Beacon FAQ

How can we help?
Error says “Phone number is already in use by another first responder”

I’m trying to add new Responders and I get this error warning

error warning: phone number already in use - Beacon Emergency Dispatch v3.0

This happens because the Responder has already registered their phone through the app, before you could add them to your Data Center, and they are now in a generic data center called Registration.

The best way to avoid this from happening is to add your Responders to the website before they register their phones through the mobile app.

To resolve this:

  1. Tell them to change their settings to “OFF-DUTY” in the app and then delete it completely from their phone
  2. Then add them again as a Responder through the dispatcher website (You should not see this warning again if the Responder followed #1)
  3. Finally, tell them to re-install the app and re-register their phone with the correct phone number

After that, they should be seeing the same map in their mobile app as you’re seeing on the dispatcher website and should receive alerts when you create new incidents.

If you continue to have problems it’s usually because the Responder didn’t follow the directions above or because they are registering with the wrong phone number. However, if you’re still having problems please send us an email to [email protected] with the Responder’s Name and Phone Number, and the Data Center you want them registered in. Or, if you have lots of Responders with the same issue, we can also give you access to the Registration Data Center where you can find your Responders and transfer them to your own Data Center.

The app freezes after I receive the Initial Alert

App slows down and/or freezes after receiving the Initial Alert

If this is not due to the Internet connection it’s possible that it has something to do with the complexity of the route directions. For example, if you are using it for demo purposes and the location listed in the incident alert is in a different country than you’re in, the app may have trouble determining and/or loading the map directions.

To correct this, ensure that you are responding to incidents in the same country you’re in.

Why is my dashboard map all blue?

My dashboard map is all blue

If you have just created a new account it’s possible your map may appear all blue on both the dispatch dashboard and the mobile app.

All blue dashboard map_Beacon Emergency Dispatch v3.0
Beacon home screen with blue map - Beacon Mobile App v3.0

This is likely because your map’s latitude / longitude are set to 0˚, 0˚, placing you in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean off the western coast of Africa. If this is the case, the map will continue to focus at these coordinates until you change them.

To resolve this issue:

  1. Open the Main Menu
  2. Click on Settings
  3. Click on Catchment Area Map
  4. Point and click to place the Map Marker where you want your map to focus
  5. Click Save
I tried to create a new incident through the website but it didn’t work

PROBLEM: After I filled out the info on the Create Incident page and clicked “Create”, nothing happened.”

There are several things which could prevent an incident from being created through the Create Incident page on the dispatcher website.

1. You didn't fill out all of the boxes on the Create Incident page

As shown in the image below, all boxes have to be filled out to create a new incident, including:

  • The incident location (using the map)
  • The incident description
  • The caller’s name and number (even if you don’t have the caller’s name or number, this still has to be filled out, so just enter “Anonymous” and random numbers, or whatever your protocol is)
  • The incident Class, Category, Type
  • The maximum number of Responders and minimum number of Vehicles
  • (Note: Assigning specific Responders to an incident is optional)

 

Information needed to create a new incident through Beacon Emergency Dispatch v3

2. You don't have any Responders registered and/or available to receive alerts

If this is the problem, a warning notification should appear on the screen. To fix the problem, go to the dashboard and click on the Resources tab. If no Responders appear, add some. If Responders appear but are colored red, you will have to make them available (green) or log new Responders in.

3. Your Responders are muted

When Responders are muted (as shown below by the Red Audio Icon), they will not receive any alerts. If all of them are muted, Beacon will behave as if no Responders are available (even though they are colored green). To resolve this go back to the dashboard, click on the Resources tab, and unmute the Responders by clicking the Audio Icon so that it turns back to gray.

Muted Responders_Beacon Emergency Dispatch v3.0

I’m having trouble logging in to the Beacon website

There are several scenarios which may be preventing you from logging in

Scenario 1: I don't see the login page

This may be because your internet connection is too slow or because you are trying to access the Login page on an iPad or iPhone using the Safari app.

If you are using the Safari app for your iPad or iPhone, you may see this when you try to visit the Beacon login page:

 

Beacon Login Page on Safari iPad

The Beacon web pages have not yet been optimized for Safari or Internet Explorer so we’d kindly suggest downloading the Chrome or Firefox mobile apps for your iOS device . We know the Beacon web pages may sometimes work while using these web browsers, but it’s not a guarantee. Firefox and Chrome are much more reliable.

