Technology plays a crucial role in transforming public safety, bringing significant changes to our lives. When combined with the right tools, technology can even save them. That’s the story behind Bridge 4 Public Safety, the app launched with funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and built with Rocket.Chat.
Industry: Public safety
Headquarters: Houston, Texas
Goal: To build a secure public safety collaboration tool
Monthly Customers: Thousands of users from 400+ agencies across USA
To build a data security-driven platform for emergency first-responders
Data compliance has always been vitally important for public safety agencies. That’s what motivated Mobility 4 Public Safety (M4PS) to create a secure messaging app for first responders that could replace platforms like WhatsApp, Telegram and Signal.
In 2019, after testing the concept of the app in closed-source software, they realized the lack of data ownership in such tools wouldn’t meet their needs. “We didn’t have visibility into any objective data about app usage. We had to rely on the vendor to provide metrics, which usually took weeks,” said Niki Papazoglakis, Founder & CEO of M4PS.
As the Department of Homeland Security agreed to fund the app, “one of the requirements was having a self-managed open-source solution.” Niki and her team needed an open-source platform with:
- Team collaboration features for quick communication between public safety personnel
- Data security & self-hosted deployment
- Compatibility across devices and networks
- Secure messaging with maximum data compliance
Rocket.Chat introduced as the open-source collaboration solution
After extensive research with open-source alternatives, Rocket.Chat was chosen to be the foundation for the Bridge4PS app due to its security, compliance, scalability and customization capabilities. The app connects various public safety organizations and information systems to quickly coordinate incident response efforts.
Bridge4PS app streamlines public safety communications
In a short time, the Bridge4PS app has bridged the gap for emergency response across state lines, allowing the states to provide quick aid for events such as Hurricane Laura, a Houston plastics plant explosion, pandemic response, and public events such as the 2020 Los Angeles Marathon and Super Bowl LI.
For instance, Bridge4PS provided unparalleled information sharing during the record-setting 2020 hurricane season: “First responders from 8 states were able to seamlessly communicate and share information while providing mutual aid to areas devastated by major hurricanes. Collaboration on this scale is unprecedented for these types of emergency response efforts,” says Niki.
With rapid communication, emergency responders can tackle problems faster through the app than with other conventional technologies.
A multi-organizational directory as the key to interoperability
- All registered users are centralized in a single nationwide directory
- No anonymous members are in text groups as all users are identified by name and organization
- No personal contact information is required
- Any user can join “public” channels (also known as open channels), or be added to private groups by invitation
- Any user can connect via direct message
Simplified user management
Rocket.Chat’s open-source nature enabled Niki’s team to customize it the way they needed, leveraging features like Teams to facilitate user management as public safety personnel often operate in fixed groups such as squads, units, or shifts.
Bridge4PS Teams feature allows all relevant personnel to be automatically added to operational channels rather than each person having to be added individually. This efficiency is crucial when time is of the essence, especially when responding to emergencies.
“[This feature] was built in a way that, if somebody leaves that squad, you just take them out of the team, and they automatically lose access to all of the rooms and channels that team was invited to. And if a new person joins, you add them to the team, and they automatically get every channel that team was invited to,” Niki explained.
On-premise installation as a crucial requirement for public safety agencies
As highly regulated and protected communications are often operationally necessary for Bridge4PS users, having it hosted on-premise was crucial to ensure data compliance. “By deploying Rocket.Chat in AWS GovCloud, we were able to leverage the Rocket.Chat code within an architecture designed to meet the security, reliability, and availability requirements of our governmental users,” says Niki.
Teaming up for a good cause
The collaboration between Rocket.Chat and M4PS in delivering the Bridge4PS app has been extremely rewarding, especially because of the positive impact on first responders and the citizens they serve.
Bridge4PS fills a critical gap between free consumer-messaging apps and internal enterprise platforms. Rocket.Chat believes initiatives like this need all the support possible, and our team has enthusiastically helped them carry out their purpose and mission.