Fast and guaranteed connection in case of emergencies for Wildlands
Wildlands Adventure Zoo Emmen is a fantastic adventure zoo in Emmen with three large themed areas – jungle, desert and the polar region – with their respective animal species. In an area of 24 hectares, there are animal habitats, buildings, cafes and restaurants, shops, entertainment and attractions with an average of one million visitors per year (before COVID-19). This means that the communication and information processes between people and between humans and machines has to be guaranteed 24/7. The system manager responsible for the network of Wildlands and Atlas Theatre, the online workstations and the security around it, John Vogelvanger, explains what it takes to integrate multiple communication systems.
Multiple communication systems
Wildlands is not just an animal park. It also has a themed amusement park, cafes, restaurants, theatres and meeting rooms. This requires the integration of multiple communication systems. System Administrator John Vogelvanger explains: “We are essentially a full-scale adventure zoo, but we offer much more, for instance themed fairground rides, a boat or safari ride, but also a JungleTrail with climbing and clambering sections through Rimbula or a maze in a bamboo forest. Just like an actual adventurer, you will discover new worlds, stand eye to eye with wild animals, embark on exciting adventures, and we also try to provide our visitors with some educational information. In addition, there is a major collaboration with the municipal theatre of Emmen, which is also the location of the Wildlands offices. You can imagine that we use different means of communication for each component, all of which have to work perfectly. I have been a system administrator since 2000 and within the technical department I’m responsible for both the Wildlands and Atlas Theater networks, the online workstations (DAAS) and the security around it. In addition to these core tasks, I’m also responsible for the communication tools like telephones and two-way radios, and I also carry out work related to the alarm system.”
“Flash is happy to think along with us and, more importantly, to be solution-specific.”
Communication needs and number of visitors vary by season and can be easily scaled up. John explains: “We have 150 employees during low season, which can go up to 500 during high season. The large numbers of visitors in particular mean that we have an Emergency Response Team of about 45 for Wildlands and 15 for the Theatre. We also have eight trained shooters, two of whom are present every day in case of an outbreak of a dangerous animal (Class 1 animal). The necessary communication tools are equally important. We have landlines (telephone) and an internal 2G network for internal mobile communication and radio systems. These can easily be scaled up or down depending on how busy it is.”
With the relocation of the former Emmen Zoo to the current Wildlands, John was open to new innovative techniques and systems that would improve the communication plan. John explains: “We relocated in 2016 and in the former park we worked with a Flash pager system that sent messages in the event of an emergency from a central location. In addition, we also had a couple of ‘normal’ two-way radios on standby to be used in case of an emergency. As the equipment was outdated and problems occurred more frequently, we looked into replacing the system with a new, reliable system. Since technology and innovation have developed continuously, Flash offered a solution with smart two-way radios. A two-way radio with the functionality of a mobile smartphone, or, a smartphone with the functionality of a two-way radio. That offered a lot of extra possibilities.”
Fast internal communication
The two-way radios and smartphones are used smartly for fast communication. John explains: “We use two types of two-way radios. The traditional two-way radio and the smart two-way radio. We mainly use the regular radio for fast internal communication. Staff working at attractions can communicate quickly to inform each other of the situation. For example, the driver on the Safari Trucks can communicate with the staff at the boarding point. Park Department employees also carry devices to relay common issues, like a lost child, a full bin or problems with or questions from visitors. The theatre also uses these two-way radios for two purposes: For their Emergency Response Team as well as visitor guidance by volunteers. For this purpose, two support transmitters have also been installed on the site to ensure good coverage.”
Two-way radio with smart functions
In addition, smart two-way radios are used for the Emergency Response Team. But also several other employees are walking around with a smart device, including the day manager, emergency response team members, first-aiders, animal caretakers, shooters as well as the duty manager. John explains: “The advantage of these devices is that it has an Android operating system and that it allows apps to be installed, just like on a smartphone. So we use the Flash app to send messages about situations, ask for assistance and also send documents that may be of use during an emergency. Flash Smart Com links several communication systems, making it easy to control the many different two-way radios and smart devices from one convenient screen. The Presence Registration module gives insight into which two-way radios and pagers are present and active. In the event of a disaster or incident, alarms can be automatically triggered thanks to previously set scenarios, and the right people or groups are then alerted via voice or text messages. Flash Smart Com’s intuitive dashboard is ideal. With just a couple of clicks on the screen, the staff at the information desk can send clear messages and with the push of a button, they can reach the right group of people.”
Priority on the network
Wildlands in particular regularly experiences busy peaks in the number of visitors, which can overload the network. John explains: “For the smart two-way radios, we use mobile subscriptions with a high availability guarantee. This means that in the event of a breakdown in the GSM network, the connections to these devices have a higher priority, so they continue to function, while normal mobile devices no longer have a connection. Plus, they are linked to the Wi-Fi network for the app. For the normal two-way radio, we use ether frequencies so we always have optimal coverage.”
The choice of devices was made by mutual agreement. John explains: “The regular two-way radios are of the Kenwood brand, type NX320E. We already used Kenwood two-way radios and Kenwood support transmitters in the old park and these have been taken with us to Wildlands. We use the type TE590 on which the Flash app is installed. The scenarios and groups were programmed entirely according to the wishes of Wildlands Adventure Zoo Emmen, resulting in a clear and customised communication platform. We have also installed the Flash app on our internal mobile phones. While these do not guarantee availability, they can be used to inform the organisation or call for extra hands. This way we can communicate with each other even better and we are always connected.”
John Vogelvanger is very positive about the collaboration with Flash: “Wildlands is very satisfied with the collaboration between Flash and Wildlands. Everything is going very well; Flash is happy to think along with us and, more importantly, to be solution-specific. Wildlands is not your run-of-the-mill operation and in our situation (where a zoo and a theatre come together), it’s nice to see people thinking along with us. Flash also offers excellent service.”
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