Scenario 2: I entered my credentials and clicked "Sign In" nothing happened

Similar to Scenario 1 above, it’s likely due to your Internet connection or the web browser you are using. Beacon has been optimized for Firefox and Google Chrome web and mobile apps — but not for Safari or Internet Explore. If you’re using an iPad or iPhone, or are using a laptop running Internet Explorer, we recommend you download Firefox or Chrome to access Beacon.

Scenario 3: I entered my credentials and clicked "Sign In" but only get a red warning

If you are sure you’re entering the correct login credentials, try erasing your browser’s cookies, cache, and history, then try logging in again.

It may also be causing problems if you are trying to access the Beacon web pages through Safari or Internet Explorer. Beacon has been optimized for Firefox and Chrome, but not yet for Safari or Internet Explorer, so we recommend you download Firefox or Chrome in order to get the best user experience for Beacon.

I tried to create an incident through the website but nothing happened

There are several scenarios which may be preventing you from logging in

Scenario 1: You didn't fill out all of the boxes

Every box on the Create Incident page needs to be filled in. Even if you don’t have all the info — like, for example, the caller’s name and number — enter some sort of info, like “Caller Name: Anonymous” and “Caller Number: 1234567890”.

If you’re not sure where the exact location of an incident is on the map, put the map marker somewhere nearby and enter more details in the Incident Description box to let responders know the map location may not be correct and provide any additional info you have about the actual location of the incident.

Scenario 2: You're requesting more units than you have available

This happens when a dispatcher enters a number greater than “1” into the Minimum Units Requested box, and there aren’t that many units available. For example, if you request a minimum of 4 units and only 3 are available, Beacon won’t create the incident. The best way to resolve this is to simply leave the number of Minimum Units Requested at “1”

How do I get rid of the White Loop in the Beacon Mobile App?

White Loop bug in Mobile App

It’s possible that some users may see a white loop in their mobile app upon opening it. This can be for several reasons, including for poor internet connection or when using an old version of Beacon.

Another common cause happens when an incident is created without including a location on the map. It will show up on the Incident Summary Card as “Unkown Geo Coded Location”.

The way to remove the White Loop is to create an incident that includes a map location, then ask users to close and re-open their app and they will be able to use the app as normal.

White Loop screen - Beacon mobile appUnknown geo coded Location - Beacon web app

The mobile app and the website show different maps

We’re seeing different maps

It’s possible your Responders are seeing  a random map in their mobile app that’s different than your catchment area.

To make sure Responders are seeing the same map as Dispatchers are, they have to be in the same data center.

The best way to ensure this is to add your Responders to the website before they register their phones through the mobile app.

If Responders register their phones through the mobile app first, they are put in a generica Data Center, called “Registration”. The map they see in their app is coming from the Registration Data Center

To resolve this:

  1. Tell them to change their settings to “OFF-DUTY” in the app and then delete it completely from their phone
  2. Then go add them as a Responder through the dispatcher website
  3. Finally, tell them to re-install the app and re-register their phone with the correct phone number

After that, they should be seeing the same map in their mobile app as you’re seeing on the dispatcher website.

If you continue to have problems it’s usually because the Responder didn’t follow the directions above or because they are registering the wrong phone number. However, if you’re still having problems please send us an email to [email protected] with the Responder’s Name and Phone Number, and the Data Center you want them registered in. Or, if you have lots of Responders with the same issue, we can also give you access to the Registration Data Center where you can find your Responders and transfer them to your own Data Center.

What is Beacon?

Beacon is a text message-based emergency dispatching platform designed specifically for communities with limited access to emergency care and transport.

Beacon enables to communities to leverage their own resources in order to design, launch, manage and sustain their own emergency response networks on any phone, with or without internet connection, and anywhere there’s a mobile phone signal.

Can I use the Beacon app if my phone has two SIM cards?

No, your mobile phone can’t have two SIM cards in it. Pick one SIM number to register your phone and remove the other when using Beacon.

How is Beacon used?

