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Wireless Emergency Alert Public Alert System

“Our dispatchers take great pride in ensuring our officers’ safety, first responders’ safety, as well as the public’s safety.”

— Melanie Crittenden, Communications Director, Summit County Sheriff’s Office

BACKGROUND:   Summit County occupies a rugged mountainous area with 39 of the highest mountain peaks in Utah. Its 1,882 square miles include Ashley and Wasatch National Forests. Tourists are attracted to easily accessible ski resorts and beautiful mountain biking, hiking and camping areas throughout the year, exceeding the number of residents substantially. Home to the U.S. Ski Team and 2002 Winter Olympics, Park City also hosts the annual Sundance Film Festival.

The Summit Communications Center is staffed by certified dispatchers specially trained to manage pre-arrival in medical and law enforcement situations as response time to remote areas can take longer. They provide dispatch services for all Public Safety Agencies in Summit County which include:

  • Summit County Sheriff’s Office
  • AP&P (Adult Probation and Parole)
  • Utah Highway Patrol
  • Kamas City Police Department
  • Summit County Sheriff Search and Rescue
  • Summit County Animal Care and Control
  • Summit County Public Works
  • Utah Division of Wildlife Resources
  • Utah State Parks
  • US Forest Service Utah
  • Utah Department of Transportation
  • Park City Fire and EMS Services
  • North Summit Fire and EMS Services
  • South Summit Fire and EMS Services

Summit County Sheriff Search and Rescue (SAR) is comprised of dedicated volunteers, many specialized in technical skills and expertise in underwater recovery (ice and swift water), technical climbing and rope rescue (old mines and caves), winter rescue (snow, ice and avalanches) or summer rescue (lost hikers). These SAR volunteers are among the busiest in Utah, fielding numerous calls with as many as three major searches underway at one time.

Tourist activity in back country terrain brings varied challenges. SAR must be coordinated to respond and be directed to lost or injured tourists in remote areas where cellular coverage and communication are unreliable.

The Summit Communications Center dispatches to two-tone radio pagers using a Motorola Console. This required the dispatcher to press assigned buttons to activate the tone group and then speak the messages sent over the network. For multiple tone groups, this process was repeated several times. Only one person could speak at a time and it often required repeating addresses or other important details. In addition, multiple calls were made on another system for dispatchers to coordinate individual volunteers through radio, standard pages and phone calls.

While the dispatcher placed multiple call-outs to manage an incident, the caller was left to wait for the dispatcher’s return for pre-arrival care. The number of calls, attention to details and critical timing for every step were highly stressful for dispatchers and for callers.

After extensive analysis, it was determined that new technology was needed to fully address the challenge. Summit County selected HipLink, a strong partner of Spillman Technologies, to develop the solution. HipLink engaged Warning Systems, Inc. (WSI) for their RF interface that could link to existing RF tone paging infrastructure, and then created the connection between the CAD and the radios through HipLink. “This was a strong collaborative effort between all parties to develop an innovative solution to a complex problem,” stated Pamela LaPine, CEO of HipLink Software. Dispatching units by Command Line Activation allows Summit to consolidate the functions of multiple legacy paging consoles and systems under one umbrella, without requiring any equipment changes or replacement.

Fire and EMS Volunteers use various radios or pagers, such as Motorola MINITOR V™, ICOM IC-F50, Swissphone pagers, and Kenwood pagers. Compatibility is not an issue with the system, allowing individuals to use their own preferred device.

HOW IT WORKS:   The dispatcher types a message into the Spillman CAD where the message goes to the integrated HipLink Server. Based on the dispatcher’s instructions, the system automates multiple messages. The HipLink RF Module sends the text messages into the WSI box, converting the text to voice and broadcasting to volunteers on their two-tone radios. Simultaneously, the same message is automatically sent to the appropriate cellphones and pagers. The HipLink On-Duty and Escalation features automate critical messages to volunteers on-call and notifies the right number of people as they are available. This one message can summon sheriff, police, fire, EMS, SAR or any of the entities within the system, and frees the dispatcher to turn full attention to the caller.

Kory Vernon, IT Specialist, Summit County Sheriff’s Office, set up groups for each agency, each with their own unique tone pairs so that radio alerts can cross one frequency and reach the receivers. This frequency is strictly used as an alert channel only. If multiple alerts are sent out at once, they are positioned in a queue and immediately go through, eliminating bottlenecks in radio air time.

