THE GLOBE AND MAIL SATURDAY, JUNE 23, 2007

A special information series

SMALL BUSINESS INNOVATION: DISASTER RECOVERY

To the rescue
New technology in hot demand. Will investors respond?
hen lives are at risk – in fires, floods, storms at sea, tornadoes or terrorist attacks – survival often depends on first responders – the emergency response teams whose personnel often face grave risks to save others. Despite advances in technology, communication in critical situations continues to be a challenge for these dedicated men and women. But a small B.C. company has the means to change that. Larry Cole, CEO and founder of Victoria, B.C.-based Madesco Technologies Inc., says, “Post 9/11, I was doing a lot of work with our navy. They called me with a request for communications equipment that I thought I’d be able to just go to the Internet and order. When I couldn’t come up with anything, I thought, “How big is this problem?” Awareness of that unmet need was the genesis of the company, says Mr. Cole, but it would take four years of work with end users, including Coast Guard, police and fire departments, to understand the depth of the challenges. Guided by the needs of emergency personnel on the ground, Madesco’s engineering, manufacturing and technology experts eventually developed TeamComms, a wireless, hands-free system that enables users to hear and be heard simultaneously at individual, team and command levels. Thomas Kerr, a Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary certified Search and Rescue member who heads up the world’s first high-speed rescue craft simulator, says, “Quite often, you’ll have two search and rescue vessels working together on the same call. Ordinarily, you’d take your radio, hit the transmit button, call the person you’re talking to, wait for a reply, push the radio button again and then transmit your message. If you’re in a critical situation that requires all your focus – perhaps one hand is trying to hold onto the ship, bouncing around in rough seas, and the other is tying a line or hanging onto a patient – the first thing you drop is maintaining that open communication flow.” Madesco’s TeamComms system, conversely, enables everyone on a rescue team to share observations while keeping their hands free and radio channels open. “You don’t have to touch your radio,” says Mr. Kerr. “You can just chat into your headset and give your update, status or new information to your commander-in-charge, maintaining what’s called ‘situational awareness.’ It reduces risk of operations by having up-

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Protect your business from disaster
According to the Association of Record Keepers and Administrators, 60 per cent of small businesses affected by a major disaster close within two years of the event. To ensure that your small business is equipped to be among the survivors: Have a plan While time is at a premium for entrepreneurs, planning for worst-case scenarios will give you a framework for recovery. Safeguard your information assets Traditional backup systems are excellent for restoring data after a hard drive or server crash, and the many affordable online data storage options also provide quick access from any location in the event of a largescale disaster.
PHOTO: SUPPLIED

Victoria, B.C.-based Madesco Technologies’ innovative mobile communications technology has garnered the interest of first responders across North America, including major players such as the Canadian Coast Guard and the U.S. Department of Defense. Madesco is now seeking investor support to bring its TeamComms system to its full commercial potential. In the meantime, company founder and CEO Larry Cole continues to develop the technology in concert with groups such as the OakBay Sea Rescue, a Canadian Coast Guard Auxiliary Unit. Pictured above is Mr. Cole (foreground) along with rescue personnel (left to right) Kevin Heaney, George Isherwood, Ed Walker and Tom Gibson. to-the-second information flow, providing open and clear, consistent communication to ensure mission success.” The applications for TeamComms are virtually unlimited, says Mr. Cole, with potential to increase the safety and efficiency for law enforcement personnel, corrections, construction, military, border patrol, flag people, rail yards, oil and gas and mining operations, firefighters: “Anyone who currently uses handheld radios.” Allen Jones, the operations manager of the U.S. Department of Defense’s First Link program, says, “Communication has been identified to us as the number one problem at a major happening. Radio and telephone systems don’t all talk to each other. We see TeamComms as a major tool in solving that problem.” While Madesco’s technology has the potential to meet an urgent need for first responders and economically improve efficiency for a wide range of other users, TeamComms is still in the development phase as Madesco works to attract investors. “We have the attention of some of the largest users in the world – the next step is to get the attention of the Canadian investment community,” says Mr. Cole.

Prepare for damage assessment Appropriate inventory controls are always important, but they’re essential when attempting to replace damaged equipment and goods.

Manage more. Juggle less.

It pays to be insured
Following a disaster, insurance plays an important role in small business recovery. Brenda Rose, past president of the Toronto Insurance Conference and a director of the Insurance Brokers Association of Canada, says, “There is such a broad range of subjects to consider. Some hazards are insurable, while others may have to do with pre-planning and the broader subject of risk management.” Risk management, she says, involves making choices and developing strategies to minimize losses in the case of events from a fire or flood to a pandemic, where the damage is not to premises but to people. “A smaller enterprise is unlikely to have a dedicated risk manager on staff,” says Ms. Rose. “An owner, CEO or CFO is going to be dealing with this issue along with all their other responsibilities. An insurance broker is therefore a good resource to help examine operations and provide an overview of what types of damages are insurable and what other exposures can be mitigated in advance. “The business owner can then make some educated choices.” For more information or to find an insurance broker, visit ibac.ca.

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This report was produced by RandallAnthony Communications Inc. (www.randallanthony.com) in conjunction with the advertising department of The Globe and Mail. It did not involve The Globe’s reporting or editing staff. Richard Deacon, National Business Development Manager, rdeacon@globeandmail.com.

Publication: Globe & Mail

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