Sarasota County, Fla., 911 turns to RapidDeploy for cloud-native CAD solution
Sarasota County, Fla., yesterday announced that it has selected RapidDeploy to provide its 911 emergency communications center with a new cloud-based computer-aided dispatch (CAD)—or cloud-aided dispatch—in an effort to improve the center’s flexibility, operations and security, according to a county official.
Sarasota County 911 Director Sally Lawrence said moving her center’s CAD system to the cloud from a fully on-premise environment is an attractive proposition.
“If you’ve ever had to deal with [traditional] CAD, it’s always a suite of software and a suite of hardware—at any point, one piece of the suite could die, and then you have to replace it,” Lawrence said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications. “[With a cloud-based solution,] Somebody else is dealing with it, so we don’t have to pay for somebody [to provide] on-premise maintenance; they’re dealing with it.”
Another key benefit to a cloud-based solution is securing the vital and oft-sensitive data and evidence that regularly comes through a 911 CAD system, particularly in light of the dramatic increase of cyberattacks on government and critical-infrastructure networks in recent months, Lawrence said. RapidDeploy’s CAD solution is hosted in the Microsoft Azure Government cloud, which has much better resources to identify and handle such threats than the county’s internal staff.
“You see all of these agencies that are getting held hostage—their data’s getting held hostage—because somebody put a thumb drive into a [desktop-computer] tower somewhere and introduced a Trojan,” Lawrence said. “We don’t have to worry about that; it’s in the Azure cloud.
“Microsoft pays their security team much, much more than Sarasota County could ever afford to pay somebody with that much knowledge. Why not let them take care of it for us?”
Lawrence said that she first learned of a cloud-based CAD solution less than two years ago, when she heard a presentation about RapidDeploy during a trade show that she attended with fellow south Florida 911 officials Bob Finney of Collier County and Jake Saur of Manatee County.
“Within five minutes, I was like, ‘Holy cow, this is actually something new and something cool,’” she said. “I didn’t even know that it was a possibility. I don’t think anybody really realized that this was something that we could do.”
After the presentation, Lawrence visited the exhibition floor at the event and asked other vendors if they had a cloud-based CAD solution
“The first time we walked around, I asked every CAD vendor there, ‘Are you guys in the cloud?’” Lawrence said. “And they’re like, ‘No, public safety doesn’t want the cloud.’ I said, ‘I’m public safety, and I’m telling you that I want the cloud.’
“Apparently, they talked. In the afternoon stroll, they were going, ‘We’re moving our stuff into the cloud.’”
While many traditional CAD vendors have worked to incorporate the cloud into their solutions, there is still a difference between them and a cloud-native offering like RapidDeploy, Lawrence said.
“We had two native cloud-based CADs present to us, and a third was going into the cloud, and they said, ‘This is basically what it’s going to look like,’” Lawrence said. “[I asked,] ‘Can I go to Google Chrome, type in a URL and get to my CAD?’ [The vendor representative said,] ‘Well, no.’
“If I have to have something on my PC in order to access my data, now you have possible malware. I don’t want to have to install anything on a PC to get to my data and my CAD.”
RapidDeploy CEO Steve Raucher said that the Sarasota County announcement is another indication that public-safety officials increasingly are recognizing the benefits of cloud-based 911 solutions.
“Sarasota and that southeast corner of Florida, we know pretty well—we’ve got an implementation in Collier County, we’ve got some other deployments in the area that we will be announcing in due course,” Raucher said during an interview with IWCE’s Urgent Communications.
“It’s a real hotbed of innovation down there. You’ve got Sally Lawrence in Sarasota, Bob Finney in Collier County, and you’ve got Jake Saur in Manatee [County].’ Those three are very influential 911 folks and some thought leaders amongst the early adopter in U.S. public safety. It’s an excellent place for us to be putting down some roots.”
Lawrence said that the ability of Sarasota County and its 911 peers to access key data in the cloud is important, particularly in a location that regularly is in the path of severe storms.
“This is the first step,” Lawrence said of the RapidDeploy award. “If something were to happen and my hurricane-proof building is now a smoky hole in the ground, all of my data is accessible from anywhere in the state. From any computer that has a connection to the Internet, I will be able to get to my CAD data. Ideally, if that happens, I would be able to set up in Jake’s EOC [in Manatee County] and have all of my 911 calls transferred there.”
“The next step, of course, is to get 911 in the cloud, as well—the CPE … It would be nice to be able to just type in a URL and have 911 on one side and RapidDeploy on the other, pop up an aluminum tower, and be able to dispatch and do what you need to do.”