with Lindsey J. Bertomen
Product Review: Rhodium Incident Management Suite
Rhodium Suite is web-based, which means that any user can have access to an incident almost anywhere
I recently tested the Rhodium Incident Management Suite from Incident Response Technologies, Inc. This is a web-based solution for emergency and routine incidents. Jarret Winkelman, the marketing and sales manager, gave me a guided tour of the software before I played with it myself. My brain can’t wrap itself around complicated crime scenes, HAZMAT spills, or special events that deploy multiple agencies or monitor multiple assets at an incident. Rhodium Suite uses graphics, icons and a simple interface that allows all players to get an at-a-glance status update.
Rhodium Suite is web-based, which means that any user can have access to an incident almost anywhere.
Web portal based means good things for the smaller department. First, this product was designed in a manner that does not force an agency needing robust asset management to have an IT department. Second, there are no “software updates” in which an agency suffers down time or OS instability because of updates. The software is always up to date. Third, small agencies don’t usually have a full-time grant writer. Rhodium Suite is inexpensive enough that the agency doesn’t need to engage the grant writing/management process. Additionally, nothing is placed on the client’s system. This means if the client doesn’t like them next year, they don’t have to subscribe.
For me, this gives Rhodium additional incentive to continually compete for an agency’s business.
While I have been playing with this software, I have been thinking on how to put what I was learning into a perspective based on my experience in a patrol car. Here it goes...
Hypothetical Example: The County Fair
The county fairground is in my city — once a year, there is the county fair. The patrol area belongs to the city agency. Everything inside the gate belongs to the County. The city owns the real estate outside the gates. There is a rural fire department across the street from the fairgrounds. A multi agency incident that requires a medical response will get an ambulance or two from a separate agency, the city fire department, utilities and possibly the rural fire department. A law enforcement response could get a city and county response, including mounted patrol and possibly the local drug enforcement agency.
When I took overtime shifts at the county fair, probation and parole were in the speed dial of my ancient cell phone. The county fair is an excellent time for a DUI checkpoint, bike patrol, and special traffic enforcement.
Normal day-to-day public safety support for any county fair is a huge undertaking. An incident increases the management exponentially.
I was thinking about this when I pulled an overtime shift circling the fairgrounds one night. I thought that it would be nice to know who had which expertise out here. With Rhodium Suite, a supervisor can quickly look at a team member’s credentials and put them into a strategic array. I’ll pick the Defensive Tactics Instructor in my sector, thank you very much.
With Rhodium Suite, personnel credentials of every person in the system are available using simple, customizable input screens. It is possible to import a spreadsheet of department personnel into Incident Management system. Jarret talked me through this and I could have created a whole county’s worth of personnel data in an afternoon for this kind of incident.
Credentials would be important for the county fair example. It would be imperative to know who is radar trained, who the commander would select as teams based on DRE (Drug Recognition Expert) training and who can pull bicycle patrol. Incident commanders can really use this kind of information access. For example, using my county fair example, what if one needs to draw assets from a current incident?
It would be handy to know which allied officer on scene already has the right qualifications and a .338 precision rifle in the trunk.
Two More Example Incidents
Jarret created two incidents in front of me. One was an enforcement/warrant detail — the other was an accident on a nearby freeway, complete with injuries and HAZMAT. He had control of the enforcement incident but set it up so someone else was incident commander on the freeway.
There are levels of overlay where only the local manager can move assets like an entry team and perimeter personnel in his incident but everyone with log on access can quickly get a graphic depiction (on a “real time” satellite map) of the scene. For fire and medical units at the scene, personnel can be assigned to an apparatus by clicking on personnel in the database while viewing the apparatus.
I was impressed with a couple of things right away, besides the fact that this was not a “canned” demonstration. Scene managers can scroll through the various customizable boards for the scene. There are Incident, Staging, Resource, Command, and Personnel boards, which can be sliced off to staff personnel with that area of responsibility. Obviously, it is ICS/SEMS based.
The second thing that impressed was how quickly “uncluttered” the interface was. We were aware of the freeway incident, but it was on a different “layer” and therefore did not interfere with the incident at hand. This is handy when the map has assets like hydrants and shopping centers identified when they are not relevant to the incident.
There was also a means where a commander can see which units were uncommitted or reassign individuals to other assets. For example, if Officer Smith goes from patrol to call out, it is seamless. If a SGT used a group for a warrant task force last month, there is a “copy over” feature also. There’s no reason to reinvent the wheel.
Expectedly, There’s More to Come
There are some features under development, which should roll out soon. There is a Subject Panel, where as much information is entered about a person as possible. This is appropriate for a suspect or a person who is the subject of the search and rescue effort. The new feature will allow a user to upload a photo.
The Subject Panel is ideal for a barricaded subject incident. Usually, the negotiator is separate from the Critical Incident Team. In fact, a Critical Incident Commander may not be co located with the Team. The Negotiator can do a field update and everyone gets it at the same time.
Some of the features of Rhodium Suite respond when one hovers a mouse over an icon or area. For example, personnel in an asset pop out from the icon. This works on a laptop, but one cannot hover on a tablet the same way. Rhodium Suite is tablet friendly also. A future update will be smart phone compatible. Imagine having this kind of package on a camera capable smart phone on scene.
What does an agency need more than anything on an incident? Logging and messaging.
I used the messaging function in Rhodium Suite, which appears within the incident like a pop up window. This is convenient, because it is designed to not impact the workflow. Logging is automatic. When a unit changes status, it is logged. All message traffic is logged. Incident updates are logged.
Logging is important. Having been a military commander at several disasters, I know that reading the log at shift changes is critical. One can scan the logs here and see them being created in real-time from another station.
Rhodium uses a third party messaging service with an expertise in bulk messaging. Incident Management Suite allows the user to select several different messaging modes, allowing multiple pathways and insuring the message gets to the intended recipient. This includes voice, email, SMS, and similar modes.
Have you ever sent a text and noticed a slight delay on the recipient side? No, I don’t mean the teenager generated “I-never-got-your-message syndrome.” I mean the slight delay in transmission and confirmation where the message is not received immediately. Incident Management Suite does not have this delay. Jarret sent me a message through an incident and I received it on the last keystroke.
I created my own incident through a web portal and sent imaginary assets, including patrol and medical units, to it. I like the way one can toggle between the command board, which overlays a real time map, and the various status boards. I sent messages from this incident and then reviewed the incident log. It was easy to maneuver around the simple fields. Its simple stuff a simple guy like me can understand.
The obvious question is whether the system is robust and stable enough to handle a huge influx of data and secure enough to handle the needs of law enforcement. First, the data center is SAS 70 Type-II certified, which means it has several methods of server isolation — both physical and virtual.
Sessions use Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) protocol and employ network redundancy. 128 bit encryption is available as long as the client’s system supports it. The system is designed to operate seamlessly through a disaster of its own.
Rhodium recently completed a beta testing phase in April 2011. This testing provided plenty of input from agencies that will use it. I am confident that this product is one that will excel in the software market.