By Dan Triemstra
TexCom Co-Founder and Developer
With my career in Information Technology and my 12 years as a firefighter, I am called upon many times to answer the same common question by Public Safety Professionals:
“How can I do this easier? Oh by the way, I don’t have any money to pay for it.”
Below are the 7 most common solutions to this question.
Image Composite Editor – Combine multiple images into one
Have you ever wanted to document an area visually in great detail but your camera lens just isn’t wide enough? Microsoft’s Image Composite Editor can help. Take multiple overlapping photos covering a 180 degree area from the same spot. Drop the photos into the program and the editor will automatically stitch them together into one high resolution picture. This is great for detailing a scene allowing you to view it as one image and zoom in with great detail. As another trick, try Photosynth which allows you to take pictures of an area and create a 3D panoramic view.
Audacity – Be your own DJ
Many organizations now have the ability to record radio traffic onto devices such as a Telecorder. After a large scale event, it is nice to extract the audio files to more easily review the emergency response and on-scene operations. Normally when extracting audio, you will end up with multiple files or one very long file that will include unrelated radio communications or long periods of dead air. With Audacity you can easily import multiple files into one audio file and cut out unwanted sections quickly. Within only a few minutes, you can create relevant audio for instruction at an upcoming debriefing or training session.
CutePDF – Guaranteed viewing
PDF (portable document format) is the standard for sending documents around by email or posting on sites such as TexCom because it preserves formatting better than alternatives. In the past you may have needed Adobe Acrobat to create a PDF document, but now you can create a PDF document from within many common software programs. But what if you want to create a PDF from a program that does not support PDF conversion? CutePDF allows you to create a PDF from any program that has a print option. After the simple install, select CutePDF from the list of printers when printing from any program. Done! Need to open a PDF document for editing? Try PDF to Word.
Google Voice – A single point of contact
You probably purchased your first cell phone years ago. How many times have you changed providers or wanted to change providers but needed to keep the same phone number? Many providers now provide a way to port your number over to your next cell carrier, but for a fee. What if you could have one number for life that you could take with you anywhere? With Google Voice you can get one local number and have calls forwarded to other numbers. If you have poor cell phone coverage at the office, you can have calls ring both your cell phone and your office phone at the same time. You can then easily transfer calls to other devices, without dropping the call, so you can leave the office on time. In addition, all voice mails are instantly transcribed to text and sent to you via email or text message. “Reading” your voice mail makes it much easier to learn what the caller wanted without looking suspicious at that big meeting.
Open Office / Google Docs – The Geek Squad never told you this
Unless you are part of the small minority that uses the advanced features of common office programs, there is no need to pay for these advanced programs anymore. With OpenOffice or GoogleDocs, you can create and edit regular office style documents without the heavy price tag. Containing word processors, spreadsheets and presentation software it is an easy answer for that strained budget. Plus, you can access your files from any Internet connection, including mobile devices.
Google Apps – An email domain of your own
I have noticed most emergency organizations have a public website these days, but leaders of these organizations surprisingly still use gmail, yahoo, or hotmail email accounts for professional correspondence. Google Apps offers a free service to host up to 50 email accounts (more for a fee) at your domain name providing you more professional credibility. The Google App wizard makes it easy to get started. Would you feel more comfortable sending out emails representing your organization from an account name like FireIsHot@GoDaddy.com or JSmith@JohnstownFire.com? The choice is yours.
TexCom – The only online communication tool for first responders
Of course a list of tech tips for public safety would not be complete without mentioning TexCom. With the ability to post messages and events, schedule shifts, send emails and text messages, and much more, this free product is essential for fire departments and emergency organizations nationwide.
With these free products, your organization can now run cheaper and more efficiently. Give them a try!
Be sure to leave a comment and let us know your favorite tech solutions for your organization!