Paging channels were used as talking channels prior to implementation. This was an issue because if someone was talking and an alert was sent out, the alert would get canceled. Now it is strictly an alert frequency with no transmission allowed. Dispatchers can send multiple messages at once with the queue processing them in order. “HipLink Paging made that part of it great,” comments Vernon.

“Now we are sending notifications out 3-ways: text, RF and 800 MHz, with one activation. We are restricted to sending two-toned alerts over the 800 MHz system, but we can send a single alert tone and the message generated from text to speech so they hear it on their 800 MHz radios as well.”

“All the dispatcher has to do is focus on sending one page out on the CAD to get the responders going. Prior to implementation, dispatchers may have had to put the caller on hold while they notified the services needed. Now they can start CPR instructions while the notification is going out through multiple messaging devices and they can focus on giving the caller pre-arrival instructions without pause.”

“Dispatchers used to refer to a “call down list” for administrative personnel notifications. It required the dispatcher to personally make one or more calls. This is now automated with the HipLink-Spillman integration and sent out to the individuals who need to be notified of the incident. It’s definitely a great tool,” remarks Crittenden.

There is a regular need to hire dispatchers. Today, Summit County employs six more dispatchers than there were ten years ago but the workload has increased significantly. “The mountains are pretty full in the summertime, especially these past few years with the recession. Vacationers camp to save money,” comments Crittenden. “With Hiplink, dispatchers manage calls more efficiently, without compromising safety or care. Seconds saves lives and whatever tool that the dispatcher needs to accomplish this is a huge benefit to those that they service.”

Time to dispatch messages has improved, also shortening response time. “It is at least 15% faster than before,” comments Vernon. In an emergency accident, 6-7 page outs to the EMS, Fire, and Fire Warden are now consolidated to one command from the CAD line. “We don’t have to use the Motorola screen to send out alert tones and wait for them to go out and clear for the voice instructions to be voiced over the radio. It saves minutes going across one system rather than three different radio frequencies separately,” adds Vernon.

RESULT:   In addition to the RF paging system, Summit County leverages HipLink for critical notification. “The initial information on the call to 120 radio pagers and digital messaging devices is significant. It has cut radio traffic and address verification via radio down to a minimum,” comments Vernon. “HipLink notifies SAR, SWAT, county special needs teams, and the disaster assessment team. You can use HipLink to alert about anybody with a cellphone or digital messaging device. If we can alert them that way, then that is what we use.”

When asked how she felt about HipLink, Crittenden replied “I love the system! As a dispatcher, knowing what it takes, I can focus on the caller and not switching over to a separate channel to get responders going. We are there to assist the caller and give pre-arrival care instructions. In some cases, the call is miles away from where the ambulances are located. It is critical to get them going because seconds count!”

“I think for the rural parts of the county and smaller agencies, this is going to be around for quite awhile. You don’t have the infrastructure for the digital AGS. Some areas don’t have the cellular coverage,” adds Vernon. “HipLink has been reliable and the support team has been helpful and knowledgeable.”

Information Tech Specialist, Kory Vernon, offers advice from his experience with implementing the HipLink and RF Radio systems to build the current radio infrastructure. “Know your infrastructure. Who do you need at the table to discuss the system, so that you have every resource, and can say what this system will do for you? There were issues that came along that way that we didn’t know and we’ve learned a lot.” He added, “As far as HipLink integrating, that was pretty smooth for us.”

Asked if she would recommend HipLink integration with radio systems to other dispatch centers, Communications Director Melanie Crittenden answered a definite, “Yes.” “It saves time for dispatchers and enables them to do their job much more efficiently. If you can focus on patient care and taking care of their emergency, the call will go much smoother for everyone involved. There is so much to do for each call, and utilizing HipLink gives the dispatcher more quality time with the caller as well as instant notifications on high priority calls. This has made our job easier on us.”

 

"A structural fire had 1,000 pages go off in twenty minutes as things progressed. The paging happened faster than that. Someone arrived on scene and needed this and that. If we page this person, then we need to page that person. The Grouping features, who is on duty, automated it all through HipLink."

