Enforcing trafﬁc laws in one of England’s largest cities is a tough task for Bristol City Council (BCC). Covering 110 square miles (285 sq. km) and a resident City population of almost half a million, the Council must ensure the safety and performance of its Civil Enforcement Ofﬁcers (CEOs) who face daily confrontations with members of the public while issuing parking ﬁnes.
As with most lone workers, communication is mission critical for Bristol City Council’s 84 CEOs, many of them female, who work alone in stressful and unpredictable situations. Risk of verbal abuse is high and the threat of physical assault a daily fear. Traditional mobile phones fitted with panic buttons proved inadequate for maintaining reliable contact in this tough outdoor, all weather duty. In addition, they were unable to provide the quality recordings required for use in prosecutions.
Paul Watts, shift manager, BCC, explains, “Ordinary phones just weren’t up to the job. They kept breaking, required regular repair and had short life spans.
Battery life was insufficient to last long shifts and they often cut out. During wet weather, staff had to put them in their pockets, which made them difficult to access and use properly.”
“In addition, around 75% of recordings taken from the phones were unclear or broken, making them inadmissible in court. What our CEOs really needed was a reliable, rugged, high quality safety phone designed specifically for lone workers.”
After extensive market evaluation, BCC selected Sonim XP3 Sentinel phones featuring built-in software for lone worker protection and a man down sensor that registers and alerts support teams if there is period of non-activity/movement. Each phone also has a dedicated ‘Red Alert’ panic button, for immediate, one-press access to the control team, and instant activation of tracking and recording. It also has an ‘Amber alert’ button that CEOs can activate when they are about to go into a situation that requires monitoring.
Waterproof and designed for use in extreme temperatures, the ultra-rugged devices are connected via Vodafone’s code5® service to SitexOrbis, a company that specializes in 24/7 lone worker monitoring and protection. Already in use by BCC and many other local authorities, code5® is a proven solution for lone workers who face risk during their daily activities.
“The Sonim phones cope with all conditions,” highlights Watts. “In wet weather they can be worn outside clothing making them quickly and easily accessible to our CEOs. As soon as the need arises, they can activate the yellow button to have a situation monitored. If this escalates or they are faced with a serious threat they can press the red panic button – which works even when the keypad is locked.
From then on everything is recorded and their location tracked. The line is also monitored continuously by a specially trained SitexOrbis controller who will not speak until the CEO indicates that it is clear to do so. SitexOrbis has a direct line to the police and will alert them immediately should the situation get out of hand.”
Rainy days no longer cause stress to CEOs who can keep their phones at hand whatever the weather. They are also safe in the knowledge that they only have to press a single button and they are instantly located, tracked and monitored.
Watts confirms, “Our CEOs feel safer armed with phones that are reliable, easy to use, and that won’t run out of power mid-shift. The phones are also equipped with GPS tracking, which allows us to track CEOs every 15 minutes. If someone presses the alarm, I can log into the SitexOrbis Web site, look at any unit, and find out exactly where they’ve been and when. With Sonim and our support they never feel they are alone.”
For the local police who are often called to the scene to support a CEO, the most impressive feature of the Sonim phone is the clarity and quality of the recording obtained from the panic button feature. Since deploying the phones, all panic button activations have been crystal clear. Indeed, one such XP3 Sentinel recording recently resulted in a court trial.
Watts recounts, “While issuing a parking ticket, a CEO endured a 20-minute tirade from a vehicle owner who aggressively con- fronted her and then attempted to drive away, almost injuring her in the process. The CEO remained calm and activated the panic button. Within seconds all audio was being recorded and she was discreetly connected via the Vodafone network to a SitexOrbis response team operator. The operator then remained on the line and began to initiate the pre-agreed emergency response procedure set by us. Within minutes the police were called who took control of the situation and arrested the man after discovering he possessed several knives. The quality of the audio captured between the Sonim device and the Police commended the digital recorders hosted at SitexOrbis Alarm Receiving Centre. Because of this, they were confident of upgrading the severity of the offence and securing a conviction.”
He adds “When a stranger is shouting and swearing at you, having someone listening and able to call the police, gives you greater peace of mind,” reinforces Watts. “It’s hard to describe just how aggressive or threating someone’s tone is when you recount the abuse. But once the police, judge and jury hear the recording they experience it for themselves it lends weight to the case.”
For BCC, Sonim phones have undoubtedly proven their worth. According to Watts, “Requiring little maintenance, drastically reducing repair costs and boosting return on investment, Sonim phones have improved the effectiveness and safety of our CEOs and the quality of our evidence in court. Their intelligent functionality is also opening the door for future services. We are currently exploring the possibility of using the phones to access BCC’s cashless parking system. This would allow CEOs to accept credit card payments for parking and reduce the number of devices they have to carry with them.”
Sonim XP3 Sentinel devices chosen by one of England’s largest cities for ultra-rugged form factor and built-in lone worker monitoring.
Bristol City Council supports England’s 7th largest city and covers 110 square kilometers (42 square miles). It is responsible for 1.1 million people across the region. Civil Enforcement Officers (CEOs) reinforce parking policy.
Regular confrontation with the public
Traditional communications devices unable to withstand daily use
Mobile performance impaired by weather
Poor access to quality recordings and low trust in devices
Quicker and easier to use, whatever the weather
Increased safety with one button, one press, immediate connection to support centre
Instant access to tracking, monitoring and back up
High quality recording to support court cases
Improved life-cycle performance and reduced maintenance costs
Lower total cost of ownership and increased return on investment