There are two ways to understand how you can implement and use the Beacon Dispatch platform:

HORIZONTAL IMPLEMENTATION:

1. Emergency Response – The transport of sick and injured patients from the home or the street to the hospital

2. Inter-Facility Transfers –The transport of sick and injured patients from one healthcare facility to another (also referred to as “patient referrals”)

3. Patient Discharges — The transport of sick and injured patients from a healthcare facility to their home

4. Community Paramedicine — The delivery of care in patients’ homes

 

 

VERTICAL IMPLEMENTATION

1. Prehospital Emergency Care – To support emergency medical services (EMS), fire departments, and other first responder agencies

2. Emergency Obstetrics – To support maternal child health programs improving access to emergency care and transport for pregnant women and newborns

3. Patient Referral Networks – To support the reliable transfer of patients between healthcare facilities providing appropriate levels of care

4. Disease Outbreak Surveillance – To support the reliable and regular collection of public health risks at the local level

5. Post-Crash Response – To support the reliable location, retrieval and transport of road users suffering injuries from motor vehicle collisions

6. Disaster Response – To enable the rapid deployment and management of responders and resources in austere environments

7. Persons with Disabilities – To improve access to inclusive services for patients with special needs

How do I configure the Beacon mobile app?

We’ve had a lot of people download the Beacon Mobile App but many still haven’t activated it or it’s still in SMS mode. To use the mobile app version go to the settings tab and make sure that it’s configured to read “ON-DUTY” and “DATA”, as shown in the following image:

I receive an Alert Notification, but nothing appears on the Incident Details screen

It’s possible that you may receive an alert for a new incident, but nothing shows up on the Incident Details screen, like in the image at right.

If this happens, close the app completely and re-open it again. The Incident Alert should appear in the Incident Details screen.

This typically happens when a new alert is sent while you have the app open. You can tell that it’s happening because an Active Incident appears on a map in the Home Screen with a badge, but nothing shows up on the Incidents Screen, as shown at right on the bottom of the screen.

This bug will be fixed in a near future release.

No Alerts Arriving_Beacon Mobile App
Can Beacon be used by fire departments?

Yes, it can and it is! There is an asterisk to this claim, however — Beacon can be used by fire departments to dispatch personnel and equipment to the scene of an emergency, and it can coordinate their response efforts as they’re related to getting resources on-scene and requesting more, but Beacon does not help fire department manage fireground operations for involved structure or wildland fires. That requires radios, among other more advanced technologies.

I want to register a new responder, but it says they’re already registered

When new app users register themselves through the app they are pooled in a general Data Center we keep for anyone who wants to test the Beacon app without accessing the entire platform.

If when you go to enter their details in your Data Center, it says they are already registered, let us know and we can switch their registration to your Data Center

Or, if you have access to our general Data Center, go to it and look for their name in the Responder list. When you’ve found it, click “Edit” and use the “Data Center” dropdown menu to change their setting to your Data Center account (shown in the image at right)

Can Beacon be used by police departments?

It can and it is, but we don’t pretend that Beacon was designed for police dispatching – it wasn’t. It just happens that sometimes Beacon’s a better solution than other existing dispatching software for police. Emergency medical dispatching is different than police dispatching in the fact that persons with medical emergencies are often easily convinced to stay and wait for first responders; criminal suspects on the other hand may be more difficult to persuade. This means that police are better served by more dynamic communications than text messages, including radios. Beacon is used by law enforcement in two countries to inform officers of the location of medical emergencies, and police officers also relay incidents they hear about to local dispatchers using Beacon, but at present the platform was not intended for police to use as their first-line dispatching solution.

How do I switch my settings from DATA to SMS without internet?

To switch your Beacon account from DATA messages to SMS messages when you don’t have internet to connect to the app, send an SMS with 789 to your Beacon number (ask your admin if you don’t have it saved in your contacts). This will change your phone’s settings from DATA to SMS within Beacon and then resend the last Beacon message to you.

Can Beacon replace radios?

No – not yet, at least. Beacon can’t replace radios at the moment, but it can drastically reduce the amount of chatter that typically occurs between dispatchers and responders by eliminating the need for redundant communications about predictable steps — for example, “Are you responding?” “Are you there yet?” “Do you need more help?” “Are you transporting?” “Where to?” etc. This frees up radios to be reserved for communications outside the standard commands and reduces the risks of open-mics, drained batteries, and poor radio signals.

