Frequently Asked Questions
This is a list of the question we are asked most often about Second Signal. If your question isn’t answered here, Contact Us so that we can answer. Who knows, your question may just end up on our list.
It is very unusual for all the lines at all the departments to be busy at once. In fact, it has never happened. We hold the right to limit a department to 4 calls at once, however we have never needed to put this in action. We've found that for a department of about 100 members, serving a community with a population just under 9000, it is very rare to have more than four people on at the same moment. Once the system is in place and the novelty has worn off, we see an average call lasting less than 30 seconds -- just long enough for members to determine what is going on. We've seen up to 20 calls within the first five minutes without ever going past 4 calls at a time. We allocate a minimum of 4 concurrent lines for each department that falls within our standard offering size. More are available at additional cost but that is very rarely necessary.
Yes, most departments will get a dedicated local telephone number. In the rare case that one is not available in your area, we can arrange for a toll free number or assign a number which is a toll call, but may be inexpensive for most members. We are happy to work with you on this.
Generally speaking, Second Signal is as reliable as your internet connection to us. Sites with a highly reliable internet connection and a dedicated base station PC should find Second Signal extremely reliable. Our systems have been built with geographically diverse "Hot Failover" capability. What does that mean? It means if something breaks, there is something else standing by ready to take over automatically.
When you call in to Second Signal or use our web site, you are connecting to servers in one of two different data centers. One data center is in Dallas, Texas while the other is in Seattle, Washington. Both data centers are themselves highly reliable and have standby power generation and multiple connections to the internet backbone. Our data centers are separated by several thousand miles to prevent interruption of service due a natural or man made disaster. Each data center is owned and managed by a separate company.
While our servers may be far apart, your data isn't. All the data on our servers in kept in sync to within a few minutes. User profiles, site configuration, and outbound messaging is in real-time synchronization, while stored audio data is updated every 30 minutes. If the server your site normally connects to were to suddenly vanish, your text notifications would be delayed no more than a few minutes during the fully automatic cutover.
At one location somewhere within radio range for your department, a base station will need to be set up. The Second Signal base station connects your local department to our state of the art data center. Although we strongly recommend this be a dedicated computer, it isn't absolutely required. We also offer a base station "kit" that that is compact, energy efficient, and highly reliable. If you decide to go with our kit, it comes ready to plug in and use. We are also able to support the software on the dedicated base station kit remotely. Here is more information on what you'll need.
We work very hard to discourage this. We may even drop the call after 30 minutes. When there has been no traffic for more than 5 minutes, we begin to play a beep tone and 'no current activity' indicator every 30 seconds. You can, however, use the PC based software to listen all day long without the annoying beep tone.
Nearly all cell phones sold in the last several years are able to receive text messages. Some providers turn off this feature by default, and you must ask for it to be turned on. Keep in mind some plans include text messaging and some plans charge for each message.
Absolutely. We fully support using your email address as the destination for notifications.
Yes. You can have several cell phones, pagers, and email addresses. You can configure a different set of rules for when each device will be used, and you may have multiple devices used at the same time for the same kinds of notifications if you like.
No. Absolutely not. We cannot recommend against this in strong enough terms. We call it "Second Signal" for a reason. Your local radio paging system is locally controlled, backed up, and extremely reliable. It is also very fast. Although most of the time Second Signal may seem nearly as fast, there are simply too many things we cannot control for it to be a reasonable replacement for critical dispatch notifications. We cannot control the connection to us, our connection to the cell phone providers, the text messaging gateways of those providers, or the local reception in the area. As such, we believe Second Signal to be an extremely valuable tool for extending your present capability -- but never a replacement.
Each cell phone provider and each plan they offer is different. Some include free incoming text messages, while others charge a few cents for each message. Some plans offer pre-purchased text messages in bulk as well. Pagers generally not charge per message, but some may. You should check with your provider.
You can use your existing text paging system and just have Second Signal send its messages through to those pagers, or you can just use Second Signal for all your text paging needs as well. Sometimes, you can save enough money by getting rid of rented pagers that it entirely covers the cost of Second Signal. Your mileage may vary, so give us a call and lets talk.