David Vaughn, Kootenai County Sheriff's Department

The Sheriff’s office of Kootenai County, Idaho manages all 911 service emergency calls and dispatch for multiple agencies in the county which include the Sheriff’s Department, Fire Department, ambulance services, and EMS. The dispatch center works with a limited staff and is located at its county seat, Coeur D’Alene, a resort town that gets very busy in the summer.

PROBLEM: The Kootenai County Sheriff’s Office was using computer-aided dispatching (CAD) software from Spillman Technologies, along with a paging system from Emergin, which was designed to provide responders with CAD call information via text messaging. Emergin was purchased by another company, and as a result, support to Emergin’s customers was discontinued. Kootenai County recognized the critical need to find reliable paging software that would improve their efficiency, integrate seamlessly with their Spillman CAD system, and increase communication capabilities.

SOLUTION: HipLink Application Paging software was implemented to  interface with the existing Spillman CAD system and it is used across the board by each of the agencies. Text messaging to smartphones and cell phones now extends the reach and function of the CAD system while still supporting pagers.

When asked about the reliability of HipLink Software, the Computer Systems Specialist commented: “One of the biggest strengths that the users don’t see is that it is stable. Holy cow is it stable! We have never had down time related to HipLink. It’s probably the stabilest part of the whole system.”

GROWING NEEDS:  The number of pages sent out by the dispatch with the original system was initially less than one per day or about 20 pages per month. This increased over time to roughly 3 per day or about 100 per month. “With Emergin, we weren’t paging that much. We weren’t able to touch people.”

RESULTS: Utilizing Hiplink, Kootenai County dispatchers now send 400-1,000 pages per day on average. This equates to roughly 100 times more timely messaging reaching the right people at the right time.

“It is a huge change! Everyone is getting accurate information now that is coming across their pagers, so they can see the address of where they are supposed to go.”

HipLink parses out the details so that they are delivered to the correct people, whether medical, a structural fire for a specific facility, or any emergency personnel. Paging has become more than just notification. The right people are paged and informed. “A difference from “I just got a page.” Now they have more information than they’ve ever had before in front of them.”

PROBLEM: While the dispatch staff are seasoned and have been around for a long time, the number of employees has never reached full staffing.  Yet, the work load has increased and call loads have risen for each of the various county agencies.

SOLUTIONS AND IMPROVEMENTS: Once call information is entered into Kootenai County’s Spillman CAD system, an interface automatically transfers that data into the HipLink program. All of the call notes taken by the call taker are added. “The first responder is getting closer to a first hand of what’s transpiring.” HipLink is a huge time saver because the automated features reduce the work load and make it easier for dispatchers to coordinate more calls. “Before, dispatchers had to look up what they are supposed to do, who they are supposed to be calling, send out the pages, see if they are responding.  I couldn’t tell you how much of a time saver this is because HipLink just automates everything.”

The HipLink Department Module has reduced the work load of data entry for 750 plus Receivers by distributing maintenance to other supporting agencies. HipLink tracks who is paged within each of these various Departments.

The system is set up so that each agency can independently manage administrative roles and configure its own Receivers or Groups. Groups are suited to the preferences and requirements at each agency of who needs to know what information and how they want to receive it. “By leveraging the Groups configurations, we solve the manpower issues.”

During paging, a call may go out to a number of individuals. Once they receive the call, another page goes out with all of their call times, response time, and report number. Some of the agencies don’t want that information so HipLink filters out who actually receives the call completions and automatically reduces duplicate paging.

Kootenai County has created various Groups where messages selectively go out. Within Groups, paging goes out to the homicide detectives, canine teams, and even a dive team for example. In addition to emergency communications, the Groups are pushing out administrative communications for persons to man the fire station, sending messages to all members or to a paid off duty Group. The coordination and selectivity of using the Groups configurations are limitless.

PROBLEM: Radio communication limits the time and the number of responses and communications possible. The firemen who receive radio dispatches may not hear all of the information or remember details, such as the exact street address.

SOLUTION: The HipLink Automatic Paging system frees up an incredible amount of air time on the radio. Now responders can handle 6-7 incidents at the same time because they are not on the air as much to handle all of these different calls. They are not tying up frequencies or waiting for a frequency to become available, which is a huge time saver. The address and details are paged and literally placed in their hands of the people who need the information.

CONCLUSION: The Kootenai County 911 service successfully manages increased emergency calls with the same number of people, providing more detailed information to responders, notifications to selected Groups, and is independently managed across multiple agencies.

