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Resilience and agility

25 July, 2013

Investing in solutions to better protect and manage incoming calls can also create opportunities for sharing resources and could – ultimately – lead to significant cost savings, explains Tony Watson of Resilient Networks.

London-based Resilient Networks is currently working with around a quarter of fire services in the country and is rapidly increasing its market share in the emergency services sector through some unique technology that is built around inbound call resilience and agility. The technology addresses problems that are centred on the local exchange, essentially the bit of the network that is shared with both the general public and a whole host of other organisations. And when there is a problem in the exchange, everybody is then affected – and that includes emergency services’ control rooms.

Sitting further away from the local exchange network is the telephone transit network, explains Tony, which typically has ‘buckets of capacity’, and which – crucially – has never gone wrong. It is here where Resilient Networks has placed its services.

Emergency services can have 999 calls destined to be handled by their control room’s staff route through the Resilient Network’s service. So if there is a disruption in the exchange or lines used to deliver calls, it is automatically detected and calls are delivered via an alternative route. It all happens instantaneously without delay.

And it’s not just 999 calls that are being protected , explains Tony. ‘Traditionally a Fire and Rescue Service that wants to switch calls from a primary site to a secondary site has had to find a way to redirect calls number by number – which is very time consuming. We give them the tools so that in advance they can create alternative call routing plans  which can be invoked  at the touch of a button, and after the incident instantly failed back.’

This tool fits naturally with the concept of resilience and business continuity inherent in the model of primary/secondary and buddy control centres, especially as the ‘deliver to’ numbers don’t have to be fixed lines, they can be mobile/satellite numbers and even Airwave terminal numbers.

In practice the system is quite straightforward, and Tony explains it in basic form as a spreadsheet with the hosted numbers on column A, then column B showing the ‘normal’ number, then subsequent columns secondary control rooms and so on. ‘The customer can pre-configure as suits their planning. It might be something that is done on a regular basis to rehearse business continuity scenarios.’

As a company, Resilient Networks began by targeting the fire sector, where as part of the fall out from FiReControl there was a need to enhance business continuity arrangements. Resilient’s FRS customers, who are supplied via their parner BT, include Highlands, Bedfordshire, Hereford and Worcester, Devon and Somerset, Cornwall, North Wales, Essex, Berkshire and Hertfordshire. Ambulance trusts are now coming in too, and these include London Ambulance, West Midlands, and Scottish Ambulance.

‘The service can be used for control rooms that want to work more collaboratively, with other control rooms in their area. Some services might be using a neighbour as back up, but by the same token you could have three counties with three control rooms staffed 24 hours a day. They could use our service to toggle calls between three control room locations manned by three eight shifts, and potentially reduce staffing by two thirds. Now politically speaking this is highly contentious but it depends on how deep the cuts are going to bite.

‘We also see a growing market of opportunities in the police sector, Local and Central Government.

‘As well as using Resilient’s infrastructure to help deliver voice services to support shared service, large organisations can also physically connect our network  , so they are essentially becoming a network node off the PSTN transit network. They become more resilient, in terms of business continuity, and also realise opportunities to reduce voice infrastructure and service delivery overheads.’

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