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Andras CzermakCEONeostratus
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Hungarian Water Rescue Service Strengthens Emergency Response with Unified Communications Services 

When a natural disaster hits and lives are at stake, every second counts. Looking to improve its emergency response, the Hungarian Water Rescue Service decided to use the cloud to integrate communications between its more than 350 full-time employees and volunteers, while streamlining administrative processes and staff training. With cloud solutions optimised, their communication and collaboration is unified in one platform, and functions securely, cost-effectively and in line with local government regulations.

Customer Profile

Headquartered in the resort town of Zánka by Lake Balaton, the Hungarian Water Rescue Service (“HWRS”, Vízimentők Magyarországi Szakszolgálata) is a public sector organization providing first-response lifesaving and rescue operations across Hungary with a staff of over 500 swimmers, lifeguards and rescue technicians – the majority working as volunteers. With 7 lifeboats and 5 rescue centers, HWRS provides emergency response services on 40 beaches around Lake Balaton and other Hungarian waters.
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Within only six months of implementing our hosted Microsoft Outlook with Unified Communication Services solution, we managed to integrate our staff communications, save tens of thousands of euros in travel costs, and free up over 1,500 man-days in staff resources to do what we do best – saving lives on our country’s lakes and rivers.
Sándor BagyóPresidentHungarian Water Rescue Service

When a natural disaster hits and lives are at stake, every second counts. Back in 2010 HWRS was looking to improve its emergency response, the Hungarian Water Rescue Service integrated communications between its more than 500 full-time employees and volunteers, while streamlining administrative processes and staff training. HWRS trusted Neostratus to implement a hosted solution around Microsoft Outlook with Lync and SharePoint that does so securely, cost-effectively and in line with local government regulations. Within six months, the solution significantly reduced travel costs and freed up over 1,500 man-days in staff resources. It also saved the organization hundreds of thousands of euros compared to investing in on-premise software and services. The solution first enhanced HWRS relief efforts to a nationwide flood disaster in June 2010.

Business Need
The HWRS was founded in 1999 as a non-profit organization by 30 volunteers under the name Water Rescue Service of Lake Balaton. Situated on Central Europe’s largest body of water (77 kilometers in length), the organization provides emergency response and accident prevention on the shores and at sea.

In 2006, the Service already operated six lifeboat stations around the lake and expanded activities to a national level, changing its name to Hungarian Water Rescue Service, and backed by a growing list of volunteers and sponsors in the industrial and public sectors, the organization continued to flourish. By 2013, the Service was already over 500 members strong and had rescued over three thousand people from water emergencies.

It’s an intense, around-the-clock operation. Our lifeguards are on duty 24/7, providing emergency response at 42 locations around Lake Balaton and all across the country. We perform ten lifeguard courses a year and reach more than a hundred schools with our preventive lectures, with most of our staff working on a volunteer basis.
Sándor BagyóPresidentHungarian Water Rescue Service

But this kind of organic growth and the extensive network of volunteers and sponsors posed great challenges to the communications and back-office infrastructure at HWRS command center in Zánka.

We had no integrated solution to manage our staff database, no shared calendar to schedule lifeguard shifts or training, no unified communications scheme. Everything was done manually across different platforms. It wasn’t very efficient.
Sándor BagyóPresidentHungarian Water Rescue Service

The HWRS needed a unified communications platform for its first-responder staff, including lifeguards, medical, emergency and diving units. A platform that was easy to operate, even by a volunteer staff that features high personnel turnover. Another requirement: Secure access from multiple devices, mobile and desktop.

Also, the HWRS wanted to synchronize the Service’s contacts and calendars while giving shared access to mission-critical documents. Low cost of ownership was a priority, as was compliance with national laws governing public sector service providers.

Solution
With a reputation for providing secure and law-compliant solutions to enterprises, small- and medium-sized businesses as well as telecommunication companies, Neostratus (called CE On-Demand at that time) emerged as the best possible service provider. Performing a needs-oriented analysis, Neostratus  decided that a cloud-based software-plus-services platform would be able to bring HWRS’s communications full circle, without being prohibitively expensive.

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Neostratus rolled out a suite of tightly integrated services around Microsoft Exchange, Lync and Sharepoint that could also accommodate pre-existing IT infrastructure and solutions.

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Knowing the precise location and availability of our life-saving specialists is absolutely key in emergency situations and thanks to Neostratus’  system, we are now closely connected at all times.
Sándor BagyóPresidentHungarian Water Rescue Service

Using Exchange, dispatchers and first-responder staff are now able to access e-mail, shared calendars, contact lists and schedules from virtually any device . At HWRS headquarters, Windows SharePoint services completely automated record keeping, rescue call records and staff rotations, complete with automated daily reports.

In June 2010, the platform mastered its first real-life disaster situation during the HWRS’s response to the flooding in northeastern Hungary which caused more than €32 million in damages and destroyed more than 310 homes. “Neostratus was able to effectively provision and deliver complete communications services to 20 rescue volunteers who joined the Water Rescue Service for three days to support crisis response,” Bagyo says.

Benefits
The unified communication solution has enabled HWRS to strengthen its emergency response, keeping all of its highly mobile rescue specialists closely connected. Telephone costs are significantly lower due to implementation of Lync. Virtual training sessions save fuel costs, while automated SharePoint reports minimize the HWRS’s paper trail and carbon footprint.

Another major benefit for HWRS lies in the fact that resources previously tied up in back office administration are now free to realize the Service’s founding mission:

 

Within only six months of implementing our hosted Microsoft Outlook with Unified Communication Services solution, we managed to integrate our staff communications, save tens of thousands of euros in travel costs, and free up over 1,500 man-days in staff resources to do what we do best – saving lives on our country’s lakes and rivers.
Sándor BagyóPresidentHungarian Water Rescue Service

Unified communications with familiar user interface. The solution could be implemented at a short turnaround with a 100 percent adoption rate. “The technology built around Microsoft Outlook is easy to use and very intuitive. Any of the new volunteers can use it with a minimum amount of training,” Bagyo says.

Heightened first-response. Bagyo says: “We can respond to emergencies immediately in initial moments, when literally every second counts. Our dispatchers know exactly who is on duty at the moment and all units have real-time access to updates on the current weather situation.”

First class hosted solution at transparent cost of ownership. “We enjoy great quality of service without having to worry about maintaining our own servers,” Bagyo says, adding: “Neostratus has always been very transparent about service costs, so we have a clear idea of staying within our budget.”

Public Sector Cloud Services delivered by an award-winning, trusted partner. “Engaging with partners like Central Europe On-Demand in delivering cloud services to the public sector is a cornerstone of our Cloud Strategy. It allows organizations to leverage the global scale and innovation of Microsoft with a robust, secure and in-country service delivery that adheres to all relevant government laws and regulations,” said Pavlos Kyriacou, Strategic Alliance Manager, Microsoft Central & Eastern Europe.