What does the Kootenai Sheriff’s Computer Systems Specialist have to say about HipLink?
“It really exploded, more so than I ever thought. HipLink is so ingrained with what we do around here. It is how we do business.  That is how Fire and EMS get their messages- 100% dispatched initial notification. It has changed the way we do work.” 

 

 

Overview

For nearly 15 years, Silverado Senior Living, Inc. has provided a full continuum of care through its Assisted Living, At-Home care and Hospice service lines. Specializing in dementia care, the company’s more than 2,000 associates and caregivers serve aging U.S. populations in the states of Arizona, California, Illinois, Texas, and Utah.
 
Silverado Senior Living’s 21 Alzheimer’s and dementia care communities are not typical assisted living environments. Founded on the premise of changing the way the world views and treats Alzheimer’s and other memory-impairing diseases, Silverado’s guiding vision is to give life to those affected by these diseases.
 
Rick Barker, Silverado’s vice president of Information Technology explains the most common protocols for memory care within the industry. “The typical approach is to increase drug regimens in order to modify behavior, making residents more passive, and using physical restraint when they become difficult to control. Our communities, on the other hand, are designed to allow our residents to get their lives back. When a resident comes to one of our communities, our physicians work closely with his or her doctors to minimize the use of drugs, opting instead for redirecting, distracting, and re-educating the residents.”
 
The overarching Silverado mission and vision are carried out within every function of the organization, including Information Technology.
 
“Silverado is a mission-based company, we all commit to its mission when we’re hired,” explains Barker. “So in setting IT goals, we look first at how we can contribute to maximizing the quality of life for our residents and their families.”
 
An initiative to enhance communications at Silverado Senior Living resulted in the deployment of a Polycom SpectraLink wireless telephony solution that is improving resident safety, boosting communication, and contributing to a home-like environment where residents can flourish.
 

Improving Team Communication

The very nature of diseases that impair the memory makes swift, reliable communications an absolute necessity in assisted living facilities.
 
“As these types of diseases progress, disorientation becomes severe—residents often don’t know where they are and can’t remember the people around them,” says Barker. “Because of this, they will sometimes try to escape, or use physical contact to try to regain some control over their environment. All of these issues are handled by our clinical staff working together as a team, making communication a top priority.”
 
In the past, Silverado provided its caregivers with walkie-talkies for communication, but Barker and his team began to see how a more sophisticated solution could have a direct impact on resident care. Initial DECT and 802.11 wireless telephony rollouts met with only limited success, but the Silverado IT team continued to search for the best technology combination. What they found -  Polycom® SpectraLink® wireless telephones and infrastructure solutions, combined with HipLink Software wireless paging software -  is now the wireless communication gold standard within the company.
 
“We looked at a range of solutions and decided on the latest SpectraLink phones from Polycom because they provide the level of performance we need and are cost effective,” says Barker. “And HipLink Software really stepped up to the plate, the company was very willing to do whatever it took to help Silverado achieve its goals. The Polycom- HipLink combination is a strong solution.”
 

Enhancing Resident Care

The Polycom SpectraLink handsets have become an integral part of the Silverado caregivers’ jobs. At the end of each shift, the handsets are transferred and caregivers sign onto the wireless phone system and begin their work with residents. If an alarm goes off, the HipLink software generates a brief text message that is transmitted to each of the SpectraLink wireless phones, allowing a caregiver in the immediate area to quickly respond. The caregiver acknowledges resolution of the situation with the press of a button on the phone or by resetting the nurse call button in a resident’s room.
 
The SpectraLink phones are improving resident safety on many levels. For example, if a resident gets too close to or tries to open a door leading outside, an alarm—indicating the exact location— is sent. This enables caregivers to take immediate action to safeguard the resident. Or, if a medical emergency occurs, paramedics can be called immediately. “Before we had the SpectraLink Wi-Fi system, if a resident fell, it required a caregiver to call the reception desk and request that a 911 call be made. Now a caregiver can immediately assess the situation and call 911 directly, all of which gets calls started faster and medical assistance to the resident sooner,” says Barker.
 
This connection to the outside world is also helping connect residents with their families. Sometimes the best way to calm and reassure a panicked resident is to get them on the phone with a family member immediately. Before the wireless voice deployment, this meant an often arduous trip to the reception desk, and that delayed the kind of care and respect Silverado strives to provide for its residents.
 
