Improving Emergency Response

Improving Emergency Response

Outreach, communication in 2021 will come through practical advanced technologies

Smart cities will need to grapple with the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021 while responding to natural disasters, such as the California wildfires and everyday emergencies. One development that will help municipalities in this regard is the increased use of Internet of Things (IoT) networks, According to Deloitte, there are almost 20 billion IoT devices in the world.

The most critical outlet for this technology is public safety, which requires precise, timely data about events, so agencies can respond quickly, safely and effectively. Smart cities that harness resilient tools can move society forward in the coming year.


Emergency services will improve their outreach and communication with the public in 2021 through practical advanced technologies. Concerned citizens can contact emergency services using text, social media and mobile apps. Dispatchers can precisely locate callers in an instant via their smartphone’s advanced mobile location (AML) capability and use photos or videos of the scene to inform decisions and update responders. Connected navigation systems then map out the fastest and safest routes to the scene. Intelligent traffic signals can even ensure their routes are clear. All these real-time innovations will help save lives.

The use of advanced analytics in public safety has lagged that of business and even other areas of public service, but it is rapidly catching up. Analysis of operational data is helping to improve service and staff well-being by aligning resources and balancing workloads to reflect patterns in demand. Advanced analytics are also helping emergency response with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning providing continuous autonomous assessment of the data flowing through emergency call centers. If a pattern or anomaly is detected, dispatchers will be alerted of developing situations, so they can intervene sooner to contain issues, and even prevent some tragedies.

Through this multi-tiered approach, emergency responders can leverage data to perform life-saving work more effectively. To truly succeed, however, they will need help from every department.


Our daily lives rely on infrastructure and services provided by a range of independent organizations, with each using different systems, processes and assets. But smart cities are beginning to build shared awareness and coordination across those functions through a network of digital technologies.

As part of this process, departments with siloed – or even conflicting – information and procedures need to come together to make day-to-day operations more efficient and effective, but also to mitigate crises because these events disrupt essential functions and have dire consequences. For example, the Paris terrorist attacks (2017) caused severe economic damage to the city long after the initial tragedy. Many tourists canceled vacation plans, business travel decreased and residents reduced spending.

Every municipality is different, so it is impossible to understand all the challenges teams face, whether responding to such large incidents, adapting to home working or increasingly frequent extreme weather events. But cities where departments work together prove more resilient by being able to identify issues sooner and take more effective action.

As part of this effort, all municipal agencies need to prioritize digital transformation this year. They should connect disparate data sources while advancing the vital services that underpin society.

Public safety departments are an essential part of this mission. Technology is improving how they respond, but they cannot create wholesale change without coordinating with agencies like social services, utilities and transportation. Removing barriers will make government work better, whether collaborating for more effective emergency response or pooling information to better understand issues and prioritize resources.

A holistic, evidence-based approach also benefits the broader community because citizens who understand the needs and issues behind a policy will be more confident in municipal agencies and more likely to support safety initiatives. Therefore, these departments need to involve the public in all matters, from budgets to the use of technology and post-event reviews. Once agencies have strong local support, the final step is convincing leaders to invest this year and beyond.


Seconds count during emergencies, and new technologies help reduce the impacts of serious incidents; however, they can have a high price tag. As a result, municipalities need to analyze what each proposal costs before opening their checkbooks. City officials should understand the risks and rewards of assistive technologies, along with the regulatory environments in their respective areas.

Tools that serve multiple purposes for multiple organizations will pay the most significant dividends. But, just like siloed IT, separate budgets and organizational objectives can also stand in the way. Since the advantages far outweigh the drawbacks, industry leaders in smart cities need to reevaluate their annual funding models and spread the wealth across organizations. They should encourage and facilitate investments that offer broad positive long-term impacts.

Smart cities will need access to data-rich technologies to improve service, safety, and resilience in 2021. Intelligent leaders in smart cities should look to enable departments to coordinate information and action by removing silos across municipal agencies and spending intelligently. That way, they will enhance the community’s quality of life for years to come.

This article originally appeared in the November / December 2020 issue of Security Today.

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