Alarms from California fires inundate American Two-Way

Thursday, November 1, 2007

NORTH HOLLYWOOD, Calif.--Last week's wildfires that spread over 490,000 acres in California and destroyed more than 1,800 homes also affected the daily operations of monitoring firm American Two-Way, as the firm tried to keep up with incoming alarms from customer locations.
"We were inundated with fire emergency signals as well as power failure signals throughout the Southern California region," said Christopher Baskin, chief executive officer of American Two-Way. "We immediately started calling in extra operators as well as senior management to handle all of the signals that were hitting us."
Although the station's operators were dispatching calls correctly, America Two-Way was notified that limited first responder and fire department resources would be unable to respond to a majority of situations.
"It's very difficult for an operator to call a home owner or a business and let them know their place is on fire having already been told that first responders will not be going," Baskin said.
American Two-Way, which was never in danger of the spreading wildfires, set up an improvised system in their monitoring station to track the spread of the fires.
"We took the event center screens on the walls that normally track signals hitting us and converted those screens so we could watch live feeds from various news channels in order to better track the progression of the fires," said Baskin. "Because we knew that certain areas were so inundated [with fire] we would ignore power failure signals and alarms from those areas on purpose."
Although such a devastating situation is never desired, the California wildfires did provide an opportunity for American Two-Way to test and evaluate the effectiveness and response ability of its system in a crisis situation.
"On the technology side, we were happy to see all the various wireless solutions worked extremely well," he said. "Everything worked the way it should have and really it just came down to the limited resources of the first responders."