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Preparing for the worst

By GeoConnexion - 9th July 2013 - 09:34

A new class of integration tools is making it easier to manage the security of large events, says Kalyn Sims.

Hosting a large event can make city leaders nervous. What potential threats exist? How vulnerable is the venue? Is there money in the budget for adequate security?

It’s important to address these issues with a comprehensive plan that leverages existing resources while incorporating new technologies. Of course, taxpayers are wary of huge expenditures, especially for one-time use and when event organisers will turn a profit. That’s why investments in safety and security are best made with flexibility and long-term use in mind.

To maximise the return on investment, it’s important to start with existing technologies and lessons learned from past events, such as Intergraph’s experience with incident management at the 2012 Olympic Games in the UK, Euro 2008 in Switzerland and the most recent two US presidential inaugurations.
Computer-aided dispatch

A modern, easily configurable computer-aided dispatch (CAD) system is essential for fast response – not only for the high-volume needs of large events, but also for routine requirements. As public safety departments must integrate massive amounts of geospatial data, CAD systems should include advanced mapping features to automate and streamline map creation and maintenance, including the ability to import data from industry-standard GIS formats. Such systems should also accommodate your organisation’s best practices and comply with standards, such as the US’s National Information Exchange Model (NIEM), to simplify mutual aid. This streamlines communications among multiple organisations, and ensures the best use of time and resources.

Also, look for interoperability platforms that let you connect devices and systems for access control, surveillance and notifications to your current system without labour-intensive, custom coding. By using software that adheres to industry standards, along with the latest data translation techniques, you can combine data types from numerous sources and display them in a geospatial context for a fraction of the time and cost previously possible.

Plan for the expected

Whenever a crowd comes together in one place, some incidents are bound to happen. These can range from petty crimes to accidents to health-related emergencies. Preparing to handle these issues without degrading routine services in the surrounding area will improve outcomes and boost public confidence.

Designating an ‘event zone’ in your CAD map can help you achieve the right balance. This helps your organisation define the geospatial boundaries of an event, which improves operations. When calls originate inside the zone perimeter, they can be routed to a dispatch area dedicated to that zone. Calls from outside the event zone can be routed around the event to avoid delays in routine services and ensure there are dedicated resources for event-related issues.

Unreliable mobile-phone service can increase the risk for callers using mobile devices. Having a system that allows texting for emergency assistance can avoid delays if signal strength is low or batteries are depleted, since text messages require less power and can transmit over a weaker signal than a voice call. The latest CAD technologies support this capability for agencies that choose to implement them.

Prepare for the unexpected

Wherever crowds gather, it’s wise to prepare for unforeseen, large-scale emergencies, such as an attack, a large fire, or an infrastructure collapse. This may require integrating security technologies that can help detect and assess catastrophic incidents. The right interoperability and interface platform can support technologies such as gunshot detectors, intelligent video, multimedia communications, digital signage and crowd management.

By connecting different sensing and monitoring devices in a geospatial context, organisations can view alarms and alerts on a map, and immediately access video feeds for better threat assessment. When integrated with a flexible CAD system, detection and assessment are linked to response, providing you with powerful capabilities that are cost-effective to implement, prevent chaos and can save numerous lives.

Use mobile technologies

Arming field officers with real-time data is critical in preventing incidents and responding faster. Through laptops, tablets and smartphones, personnel on the street can have access to a geospatial view of units and events, plus the ability to dispatch resources.

Reporting and remote content management are also important for successful field operations. Using the latest technologies, officers can create and submit reports from the field, reducing the need to return to the station for administrative tasks.

Choose intelligent data display

When integrating complex data, your system must present it in an organised way for operators and other decision-makers. The design must consider people’s ability to process information and make decisions based on their understanding. Failure to consider the human element often leads to methods that are unmanageable and fail to meet objectives.

For instance, a large event may require operators to monitor a video surveillance system with 100 cameras. A commonly used approach is to provide banks of monitors for operators to view. Extensive testing of operators’ performance confirms that operators have frequently fail to detect problems using these systems, since even alert operators become bored and distracted, and soon fail to notice important changes. Such a system may meet technical requirements, but is likely to be ineffective during the course of an event.

A common operating picture, such as Intergraph’s CAD system, integrates all geospatial data and activities into a single view. Operators can customise alarms, notifications and other features, to optimise security in large venues and other crowded situations.

Work your plans

The success of a security operation for a major event depends on the accessibility of actionable information by responders and the ability of teams to collaborate effectively. Access to sensitive information must be carefully managed and trusting relationships among organisations at all levels must exist.

Also essential to success is a solution’s flexibility, cost-effectiveness and continuous availability, including backup plans such as alternate dispatch locations. An intuitive, common operating picture among dispatchers and responders provides consistent and clear information, operator understanding and confidence in data reliability.

Intelligent integration of data from multiple, complex data sources, made possible by a robust interoperability foundation, provides a common platform for making smarter decisions. With the right technology mix and careful planning, local and central government organisations can successfully manage large events within their budgetary limitations without compromising the safety and security of citizens.

Arming field officers with real-time data is critical to prevent incidents and respond faster.

Kalyn Sims is Vice President, Public Safety Portfolio, Intergraph SG&I, for more information, click here

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