to-pin messages also transcend the commercial wireless carrier. In other words, people that have different commercial wireless carriers can still communicate with counterparts via the PIN messaging service because the PIN messaging is commonly linked through RIM.

After learning more, it was apparent that the PIN messaging had more advantages if enhanced. By using a third party program from Onset Technology called METAmessage which provides the following:

  • PIN Archiving: Gives the company/user the ability to archive all PIN communication to the email platform. You may then run log reports, etc.


Access to the Internet is also important. There are many references that can be accessed via the Internet through the use of the BB. I personally have bookmarked specific websites that have been most helpful. One is the National Weather Service National Hurricane Center. During hurricane season, I bookmark each of the latest hurricane projection maps. This allows me to quickly glance at the map and get information regardless if in meetings or out in the field.

In summary as to this application, it became a very exciting tool for communication in the arena of homeland security. In the City of Charlottesville, Blackberries are assigned to key positions that are assigned critical roles as defined in the Emergency Operations Plan and that have a defined daily role of emergency response.

In February 2004, FDNY from RIM Press Release:

Consilient Technologies, Research In Motion and the New York City Fire Department (FDNY), announced that the FDNY successfully deployed RIM's BlackBerry