“The ability to use the handsets to call family members directly was critical to our buying decision,” recounts Barker. “A walkie-talkie simply does not allow for outside phone calls.” 
 
Residents’ families are strongly encouraged to visit as often as possible. And with the SpectraLink phone system in place, if they are in the room with a resident and need assistance, help is just the push of a button away. This is extremely important if, for example, the resident they are visiting is unable to remember them and becomes upset.
 
A top priority for Silverado Senior Living is to make its community environment feel like a home, rather than a hospital. Barker was able to eliminate the noise and distraction of the walkie-talkie system by implementing the SpectraLink wireless solution.
 
“The Polycom-HipLink solution is now Silverado Senior Living’s standard for wireless communication,” concludes Barker.
 

 

 

 

 

INTRODUCTION: A decade of growth. One could easily mistake Tooele County, Utah, home of the Great Salt Lake, barren Great Lake Desert, and the Bonneville Salt Flats for leading a quiet and sleepy existence. In reality, Tooele County faces many of the same challenges reserved for larger urban centers. Most of the county’s 60,000 residents inhabit its eastern border with commutes to Salt Lake City a mere 30-minutes. As a result, the last decade has seen eastern Tooele County swell with new bedroom communities and legions of commuters.

According to a CNN Money.Com research report1, Tooele County had the fastest job growth (123.35%) in the U.S. from 2000-2007. Though this dynamic growth has created a new vibrancy in this former mining mecca, it has challenged the region’s infrastructure, especially the County’s emergency services.

 

TOOELE COUNTY: Keeping pace with new challenges. “Tooele County is unique,” says Lieutenant Regina Campbell, Communications Officer for Tooele County, “Not only are we challenged by the increases in crime, fires, traffic accidents, search and rescue, road closures that most U.S. communities have, but we’re also home to a large government facility, the Tooele Chemical Agent Disposal facility at the U.S. Army Deseret Chemical Depot.”

 
The Deseret Chemical Depot is one of five such government facilities that store and dispose of chemical weapons. A high degree of communication between the federal, state and local agencies including the Tooele County first responders is mandatory due to the volatility of the chemicals. 
 
“The Deseret Depot adds an extra layer of readiness for our first responder teams, and the emergency dispatch team,” continued Campbell. “Any incident at the facility is considered serious from a public safety and environmental perspective so we have to be fully prepared for all types of emergencies.” 
 
Tooele County Sheriff’s Dispatch Center has to communicate with over 400 first responders plus representatives in over 40 different agencies. This is no small task considering the dispatch team is Campbell and fourteen dispatchers. Reaching and communicating with constituents on a timely basis is a constant battle and was made even more difficult in the past without the right technology and tools.
 
“Many people do not realize how many moving parts there are when responding to any incident in the County,” said Campbell. “When a call comes in, it’s quickly evaluated in terms of severity, location and the type of response required then we must quickly communicate with the right responders in the field. We service not only the fire, law enforcement, and EMS for the county, but also search and rescue, public works, state parks, and other federal, state and local agencies. Agencies within Tooele County pay dispatching fees to get quick dispatch to their first responders, every hour of the day, seven days a week, 365 days a year. With our small staff and limited budget, we decided to seek tools to make our communication process more effective, and to keep pace with the growth.”

SOLUTION: Tooele County uses the popular Spillman CAD (Computer-Aided Dispatch) system that offers an integrated wireless communications software through partnership with HipLink Software. In June of 2010, they tested and then quickly purchased the HipLink for Spillman Interface. HipLink messaging software was the missing piece they needed to quickly disseminate text messages to first responders and agency personnel that rely on smartphones and cell phones. Previously, when dispatch could not reach a responder through their radio device, they turned to manual communication options that consumed valuable time and often failed to reach their target receivers. Now, with HipLink in place, dispatchers automate the process of sending of outbound messages directly through the Spillman CAD. They previously struggled with a product called Emergin, that they were never able to implement the automation feature, resulting in text message delivery of up to 10 minutes. 

“To say we rely heavily on HipLink is an understatement,” says Lt. Campbell. “HipLink’s Grouping feature is great. We segment individuals by their group membership and roles. If we need to send a message to say a specific fire fighter team, we simply create the message, select their group name, and then send the message. It’s that easy, that fast, and very reliable. We also have the ability to send two-way messages when we require a person or group of people to acknowledge receipt of our message and/or respond with a return message. HipLink is so flexible that we can set up pre-configured responses that allows the receiver to simply key in a number for their selected response.”
 
