Raytheon's JPS Communications partnered with Invizeon Corp. of Missoula, Mont., to market an emergency-alert system to land mobile radio users.

Invizeon's CHAIN solution is an open-architecture, software-based emergency-alert and messaging product targeted to secondary responders, such as volunteers and private-sector organizations.

The system uses the common-alert protocol interface, which supports a full-duplex data exchange capability between disparate systems, said David Todd, president and CEO of Invizeon. He said the original version was marketed to secondary responders who do not have land mobile radios but do have access to cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and pagers.

“The challenge is that they are all on different networks [and] protocols, and during a critical event, none of the devices are managed under one system,” Todd said. “So the initial response during a critical event is very labor-intensive and time-consuming and not efficiently organized.”

Via a Web-based interface, the software manages the transmission of emergency-alert messages to first and second responders' devices, networks or protocols based on preprogrammed talk groups established for the type of incident, Todd said. It organizes emergency-responder groups and locations, correlating the data with specific response plans that have been predetermined by users of the system. For example, if an incident happens at a nuclear plant, specific alarms or e-mail blasts can be sent to plant personnel, management and first responders who communicate on different devices.

The Montana Department of Corrections hosted a pilot program of the technology beginning in 2005 and still uses it, said Bill Slaughter, the department's former director. The department has seven prisons scattered throughout the state of Montana, and if an event happens in one prison, hundreds of people need to receive notification, he said. In the past, after an event the command center would sit down with a telephone list and begin to contact the appropriate officials.

“It's a really archaic way of doing it,” Slaughter said. “You don't get a hold of people, and the paperwork is overwhelming.”

The program lets officials create preset templates based on specific events that identify those who need to receive immediate notification, Slaughter said. In addition, the system sends real-time data to devices currently used by prison officials, such as pagers and PDAs.

With the incorporation of the ACU interoperable communications product line from JPS, the CHAIN system now can send alarms to land mobile radios.

“It is a unified communication capability that, from one system, can reach first responders on their radio and the secondary, supporting responders and personnel on-call on whatever device they are using,” Todd said.

The move to partner with JPS was driven by requests from federal, state and local agencies for communication alerts that could assist in massive natural or manmade disasters, such as Hurricane Katrina, where first responders as well as private and nonprofit organizations were on scene to assist with the disaster.

“Customers kept telling us they needed to interact and communicate between those two groups, the radio users and non-radio users,” Todd said. “We were determined to develop a solution that would enable information to be transmitted from the mobile command center to first responders on their radios and secondary responders on different devices.”

Chris Ramsden, JPS project manager, said the company saw the partnership as a logical extension of the interoperability compatibilities the company has delivered to the market, specifically to first responders.

“We have a large population of ACUs being used by first-responder agencies, and they want to be able to link them all together — either statewide or region-wide — and adding this [Invizeon] system is furthering that integrated effort, so it made a lot of sense,” Ramsden said.