Technology to bring efficiency to Smithfield emergency services

Technology to bring efficiency to Smithfield emergency services

Smithfield dispatcher Lou Reo, at left, took calls last week in advance of a new system being implemented in town. PublicEye technology, below at right, which piggybacks on existing dispatch software to communicate with iPads in each vehicle, is expected to be in place by September. (Breeze & Observer photos by Meghan Kavanaugh)

SMITHFIELD - When it comes to dealing with emergencies, the town just became a bit more tech-savvy.

Within the next few months, each of the 11 firetruck and rescue vehicles in town will be equipped with a dashboard-mounted iPad.

When a call comes in from dispatch, the device will give step-by-step navigation instructions, notes about special needs at the home like medications or disabilities, live-streaming video of the scene, locations of fire hydrants, and even a running social media feed that can show firefighters real-time tweets and Facebook posts from users in the area talking about a blaze.

The secure devices will also allow emergency personnel to communicate via a sort of text messaging system, instead of broadcasting sensitive information over the airwaves, or having to call personal cell phones.

PublicEye, with the slogan "So easy the Chief can use it," boasts a low maintenance performance and multi-jurisdictional capabilities.

Smithfield Fire Chief Robert Seltzer thinks the town will be the first in the state to implement the program, though he said at least three others are in the planning stages.

"This company has come a long way in helping public safety," Seltzer said, adding he hopes to have the systems in place by September.

PublicEye technologies are currently in use by some departments in Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Payment for the $16,420 cost out of the special projects fund, which is a pot for renewal fees and violation funds, was approved at the July 15 Town Council meeting, bypassing the bidding process because PublicEye is the sole provider of the specific service.

But that was not the only technological advance on the docket for the fire department.

Also that night, the Town Council granted Town Manager Dennis Finlay power to negotiate an agreement to erect a Verizon cell phone tower behind the fire headquarters on Putnam Pike, replacing the rusted and aged tower that sits next to the building.

Seltzer estimated the lease agreement with Verizon, if subsequently approved by the council and Zoning Board, will save the town $150,000.

"That's a big expense we didn't need," he said.

Plus, he said, the 130-foot-tall monopole tower will be less obtrusive than the current 110-foot metal tripod tower, and it will be relocated to the back of the building along the parking lot's tree line, essentially hiding it from the view of passersby. The new tower would have to be taller, he said, to account for a 14-foot drop-off in the back of the building.

"It's probably actually going to be more pleasing in that area of town," Seltzer said at the meeting.

The Verizon pole would bring cell service to the area, which Seltzer called "a dead zone," and the town's dispatch equipment would be fixed to the top at no cost.

The preliminary lease agreement states that Verizon would pay the town $21,600 annually, in equal monthly installments, for five years. The agreement would then automatically be extended for four additional five-year terms, increasing the annual rent accordingly.

The first five-year extension would bring in $24,840; the second $28,566; the third $32,850.90; and the fourth $37,778.53.

Should Verizon back out of the lease at any time, the agreement states, the pole and dispatch equipment would stay.

PublicEye communications services soon to be implemented in Smithfield's 11 fire trucks and emergency services vehicles via iPads provide step-by-step navigation directions, live video-streaming capabilities and information about hydrant location and special notes per building or home.
The existing communications tower at Smithfield Fire Department's headquarters on Putnam Pike could soon be replaced with a Verizon cell tower that would be located at the back of the building. Leasing the tower, which would support the town's dispatch equipment, could save the town $150,000, Fire Chief Robert Seltzer estimates.


Welcome to a world where public safety runs on phones and wearables. PublicEye is changing the way Police, Fire & EMS collaborate and perform their tasks. For more on how phones and tablets are mobilizing departments nationwide, visit