Since HipLink is an Internet-based application, a text message can be quickly created from any Internet-connected device. In Tooele County’s case, nearly two dozen people are now authorized to send HipLink messages once they login to the system. As the individual’s device type, phone number and carrier are already entered into the system, the sender does not have to look up those details. The HipLink User simply types the message, selects the group(s) to receive the message, and hits the Send button.
 
Lieutenant Campbell points to a number of ways HipLink has been put to good use. Due to funding difficulties, one smaller fire department could provide radio pagers to only 8 of their 15 members. Now, all members can be reached because they can receive text message dispatches on their personal devices.
 
In another recent case, the radio pagers in the County had to be re-programmed and for some reason, the programming failed on some devices and left some responders with malfunctioning pagers. Once again, HipLink came to the rescue as the dispatch team was able to reach those with bad pagers with a text message to be sure they knew they had to return to base to fix their radios. Lieutenant Campbell has found HipLink useful to reach individuals at various agencies, and even the Chief is now receiving messages when he’s out of RF range.
 
“We like HipLink so much that no one would be able to take it away from us now. We’ve received such tremendous value and HipLink Software’s technical support team has been just awesome. When we first started using HipLink, dispatchers were delivering out with SMTP to their Sprint devices. Sprint made changes to the protocol and suddenly all the messages were truncated. The HipLink team had an immediate solution to switch over to SNPP which offered us much faster, more reliable service. The HipLink technical support engineers were right on top of this situation. HipLink was so easy to set up and the training was excellent, everyone picked it up immediately.”
 
“Using HipLink for text messaging has significantly reduced the number of callbacks the dispatchers receive with radio voice communication,” said Campbell. “Text messaging can be used to clarify the what, when and where questions that are always asked. We’ve been able reduce the number of follow up communications. Additionally, because the first responders have the text, they can review it repeatedly as necessary.”
 
 
1. “Best for Job Growth,” CNNMoney.com, by Beth Braverman,
     Althea Chang, and Lara Moscrip, 2008
 

INTRODUCTION: For over a century, this major grocery store chain evolved from a tiny family shop into a major retail operation with over 300 locations throughout Texas and Mexico, and 75,000 employees. The Chain’s remarkable growth can be attributed to its steadfast commitment to exceptional customer service, low prices, friendly store atmosphere, and a strong sense of innovation, especially in adopting leading-edge technologies.

To meet customer demands for a more comprehensive and convenient shopping experience, this one time grocery chain has expanded its operation to include general household merchandise as well as in-store services such as pharmacy and photo development, Keeping stores open, well-stocked, and without interruption is now highly dependent on its large information technology (IT) support and advanced communication infrastructures.

STREAMLINED TECH SUPPORT FOR 300+ STORES: The retailer’s IT and IS Support processes have multiple teams in place to ensure business continuity and quickly address issues. Should there be an unplanned electrical or network outage, for example, a “911 Point-of-Service” support team is immediately activated to bring store registers back online, or to resolve technical issues that could slow down warehouse and inventory supply chain applications. Having the right tools including more intelligent communication technology has become a key component of their business continuity implementation strategy.

“In the past, an outdated paging system was used to coordinate communications between our different support groups” recalled a Senior Systems Specialist with the retail chain. “The system inevitably ran into problems if a trouble ticket couldn’t be resolved by the company’s service desk, the first line of support.”

Under this old escalation system, escalated trouble tickets were distributed to the advanced support teams as individual pages, one-by-one through a single pager carrier. The paging software supported only one carrier, and did not support different carrier protocols. Messages could not be sent reliably and simultaneously to entire groups, as a result, the communication channel clogged, and a tremendous amount of time was wasted with phone calls between store managers and technical support to track down the status of open trouble tickets.

FLEXIBLE AND INTELLIGENT ENTERPRISE WIRELESS COMMUNICATIONS: After an exhaustive search for a better solution, the retailer selected HipLink, an enterprise wireless messaging and two-way communication software that would integrate with HP Service Manager, their service desk application and other monitoring systems and transportation applications. It would also allow them to send alerts and messages through virtually any carrier; and work uniformly with the retailer’s preferred protocols such as HTTP, TAP, SNPP, and SMTP.

