By Christopher Vondracek
Steven Raucher, or “Steve from the Future,” as he has been known to refer to himself, is the co-founder of RapidDeploy, and a man determined to make a difference in public safety communications.
RapidDeploy recently launched a video proclaiming a second extinction was coming for public safety – spelling extinction for legacy public safety software and suggesting major changes in the communications industry. Evolution to the cloud is the clear message. “The existing solutions in American public safety are built on technologies which are outdated and do not leverage the power of the cloud,” Raucher said
Raucher, a 20-year veteran of the finance and IT sector, became a first responder in 2015 and gained firsthand experience of the challenges first responders face during a call for service. His RapidDeploy co-founder, Brett Meyerowitz, a volunteer paramedic, formerly with Intel and the former CTO of one of the largest online gaming sites in the world, had “never even heard of Computer-Aided-Dispatch (CAD),” when he set out to write a system built by first responders for first responders.” It is worth noting that Brett also built the first cloud-based retail bank in Africa.
With Brett and Steven’s background in technology, they saw the burden many agencies face, especially in rural locations, where response times to 9-1-1 calls are slower and costs can quickly escalate. Rather than running critical communications systems on disconnected on-premise legacy infrastructure, the RapidDeploy CAD provides reliability, speed, and reduced cost of ownership to agencies, all within a web-based and cloud-based dispatch system.
RapidDeploy recently had a successful test run in America. At a stadium-sized event, with over 30,000 attendees, Raucher’s team was field-testing when they lost all cell connectivity due to a network overwhelmed by fans uploading videos, sending pictures, and connecting with social media. In the event of an emergency, such loss of service could be disastrous.
“All cell connectivity was lost,” Raucher said. “We were accessing the RapidDeploy CAD over a satellite link, and it became unresponsive.” However, one responding officer was running his iPhone on FirstNet, and he was able to tether to his laptop and the cloud and access the RapidDeploy CAD over the FirstNet network. “Our CAD sparked right up,” Raucher said. “We were running live in the field, in the middle of this enormous crowd, with zero latency. It was fantastic.”
The mission of RapidDeploy, according to the co-founder, is to “reduce response times for all and improve first responders’ safety by increasing situational awareness.” A cloud-based solution can also better integrate everything from mapping, weather, traffic, IoT sensor data and other mission-critical data sources.
And while it was successful with a mass gathering, RapidDeploy also aids rural districts. Raucher notes that roughly 75 percent of 9-1-1 PSAPs (Public Safety Answering Points) in America are comprised of five or fewer call-taking and dispatch positions. Being smaller facilities means they cannot afford to run the traditional legacy systems that require racks of servers and dedicated IT support. That leaves these agencies in the unfortunate position of running second tier, or sometimes no software at all, to manage their dispatch of emergency services.
“The cloud can democratize public safety whereby small agencies can now run their entire operations using a world class software solution that historically was only accessible to larger agencies.”
Raucher sees FirstNet as a unique opportunity in the world of public safety. “This is the first time we have run our CAD on a hardened Public Safety Broadband Network (PSBN) designed purely for first responders,” Raucher said. “What FirstNet is doing is really remarkable.” And in what Raucher’s video calls the “Second Extinction” of the status quo in delivering better public safety communication, he sees FirstNet and other partners willing to innovate within the industry as the “survivors,” the rest ending up on the museum floor.
Christopher is a freelance journalist living in Washington D.C., most recently with Courthouse News.