We don’t have any ambulances. Would Beacon still be useful to us?

Yes, of course! Beacon was designed so that any person carrying a mobile phone could be dispatched to an emergency. Any vehicle will help get you to the location, and because Beacon communicates with mobile phones (and not mobile data terminals) whatever vehicle you use to transport to the hospital can be coordinated and tracked as well.

What does it cost to run Beacon?

Beacon’s costs are based on a number of factors:

  • Message handling — are you managing the message server locally or using our remote providers>?
  • Call volume — How many incidents do you expect per month?
  • Responder volume — How many responders will be involved?
  • Technical support — How capable are you of managing the system on your own?
  • Customizations — How much custom work and configurations do you need?

All of these factors are bundled in a monthly or annual fee which includes use of all updates, enhancements and add-ons.

What languages is Beacon available in?
  • English
  • Spanish
  • Swahili
  • Nepali
  • Haitian Creole
What do you need to set Beacon up?

REQUIRED RESOURCES

  1. Proven management
  2. Trained responders
  3. Adequate transportation
  4. A phone number that the public can call to request assistance (preferably toll-free, but not necessary)
  5. A reliable mobile phone signal*

*To use the mobile app version, you will also need reliable 3G/4G/Internet connectivity

What makes Beacon different from other mobile dispatching technologies?

Beacon has been designed specifically for emergency dispatching in resource-limited settings, and with the flexibility to meet those challenges, however they may present. To make this possible, we designed Beacon with certain principles to ensure the most flexible, yet robust solution on the market:

  • Beacon can be used via SMS or a mobile app or both, making it possible to use Beacon with or without internet connectivity
  • Beacon can be used as a standalone dispatching system (e.g., for a rural community with no existing communications system) or it can also be used to seamlessly integrate with existing dispatching setups (e.g., CADs) in order to expand their coverage beyond official vehicles only
  • Beacon can be set up and disassembled in a matter of minutes for temporary or short-term deployments, or it can be installed on remote and/or local servers for permanent operations
  • Beacon takes just a few minutes to learn for someone with only a basic understanding of how to read and reply to text messages
  • Beacon can easily accommodate small response groups while also scaling to national-level emergency services with little extra reconfiguration needed
Aren’t there already a bunch of messaging apps like WhatsApp or Facebook messenger that can do what Beacon does?

In addition to the limitations above that come with texting, these kind of apps have additional problems when it comes to emergency dispatching.

For one, using third-party apps, e.g,. WhatsApp or Facebook, may make sensitive data available to non-authorized parties or inaccessible to authorized parties.

Even when secure, the real problem is scalability: a Twitter list or a WhatsApp chat group may be able to alert multiple responders to a single emergency, but dispatching the same responders to multiple incidents in different locations at the same time is far more difficult with these apps. Beacon’s dynamic allocation algorithm knows how to efficiently manage emergency first responders to get them where they need to be.

¿Qué hace que Beacon sea diferente de otras tecnologías de despacho móvil?

Beacon ha sido diseñado específicamente para el despacho de emergencia en entornos de recursos limitados, y con la flexibilidad para enfrentar esos desafíos, sin embargo, pueden presentarse. Para que esto sea posible, diseñamos Beacon con ciertos principios para garantizar la solución más flexible pero robusta en el mercado:

  • Beacon se puede utilizar a través de SMS o una aplicación móvil o ambos, lo que permite utilizar Beacon con o sin conectividad a Internet.
  • Beacon se puede utilizar como un sistema de despacho independiente (p. ej. para una comunidad rural sin sistema de comunicaciones existente) o también se puede usarse para integrarse sin problemas con configuraciones de despacho existentes (p. ej. CAD) para expandir su cobertura más allá de vehículos oficiales
  • Beacon se puede montar y desmontar en cuestión de minutos para implementaciones temporales o de corto plazo, o se puede instalar en servidores remotos y / o locales para operaciones permanentes.
  • Beacon solo tarda unos minutos para aprenderse en alguien con solo una comprensión básica de cómo leer y responder mensajes de texto
  • Beacon puede acomodar fácilmente pequeños grupos de respuesta, mientras que puede escalar a servicios de emergencia a nivel nacional con poca reconfiguración adicional necesaria
Are you looking for developers?