“HipLink’s SOAP interface facilitated quick integration with HP Service Manager,” described the Senior Systems Specialist. We were able to quickly send, track, and escalate alerts to different IS support teams, irrespective of the individual receiver’s mobile device or carrier.”

After implementing HipLink’s extensive capabilities, now when an issue is escalated by the Service Desk to Level-2 Support, the tickets are parsed into a SOAP message generated by a Java script. The message is delivered to the correct Support team member recipients, and can be received via the desired communications channel including landline, cell phone, and SMS text.

The intelligence of HipLink communications is visible when an incident occurs that requires immediate resolution. For example, if the SNPP Gateway is down, HipLink is smart enough to detect it, and will re-send the message via an analog tap. Before, the teams were restricted to ‘fire and forget’ message notifications.

Through HipLink, the grocery chain has been able to solidify their technical support operations in the U.S., resulting in a cost savings of over a $100,000 a year with more efficient use of the overseas support team. The Indian team has been transformed from using a “trouble ticket queue manager” to a more effective problem resolution system for escalations. Much of this was achieved with HipLink’s text-to-speech voice module, where messages are instantly relayed directly to the phones of the overseas support team, for better response and smoother communications.

HIPLINK EXPANDED TO WAREHOUSE-TO-DRIVER COMMUNICATIONS: With over three hundred stores throughout Texas and in Mexico, the retailer's fleet of trucks is moving inventory twenty-four hours a day. Drivers depend on regular pager communications from warehouse personnel alerting them of store destinations, delivery times, where to pick up trucks and trailers, and what products to deliver.  Before HipLink, these critical messages were handled manually to individual drivers, and often getting lost. With HipLink, a text file issued by a mainframe computer is sent to HipLink, were it notifies everyone in the file with the correct message.  This is done about four times a day by the warehouse administration staff from their desktops by hitting a button on a custom-built GUI to load the mainframe file, and then hitting "Send" to get the file over to HipLink via the SOAP API.

HIPLINK PLAYS A ROLE IN RESTORING OPERATIONS DURING NATURAL DISASTER: For a retail chain business, any interruption in business means lost revenues, an extended downtime can be crucial to company customers and employees. In yet another demonstration of HipLink’s flexibility, in September of 2008, massive Hurricane Ike roared through the U.S. Gulf, affecting a large portion of eastern Texas, including the cities of Galveston, Corpus Christi, and Houston. Mass evacuations were ordered ahead of the eventual massive damage to numerous affected communities. As part of the retailer’s Emergency Preparedness Team, different systems are used to coordinate and restore operations including bringing IT systems back on line. HipLink was used extensively in the days following the storm to coordinate people to stores, and get equipment running. 

“HipLink was definitely a vital player in positioning people where they could be the most effective in restoring service to our customers, including support technicians dispatched to dozens of stores throughout Houston,” affirmed the Senior Systems Specialist.

What built this company into a major regional retailer such as dedicated employees committed to exceptional customer service and progressive use of technology, contributed to the fact that its Houston area stores re-opened in less than a week, heralded as the first grocery store operation to do so.

GREATER FLEXIBILITY, HIGH ROI AND EXCELLENT SUPPORT:  What started as a replacement for outgrown technology, HipLink found a home in other parts of the organization, including its role in business continuity and emergency and incident message notifications. Because of its extensive communication and protocol coverage, flexible architecture, reliability, and high performance, this retailer’s experience with HipLink continues to deliver a high return on investment. Although difficult to quantify how much has been saved by the Support teams ability to shorten store downtimes, it has been widely acknowledged throughout the company that Support’s faster response and more efficient communications have contributed greatly to smoother store operations.

As a result, the organization is planning to expand HipLink’s use with other new business processes as well as implement within its Mexico operations. But, the IT teams also know they have a strong tool to better equip them through unplanned challenges as well.

“We’re getting a lot of value out of HipLink, including their exceptional technical support. During the evaluation phase, HipLink Technical Support gave us fast, knowledgeable answers,” said the retailer’s Senior Systems Specialist. “The other companies we looked at took forever to resolve issues. To our thinking, if we’re having problems during evaluation, what’s their support going to be like if we buy? For the last several years, we’ve found that the HipLink software seldom requires attention, but when we do have questions, we’re receiving the same level of quality in service and support.”