Customers Stories

Zello’s Push-to-Talk Solution Helps First Responders in Urgent Situations

Highlights

  • First responders need greater range than radio networks can provide
  • Quality of radio communication can vary, getting in the way of communicating critical details about emergency calls
  • Radio gateways bridge first responders’ cell phones with radio networks, turning personal devices into walkie talkies
  • Cell and WiFi networks vastly expand radio coverage across counties, states, countries, and the world

To help first responder organizations perform their critical roles, Zello launched the Zello for First Responder program in 2019. We expanded the program worldwide in March of 2020 in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Recently, we talked with four first responder organizations about their experiences rolling Zello out to their teams: Bud’s Ambulance Service | Daley’s Ambulance Service, which operates outside and along the South Side of Chicago; Delaware County Emergency Services, which operates in Southeastern, PA; Henderson County Emergency Services, which operates in Hendersonville, NC; and a State Guard.

IT and administrative leaders in all four organizations have reported overwhelmingly positive responses from their teams. All have plans to spread adoption more widely within their organizations or to partner first responder teams.

Challenges

Maintaining high quality communications and managing to get signal using only traditional LMR technology was a universal challenge for all four organizations, which needed to connect in the following ways:

  • Across vast areas, such as all of a large state or a rural county.
  • Within densely built urban environments, where there was high interference.
  • With satellite offices and commands located across a county or state.
  • With partner organizations during responses to natural disasters, which draw first responders from across wide areas.

Traditional radio systems, which rely on proprietary towers and expensive and limited equipment like walkie talkies, could not provide the appropriate amount of range and often offered variable and low sound quality. This put first responders in harm’s way when situations escalated, and interfered with dispatch’s ability to gather the information needed for first responders to enter a scene with the greatest amount of knowledge possible.

How Zello Helped

Leaders in each organization picked Zello for the same reason: not to replace their radio systems, but to augment them. While some members of some organizations used Zello to communicate purely through their cell phones, all organizations relied heavily on radio gateways, which bridge personal cell phones to the radio system, turning a cell phone functionally into a radio that can connect via cell towers and WiFi rather than solely on limited radio bandwidth.

The teams were impressed with the significant increase of range and quality in communications.

“People are adopting it widely,” reports Steve Castellano, 911 Systems Manager/IT Leader of Delaware County Emergency Services. “It’s huge for us because it gives us the ability to link into our current radio system. To access that regardless of geographic location is huge. Even the director or a fire chief can access the system wherever they’re at.”

Says Jimmy Brissie, Director of the Henderson County Emergency Services: “During a dynamic event we can create a conversation with different users on the fly by building an ad hoc channel with multiple users.”

The Chief Signal NCO at the State Guard reported that the Zello for First Responders program has enabled the team to communicate seamlessly with each other and with command when responding to the COVID-19 crisis across the state.

Try Zello to Fill Critical Gaps in Your Communication

Radio is a powerful and fundamental tool in the first responder community. Alone, however, it is not enough. If you’re ready to fill the connectivity and quality gaps that slow down critical response times, apply for the Zello First Responder Program. Let us help you get to the scene faster and provide higher quality care by providing the very best in first responder communication.

Read more about these first responders’ experiences with Zello at the links below: