Tayside Fire and Rescue finds BlackBerry stops IT budget burn

Tayside Fire and Rescue Services has spent a year as an early adopter of RIM's BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0.

Research In Motion officially launched the latest version of its enterprise product earlier this month and it has the enthusiastic backing of said Gary Bellfield, ICT manager at Tayside Fire and Rescue.

"BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0 has been successfully tested and deployed within Tayside Fire and Rescue and we are impressed with the new administrative features,” he said.

“Having true high availability built into the platform has given us further peace of mind as we rely on our BlackBerry smartphones to help support the life-critical emergency services we provide.”

Tayside Fire and Rescue covers an area of 7,500 square kilometres, with a population of around 400,000. This includes urban areas such as Dundee and Perth, along with towns, villages and remote communities in North East Scotland.

The emergency services organisation has around 750 firefighters based at 24 fire stations. The organisation also employs volunteer firefighters at three stations in the more remote areas of Tayside.

While IT and communications are critical to the organisation’s work, Bellfield manages a stretched budget. Around 90% of the revenue budget is spent on staff costs, and the remaining 10% runs the rest of the organisation..

Total operating capital for spend on fire engines, property and ICT is around £1.6 million, which "doesn't go far," said Stephen Hunter, chief fire officer at Tayside Fire and Rescue.

"The top priority of that money is to go to communications systems, because communications are not just mission critical, they are life critical," said Hunter.

Tayside Fire and Rescue has been using BlackBerry devices since 2002, with over 100 current users and plans to deploy the solution to a further 400

The number of applications used has grown significantly since 2002. The main function of the device is to notify firefighters of an emergency, but staff can also access email, voicemail, intranet applications from the road.

Bellfield said the new BlackBerry Administration Service tool, a web-based interface for supervising BlackBerry deployments, has made management of the devices a lot easier. Another admin tool included in BlackBerry Enterprise Server 5.0 is role-based access controls to allow administrators to open up particular functionality to management, depending on their administration rights.

Alan Panezic, RIM's vice president of software product management, called version 5.0 "the highest quality release of BES ever."

Panezic highlighted a new feature of version 5.0 that allows enterprise administrators to failover from one server to another seamlessly, which helps IT managers perform essential maintenance without any interruption of service to the BlackBerry.

Copyright © 2009 IDG Communications, Inc.

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