Coordinating Emergency Communications
How IoT can drive efficiency and response
- By Kevin Taylor
- Sep 04, 2020
One of the many lessons learned from the Smart Cities
movement is that you can achieve significant improvement
in community safety and resilience when
you use network technologies to facilitate communications
and data sharing. Information gets to responders
more quickly and comprehensively which leads to more
streamlined processes and better decision making in the field.
When walking through a modern Real Time Crime Center
(RTCC), it is easy to become fixated on the huge video walls,
workstations with elaborate dashboards, and images streaming
into the center from cameras across the city. But the real value of
these centers is not the eye-catching displays, it is the aggregation
and efficient sharing of data with multiple stakeholders.
The data sources collected into the RTCC are not limited to
cameras. You will also find information streaming in from other
devices like license plate readers alerting when a registered stolen
vehicle is detected, radar triggering notification of illegal trash
dumping, and audio sensors detecting the discharge from a firearm.
All these data sources help operators in the center focus on
areas where conditions indicate a likely negative outcome for the
community. There are dynamic mapping applications assisting
operators in geolocating events, technology assets and personnel
in the field. The center might even be using analytics based on
artificial intelligence to help compile raw data and quickly push
critical information to responders.
The goal is to gather the most complete picture possible of
what is happening on the streets of the city, so responders can
work smarter – planning strategies on the way to a scene so they can perform more effectively once they arrive.
“Aggregating all this technology into one system is an exceptional
force multiplier. We’ve learned that the more situational
awareness we can get to our responders the better for everyone,”
said George Brown, IT/COMMS manager for the New Orleans
Real Time Crime Center.
REDUCING REDUNDANCY WITH STREAMLINED
This new operating model is a sharp contrast to how 911 calls
were managed in the past. Previously, when a 911 call came into the
Public Safety Access Point (PSAP), the operator would pass the call
on to a dispatcher who would send an appropriate responder – police,
fire or medical – to the caller’s location. The information that
reached the responder seldom contained more detail than the basic
nature of the call. The inability to move data consistently throughout
each step created knowledge gaps, requiring responders to recollect
data that was previously provided, but not transferred. With
an RTCC solution, much of this redundant activity is eliminated.
Smart city solutions are built on scalable, open-standards platforms
which allows them to accept data directly from other open standards sources. With all data streaming
into a single information repository, these
solutions reduce redundant data collection
and entry. Authorized users do not
need to log in and out of multiple systems
to input and access critical information.
They can pull up camera views, map overlays,
analytics, and other applications all on
a unified screen -- a significant time saver.
Equally important, they can push critical situational
information and visuals to responders’
mobile devices before they arrive on the
scene and provide ongoing details as more information
streams into the command center.
By leveraging all their technologies to
create a logical and consistent workflow
for emergency response, smart cities can
maximize the value of data, drive departmental
efficiencies and allow cross-departmental
collaboration which ultimately
leads to a safer community.
With a large repository of data and analytic
tools at their fingertips, agencies can
also accelerate the detection of patterns
that previously might have gone unnoticed.
When asked about the Hartford Capital
City Command Center (C4), Johnmichael
O’Hare, a former member of the
Hartford Police Department, said, “While
we initially focused on solving crime, we’re
also finding that our smart city solution
can help us recognize areas of the city that
might benefit from reengineering.” Some
of those discoveries have ultimately led to
footbridges being constructed over busy
roads and new lanes designated for bicycles
along certain corridors.
SAVING LIVES WITH NATURAL
This comprehensive approach to collecting
and optimizing data is especially
valuable when it comes to community
resilience in the face of natural disasters.
In those situations, timely alerts and rapid
reaction often translate into lives saved.
That is why cities prone to flooding,
hazardous road conditions, earthquakes
and other catastrophic phenomena often
integrate environmental sensors into their
smart city solutions as part of their emergency
preparedness program. With the addition
of modern communication assets
such as dynamic message boards and mass
notification systems, these early warning
tools help cities be more proactive in initiating
emergency public safety protocols.
Anticipating flood evacuations. In lowlands
and coastal regions prone to tropical
storms, water level sensors linked to
network video cameras monitor rising
ground water and send alerts about potential
flooding, allowing the city to initiate
pre-planned evacuation procedures before
routes become impassable.
Responding to hazardous road conditions.
Intelligent cameras with onboard
analytics can function as Environmental
Sensor Stations to detect weather activity
– such as torrential rain, snow, sleet, or ice
– that will likely lead to hazardous roadway
conditions. With early detection, agencies
have time to divert traffic to less risky routes,
close specific roadways, or issue shelter-inplace
advisories for affected areas.
Alerting public to impending earthquakes.
In areas prone to earthquakes, underground
sensors can provide early detection
of seismic activity. They are generally
tied into mass notification systems that
use IP speakers in public spaces to broadcast
warnings for the community to seek
safe shelter before the quake hits.
WHY IP-BASED EMERGENCY
ARE SO EFFECTIVE
An emergency communications solution
based on IP technologies makes it possible
to integrate multiple agency sub-systems
into a unified user experience. It allows a
city to drive a more efficient and comprehensive
flow of information to those who
need it, when they need it. These solutions
are elastic in nature, easily scaling up or
down to fit the needs of a specific situation.
They can be set up to regularly selfmonitor
and automatically notify administrators
of failures and outages as they
happen. This ensures that problems are
discovered and corrected before an event
response when reliance on complete system
operability is critical.
Describing his experience with his own
city’s real-time command center, Maj. Neil
Klotzer of the Atlanta Police Department
said the comprehensive solution “demonstrates
that working together, we can build
a safer, more security city for everyone.
And we can do it while respecting the right
to individual privacy.”
With ever-increasing challenges faced
by public safety and emergency preparedness
officials, creating a cohesive emergency
communications network that fosters interagency
support and sharing of resources is
both a valid, and a valuable,
This article originally appeared in the September 2020 issue of Security Today.