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Trek Medics: Deploying Emergency Responders in Underserved Communities Around the Globe by Lisa Duckrow

Emergency responders were under enormous pressure over the past year, especially when COVID-19 overwhelmed healthcare systems in various parts of the world. In the face of this, coordinating a rapid and efficient emergency response has never been more crucial.

In many low- and middle-income countries and underserved communities, emergency responders typically coordinate the response via messaging services (e.g., WhatsApp). But scrolling through group messaging chats to coordinate and mobilize on a broader level is not scalable nor effective, and leaves emergency responders at the mercy of outdated mobile networks and legacy infrastructure.

Enter non-profit organization Trek Medics, a PagerDuty.org grantee and Impact Pricing customer. Trek Medics works to improve emergency response for at-risk and vulnerable populations through innovative mobile phone technologies. Through Trek Medics’ Beacon communications platform, responders can alert, coordinate, and track emergency response networks on any mobile phone—with or without internet. The platform is active with more than 2,000 daily users in 25 countries including Puerto Rico, England and Tanzania, and handled over 100,000 calls in 2020.

Orchestrating Emergency Response at Scale

The emergency services organizations that rely on Trek Medics need to be on call 24×7. Teams in these regions are typically alerted to nearby emergencies via text message or even an air siren. The Beacon platform serves the same purpose, but instead of an air siren, Beacon sends a digital signal to the responder’s device.

Beacon goes beyond just alerting individuals. “Coordinating a response to an alert is the second part of the equation that is just as critical as the first part. We can coordinate the appropriate response to make sure that the right people are going to the right place at the right time,” said Jason Friesen, the Founder and Executive Director at Trek Medics.

Beacon must be available to support the mission-critical nature of 24×7 emergency response. Whether it’s a motor vehicle collision, opioid response or domestic violence emergency, prolonged downtime puts lives at risk. It’s vital that Trek Medics can spot and resolve any digital incidents in Beacon before end-users are impacted. This is where PagerDuty comes in.

Getting Help to Where It’s Needed Fast

Before PagerDuty, Trek Medics’ approach to digital operations management was manual and time-intensive. Teams logged onto different sites and sifted through various sources to identify and resolve issues. With PagerDuty, Trek Medics integrates and centralizes alerts coming from sources such as Twilio, Slack, Cloudwatch, New Relic and internal monitoring, providing teams with visibility into issues within its whole environment. “To us, PagerDuty is an internal response and early warning system,” explained Friesen. “So, there is a real parallel between what we do and what PagerDuty does. PagerDuty not only streamlines all of the back-end alerts that we could be getting on our stack, but it also helps to coordinate our own response to make sure that the right people can investigate and resolve the alert.”

Prioritizing Alerts to Ensure Users Aren’t Impacted

PagerDuty also provides Trek Medics with priority and severity tagging to help teams quickly sort through alerts and identify the mission critical problems in real-time. For instance, when one of Trek Medics’ two servers went down, PagerDuty alerted Trek Medics immediately. “Thanks to PagerDuty, as soon as the server went offline, our back-end developers were alerted through Slack, the mobile app, SMS and phone. This allowed them to instantly take action to resolve the problem and we avoided any tangible impact on our users,” said Friesen.

In another case, PagerDuty flagged instances of Beacon’s mobile app crashing when a user opened a photo that was more than a month old—even before the mobile app monitoring tool sent a notification. PagerDuty enabled the team to quickly resolve the issue without impacting users. “While this was a relatively innocuous problem with the app, it’s a great example of how effective PagerDuty is at keeping us aware of what’s going on across our services at all times and making sure users are not impacted,” commented Friesen.

Creating a Future-Proof Ecosystem

Looking ahead, Trek Medics plans to further integrate PagerDuty with its partners. “Many of our Beacon users leverage additional services on top of the platform. We want to alert Beacon users immediately through PagerDuty when these third-party services run into issues. If a mobile network goes down, for instance, we could alert our partners and even the mobile network before they realize it’s happened. This helps the whole ecosystem become more proactive.”

PagerDuty.org’s partnership model, designed to help nonprofits and mission-driven organizations accelerate their vital work, has helped Trek Medics further improve its services. “As a non-profit organization, we’re counting our pennies every day and we are dependent on the generosity of others. We have to watch our budget very closely. PagerDuty’s holistic support makes it totally possible for us to work at full capacity without having to make any trade-offs or compromise any of our services.”

Find out how nonprofits and B Corps can accelerate their work and reach with our Impact Pricing and COVID-19 Response Pricing.

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