3 of the Top Trends in Public Safety

By Arlene King posted 07-05-2012 15:33


Reposting from “Fresh Ideas in Public Safety” Blog by Katharine Gard Jul 2, 2012

If you talk to anyone who works in law enforcement or fire, they will tell you that safety is the highest priority of any department. Safety of the police officer or firefighter, and safety of the citizens they are protecting. Calls for service tend to increase around holidays such as the 4 th of July, so what new trends in technology are public safety agencies implementing to improve safety this summer?

Technology as a Force Multiplier

You've heard the rhetoric – budgets have been cut, do more with less. But the fact is that by using technology as a force multiplier, public safety agencies not only can do more with less – they can also better ensure the safety of the responders and the citizens. Take, for example, video surveillance.

This is a technology that has been in play for a while, but it wasn’t until broadband technologies became readily available that it became easier to deploy and support live feeds for specific or ad-hoc events. A great example of using video as a force multiplier to increase safety was this year’s
St. Patrick's Day Parade in Cleveland. I anticipate that upcoming summer festivals such as 4th of July parades and fireworks shows, as well as annual events such as the Taste of Chicago, have been and will continue to leverage this type of technology.

Social Media

Facebook – it's not just for teenagers anymore. Cities have pages; police and fire agencies have pages. CIOs and chiefs are blogging and tweeting. Some departments, such as Glendora, Calif., actually post Live Calls for Service online to help keep residents informed. Social media, if leveraged properly, can be a great way for public safety agencies to maintain a positive public image, gather data, receive tips, and even communicate during disasters. In fact, we may have reached the point where not having a social media presence with content that constituents can "Like" will signal a need for a change in command.

Check out how the National Volunteer Fire Council uses social media as well as its views on how public safety agencies can best leverage this powerful tool: How Public Safety Agencies Can Use Social Media. You may even find helpful tips on how to celebrate Independence Day more safely, or what to keep on hand in case things get a bit out of control on your local city or town’s site.

Changes in Call Centers

Since a communications center is seen as the lifeline for those on the street, it is easy to understand why control over that center would be something an organization would want to maintain. But as public safety moves into the next generation, it may not make sense anymore to have multiple dispatch locations with a half-dozen call takers each in every geographic region. According to an FCC white paper, around 80 percent of dispatch centers have five seats or fewer. The paper suggests that PSAP consolidation will result in a 35 percent decrease in the number of PSAPs as networks migrate to NG911. So convergence is a big trend. The main technological disruption that will drive this trend is NG9-1-1. Many people think that NG91-1-1 is the ability for 911 (or 112 in Europe) to accept text messages. But this is only part of what NG91-1-1 will bring. As dispatch centers evolve, they will need to support more communications flexibility, more information and more multimedia details that will help shorten response times, increase efficiency, optimize effectiveness and save lives – that is NG9-1-1. As with social media, there are both positive benefits as well as risks to keep in mind regarding this technology that are outlined very well in the article In NG9-1-1, Beware the Black Ice. Regardless of any implied "cons", NG9-1-1 is the wave of the future. After all, today most Americans take it for granted that they can text 911 if they have an emergency. But without back-end technology to support it, those cries for help are going unheard (or in this case, unread. So this year when you have that slightly larger than planned fireworks display in your cul-de-sac that requires the local fire department to put it out - call 911; don’t text.

As you bring out your barbeques and family and friends gather to celebrate this summer, think about the positive changes that are happening to the public safety communities, making the cities we live in safer and more connected. Celebrate safely!!

 Katharine Gard is a Market Solutions Team Manager for Motorola Solutions, Inc