Paving Safer Roads

Paving Safer Roads

Leveraging new innovations to improve the quality of life

In U.S. News & World Report’s “Best Places to Live” list, 30 percent of the ranking system is allocated toward quality of life, which includes factors such as commuter index and crime rates. Though traffic and crime are not the only contributing factors that determine a location’s desirability, they are some of the top catalysts that inspire digital transformation within a city.

Why? Traffic and crime are more likely to affect citizens’ day-today lives than others. They also offer ample opportunities for leveraging new innovations that improve quality of life, especially when a broad topic like crime management is broken down into specific incidents, such as active shooter, false alarms, the safety of emergency response teams and seamless record sharing between agencies.

When taking a closer look at traffic and crime management, it becomes clear that a local government that utilizes a technology platform equipped with cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and data science can help maintain order, increase safety and eventually lead to a safer, more desirable place to live.

Maintaining traffic order and streamlining commutes. Let’s start with a pain point that everyone, especially those in larger cities, has experienced: the daily commute. How often do you find yourself sitting for what seems like an eternity at a red light? Or, arriving to work late because of overwhelming congestion on the road? Often, these “minor” issues are overlooked for more serious matters, but it’s these little difficulties that can drastically affect a city’s perceived quality of life.

Luckily, some city officials have started installing automated, AI light management to better account for shifting traffic volumes. Officers can review camera and radar data to gauge flow, volume and backup at priority intersections, and even adjust light systems for the time of day and varying seasons.

Automated traffic systems also reduce congestion through realtime notification. These same connected cameras and radar sensors feed traffic trends into a centralized database, which aggregates and transmits information to drivers’ phones and navigation devices. Drivers can then avoid crowded streets, reducing volume at slow-moving intersections.

Of course, while it is nice to know that there is an answer to frustrating city commutes, traffic is not the most serious of issues that must be solved with a smart technology platform. Crime management is an ongoing concern and something that must always be evaluated in order to prevent tragedies, like mass shootings, from occurring.

Improving active shooter response and mitigation. According to the Gun Violence Archive, 2018 saw more than 300 mass-shooting incidents in the United States by October. Data compiled from the National Safety Council, National Center for Health Statistics, and scholars from the Cato Institute and Tulane University show that Americans are more likely to die from mass shootings than from catastrophic natural disasters. And, 11,000 people in the United States are killed in firearm assaults each year, with most incidents occurring on school campuses and in public places, such as bars, restaurants and stores.

Unfortunately, each public setting where these tragedies occur presents unique challenges for law enforcement and first responders. Schools, for instance, are challenged with security issues that come with more wide-spread campus environments. Campus borders are increasingly overlapping with neighboring communities, blurring the lines between campus and city jurisdictions, which directly effects first responder deployment.

Just like students, teachers and safety officials at schools have a heightened awareness of active shooters due to recent events, average citizens frequenting public places such as bars, restaurants and movie theaters are beginning to share the same awareness, as we’re learning that these places are just as common for mass shootings. In addition, these environments are full of sounds and distractions that interfere with the ability to evaluate unusual sightings and behavior. These challenges, combined with underperforming technology, obstruct law enforcement and first responder emergency support.

When gunfire breaks out, every second makes a difference in controlling the situation and saving lives. Valuable time is lost when responders have to wait for a person on scene to call and report the incident before they are able to process the information and dispatch officers. This is why active shooter technology has become so valuable to the effectiveness of public safety.

In fact, a number of schools have led the charge by implementing facility-wide gunshot detection sensor technologies with integrated 911 call automation. Should gunfire occur, these sensors use acoustic and infrared technologies to identify and distinguish the shot, and even immediately trigger a Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) response call. In addition, this technology offers valuable, situational information, such as location and frequency of detected gunshots, enabling smarter and faster entry.

Being responsive during an emergency saves lives. But what if, like mentioned above, emergency personnel are busy responding to false alarms? False alarm management is as much a concern as active crime management since responding to false alarms takes just as much time and manpower as responding to real threats.

Preserving resources with enhanced false alarm management. Across hundreds of communities, high numbers of non-emergency alarm-related calls are diverting limited resources away from true emergencies. Fifteen percent of all calls for law enforcement services nationwide are alarm-related. Of those, more than 90 percent are false alarms.

False alarms cost millions of dollars in wasted resources, including valuable 911 staff, emergency communication systems and responders. However, more cities are beginning to implement false alarm technology that can use data science capabilities to gauge the likelihood of a harmless incident and communicate more intelligently with on-site detectors, as well as dispatchers and first responders.

The best false alarm solutions use multilevel strategies to reduce unnecessary alarms, saving both time and money. With advanced false alarm technology, dispatchers and responders are equipped with up-to-date information, including alarm incident data, permit status, alarm system contacts and site hazards. This technology is also CAD compatible and can identify registered and unregistered systems.

In the unfortunate event an alarm is real, smart technology can elevate citizen protection, in addition to providing an extra layer of intelligent defense for responders.

Safeguarding emergency response teams. Every day, public safety officials and other first responders are tasked with diffusing, analyzing and leading recovery following hazardous incidents. According to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund, 144 police officers were killed in the line of duty in 2018 alone. Another study by IACP and the Bureau of Justice Assistance found that, over the course of one year, a total of 1,295 officer injuries were reported. Those reported injuries resulted in 5,938 missed days of work, with an average of four and a half days missed per incident and an average rehabilitation period of three and a half days.

With such high-stress situations and potential dangers lurking behind every call, responders must be at their best upon arrival. And, being at their best can only happen when they’re able to show up equipped with knowledge of the situation. Smart technology that enables cloud connectivity through IoT and supports interoperability keeps responders informed and prepared for almost any situation. Dispatch teams and field officials can communicate more effectively to ensure that first responders do not enter any situation blindly.

For example, responders can access information about a particular location or suspect that may pose certain threats upon arrival. They also can identify factors that may delay their arrival, such as an accident. They can even identify locations of the nearest backup.

In addition, non-field officers and dispatchers can track devices to gauge if an officer is in a high-speed chase, has fired a weapon, or has gone silent and may require backup.

Using smart technology to yield safer results. Smart cities powered by innovative technology platforms make more informed decisions, deploy resources more efficiently and position themselves as safe, thriving and attractive places to live. And, by focusing on solving citizens’ greatest pain points first, such as traffic and crime rates, city officials can implement these platforms in order to take proactive measures to create and maintain better environments.

After all, it should be every city’s goal to establish a sense of pride among its citizens; to create the ultimate citizen experience; to inspire its residents to feel the same loyalty to their home as they do to their favorite brand. Embracing a technology platform equipped with cloud computing, artificial intelligence and data science not only helps to facilitate traffic and crime management, but also to promote a location as an ideal place to live.

This article originally appeared in the April 2019 issue of Security Today.

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