Yes, always! Please send us an email if you’re interested in getting involved with our software development team.

Wouldn’t Beacon be more streamlined if it had no human dispatchers? Why not connect callers and victims directly to responders?

The presence of a human dispatcher provides multiple advantages that are lost when channeled through an automated app:

  • Real-time feedback between caller and dispatcher
  • Ability to provide pre-arrival instructions over the phone much more easily
  • Talking on phone allows caller to keep their eyes on the scene of the emergency (and not the phone screen)
  • Dispatchers are able to pick up on context and background info (vs. trying to interpret text messages)
  • If you’re texting you can’t be giving CPR — but you can if it’s on speakerphone

Why don’t callers or victims just text the emergency to the Beacon number instead of calling?

Technically, Beacon allows that. Be we don’t recommend sending requests for emergency via text message (what’s commonly referred to as “text-to-911”). Typing out messages and sending them back and forth with a dispatcher is far more time consuming than speaking directly with the dispatcher, especially on non-smart phones and for communities with lower tech literacy. Also, pre-arrival instructions are difficult to both give and perform while texting— imagine trying to give CPR or administer a drug while texting with the dispatcher (vs. speakerphone, for example)!

Don’t all of those SMS being sent back and forth get expensive?

Not necessarily, though we definitely recommend using the mobile app version where possible. In order to keep SMS costs low for services that don’t enjoy internet messaging, there are a range of tactics that can be employed to make sure that the right number of SMS are being sent:

  • Only include active responders – if they aren’t participating they are a big source of waste so should be removed from distribution lists
  • Optimize the level of coverage in each community — Match the number of responders needed to the actual call volume in order to maintain efficient resource allocation
  • Introduce Beacon training at the very outset — There’s no reason why Beacon can’t be incorporated in medical training from the outset; not only does it reduce the number of errors made during regular operations, but it also helps to slow nervous and inexperienced responders down who are prone to make mistakes in high-pressure settings
What is an SMS gateway and why do we need one?

SMS gateways are dedicated telephone numbers that allow our Beacon software to send messages to and receive messages from your first responders. This way, the first responders can send their short text message responses to a phone number that’s easily saved in their contacts, and will receive messages from this same number at each stage of the emergency incident.

sms gateway diagram
How can I get an SMS gateway?

In most countries, there are companies who can offer you a this SMS gateway and with a dedicated number for you to use with Beacon. You can help us get you started with Beacon as soon as possible by helping us locate an SMS Gateway. If you are familiar with the major telecom companies in your country or if you have contacts at these companies, we recommend reaching out to them to ask about an SMS Gateway. Internet searches will also help find local companies that offer gateways for use with Beacon, and this is often how we at Trek Medics find these companies ourselves.

What questions should I ask when looking for an SMS gateway?

For Beacon, you will need either a dedicated shortcode or longcode. The shortcode is typically a 5 digit number, while longcodes are longer.

Many companies might want to give you a shared shortcode or longcode— this means that you share a number with their other clients. However, this typically won’t work with Beacon because sharing means that text messages will have to contain a special keyword to tell the company where text messages need to be sent. This will disrupt the normal workflow of Beacon.

Also, it’s important that the shortcode or longcode be two-way. This will allow Beacon to both send and receive text messages to and from responders.

Other relevant questions include:

  • Do you offer demo shortcodes/longcodes so we can make sure that it will work with Beacon?
  • If there is an application process, how long will it take to get a shortcode/longcode?
  • Will the shortcode/longcode work with all mobile phone carriers in this country?
  • Is there a limit on the number of text messages or characters per text message that we can send through the shortcode/longcode?
  • Can you provide info on pricing?
    • What are the setup costs?
    • What are the monthly/annual costs?
    • What are the costs per text message sent?

STILL HAVE QUESTIONS?

If the Beacon FAQ hasn’t answered all your questions, submit them here and we’ll get back to you with an answer as soon as we can.

Beacon Emergency Dispatch Platform

If you’re looking for our Beacon user manuals, follow one of these links:

Beacon First Responder Manual (SMS)

Beacon First Responder Manual (Mobile App)

Beacon Dispatcher Manual

Beacon Administrator Manual