Author Topic: Detroit: Fire Dept. gets its alerts from soda cans  (Read 1522 times)

Offline Hypestyle

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Detroit: Fire Dept. gets its alerts from soda cans
« on: September 12, 2014, 06:06:03 am »
From the Stephen Colbert show:
http://thecolbertreport.cc.com/videos/hkfm7z/hometown-hero-town---detroit

From the Detroit Free Press
http://www.freep.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2014309050185


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Bye bye pop can.
That’s what the Detroit Fire Department might be saying soon to its rigged-up emergency alert system. It could get replaced — for free — by one of several philanthropic software  companies that recently learned just how bad things are in Detroit.
The revelation came when the Free Press published an article and video showing how Detroit firefighters get emergency alerts: A pop can filled with coins or screws gets knocked over by a piece of paper that rolls through a fax machine. The rattle signals an emergency.
For tech  gurus nationwide, the pop-can story sounded an alarm.
“I just could not believe it. I thought it was a joke at first,” said George Faucher, president and CEO of CorreLog, a computer  software company in Naples, Fla.
Faucher, who saw the report on TV, believes Detroit deserves better and wants to help, as do six other software companies that expressed interest in donating a modern-day alert system to the fire department. Four companies contacted the fire department this week; three other interested parties contacted the Free Press, whose pop-can video story was featured on Comedy Central’s “The Colbert Report” this week.
Faucher said after he learned about the plight of the Detroit firefighters, he contacted a salesperson at the office and told them to contact the Detroit Fire Department.
“I said, ‘Call them and say, look, we’ll help you out. We understand the tough times that you are having, and we’ll be happy to help you at no charge,’ ” Faucher said, noting his company is doing “quite well,” and this is his way of giving back.
Faucher said the software system that he has in mind costs about $10,000. It’s not designed specifically for fire stations, he noted, “but it’s at least a thousand times better than a Coke can falling over.”
Detroit’s fire stations do have fire bells but they have to be triggered manually. This is done by the on-call firefighter who waits for the pop can to fall.
For Deputy Fire Commissioner John Berlin, the offers to help have been humbling. Calls have come in from as far away as California and Oregon.
“It overwhelmed me,” Berlin said of the outpouring of support. “We need so much. ... What I was humbled by was that there was nothing negative said about the city of Detroit, or the bankruptcy. It was simply that they wanted to help. And that set me back a little bit. It humbled me.”
Detroit firefighter Paul Fillmore said technological upgrades are long overdue. He noted that the department once had a code red system that automatically rang the fire bell at the stations, but it’s been decades since that’s been in place. Instead, firefighters are improvising with pop cans.
“It’s very reliable, it’s a simple method,” Fillmore said, while placing a Faygo can on the printer. “This, it works. I mean, we can do it. But it’s pretty silly. And if you’re not in the room to hear it, you could be in trouble.”
Berlin said for now, fire officials are still gathering information from the interested parties who want to help. He said he wants to make sure that a company’s donation is used to its fullest potential.
Hunter Giambra, who owns a fledgling software company in Tampa, Fla., believes he can help. The 21-year-old entrepreneur wants to come to Detroit, tour the fire stations, and come up with what he believes is a better system than a soda can.
“When I saw that (video), I was like, ‘Wow! What if they don’t hear that can drop?’ ” Giambra said, adding: “It was a very big surprise — for being 2014, and that’s the kind of technology that they’re using?”
“These guys need something that’s going to work.”
For Giambra, helping Detroit also means helping his company. He said he is looking to generate new business and get more name recognition. Creating and donating an alert system for Detroit’s fire department could achieve that, he said.
Where the firefighters get their help from remains to be seen. It could come from a software company, or an engineer in California who has a plan in mind, or a college student  from Oregon who likes challenges.
That student, Jake Cozart, does technical support for a computer software company in Bend, Ore., while studying business administration. The self-described techie said he read the Free Press pop can story on Gizmodo, a news website, and wanted to see if there was something he could do to help.
“I was thinking that a pop can seemed a bit rudimentary, so I thought I would build (an alert system) and see what happens,” Cozart said. “I saw a programming challenge, and thought let me see what I can do to help.”
Cozart took the task to hand and created a programming system that will sound an alarm when a printer is activated through a computer. Detroit’s fire stations all have that system right now: central dispatch sends emergency alerts through a computer system. The alert goes to a specified fire house’s computer, and then rolls through the connecting printer, which operates like a fax.
That’s when the pop can goes clink. The on-call firefighter hears the can, and then sounds off an alarm that wakes up everyone in the firehouse.
Detroit deserves better, said Faucher.
“This is not brain surgery,” he said. “This is something that we can probably help them with very quickly and easily ... and certainly bring them more into the new millennium.”

« Last Edit: September 12, 2014, 06:08:09 am by Hypestyle »
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