Keeping First Responders And Citizens Safe
- By Dave Fowler
- Apr 18, 2011
Imagine that a fire breaks out as a result of a highway traffic accident, which quickly turns into a multi-car pileup with a hazmat spill. Multiple organizations, including the department of transportation, fire department, police department, and hazmat teams will all need to respond to the emergency to prevent the fire and hazardous materials from spreading, and additional casualties from resulting.
First responders rushing to the scene have access to limited information based on details they’ve received over dispatch. They may not know, for example, the scale or cause of the fire, the potential surrounding traffic or what organizations (hospitals, enterprises) or people in the surrounding area may be impacted.
While each responding organization relies on its own technology to help them assess the situation (the police department has video cameras installed, DOT has cameras on the road connected to traffic lights, hazmat teams are dispatched because an alarm signaled), they often don’t have visibility into the complete picture, which reduces the safety and effectiveness of a response.
Not to mention, with multiple organizations involved, an agency may need to spend time in the heat of the moment determining the lines of jurisdiction and who has the lead, consuming even more time in the response -- rather than working together and sharing information for a seamless, efficient response.
Thankfully, technology advances that have taken place over the past few years allow public safety agencies to work collaboratively in responding to emergencies, as well as automate the responses to certain situations. Pooling their physical security assets to obtain a complete view of the emergency enables organizations to work in tandem for real-time information sharing and real-time situation response.
In the case where the fire turned into a hazmat spill, situation management technology can collect data from the public safety agencies’ disparate systems in order to help the fire, DOT, police and hazmat teams more effectively and efficiently respond together -- and know what they are walking into before they arrive on the scene.
What Technology is Helping Public Safety Agencies Manage Emergencies?
Some of the biggest challenges facing public safety officials today include providing responders with critical information and visuals prior to arriving on site; ensuring the right resources are at the scene; improving safety with a limited technology budget; and sharing information across jurisdictions and organizations. Physical security information management (PSIM) technology provides a complete situation awareness and management solution to efficiently and effectively manage any security, or emer¬gency situation in real time. It enables organizations to get the right information to the right people at the right time, while leveraging existing infrastructure investments. Regardless of the situation specifics, PSIM technology makes it possible to intelligently bring information directly to who needs it when they need it. As a result, first responders and public safety professionals are empowered to more effectively protect the public when security situations arise.
PSIM software helps public safety agencies:
- Efficiently collaborate and share assets and information across jurisdictions and agencies.
- Provide commanders with the ability to identify hot spots and prioritize resources.
- Gain immediate visibility into an emergency situation.
- Empower police with information that enables a pro-active approach to policing.
- Reduce operational costs by leveraging and extending existing technology investments.
Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) systems are a crucial public safety tool. By integrating PSIM with CAD, real-time information can be shared seamlessly and immediately with CAD dispatchers, enabling more effective responses to emergency situations. Regardless of how the situation is initiated, this integration enables operators at multiple agencies to access all system information, including visual and audio data, from their disparate security systems and cameras in real time in order to verify situations and provide additional information as they dispatch first responders. The first responders now have access to emergency details such as on-the-scene video and pictures, chemical or biological sensor information, situation details (such as shots fired), situation maps and case notes in one view. Having this information prior to reaching the scene increases the safety and effectiveness of the responder.
Real-Time Information for Real-Time Response
PSIM provides security personnel and first responders with real-time information that enables more efficient, effective and safe resolu¬tion to situations. More specifically, it can provide responders with a view into relevant assets such as maps, floor plans and video prior to arriving on scene as well as provide updates as the situation evolves. In the case of the hazmat example above, operators can click on a map, locate the accident, pull up DOT video cameras in the area to verify the spill and create an Accident/Spill situation. A pre-defined action plan is also immediately brought up to further assist.
Operators can start to plan for the environmental risks and cleanup based on the ability to view where plume or spill may be heading -- before folks arrive on scene. Additionally, police can plan and predict evacuation routes, determine alternative routes, and identify where to stage police to block and detour vehicle and pedes¬trian traffic as they arrive on scene. The result is a more efficient and intelligent response that enables collaboration and information sharing across agencies, which saves time, money, and, in some situations, lives.
In Long Island City, NY, the state-of-the-art Joint Transportation Management Center (JTMC), one of the largest transportation centers in North America, uses PSIM to help in emergency response across multiple agencies. It is focused on around-the-clock coordination and communication among the New York State Department of Transportation (NYSDOT) Region 11, New York City Department of Transportation (NYCDOT), New York Police Department (NYPD), the Federal Highway Administration and other partner agencies in the metropolitan area to manage daily transportation incidents and reduce congestion on some of the busiest expressways in the world.
When a situation occurs, the JTMC has the ability to cross-coordinate activities, not only sharing physical security assets (i.e. cameras of all agencies), but they can respond in unison to clear traffic out of the way and re-route traffic to get first responders to the scene more effectively. They rely on camera systems in place to follow the event as it unfolds, allowing other agencies to share the same information using something as simple as a web browser; incident commanders on scene, agents in command centers, and even the mayors office, can all be looking at same information at the same time.