The Technology Shift in Emergency Services

Shift to the Cloud

The demand for ever-increasing efficiencies within the Public Sector is creating significant challenges for the emergency services. The ability to meet these challenges is hampered by outdated and fragmented systems which are expensive to maintain and hard to consolidate.

Emergency services are dealing with an exponential increase of digital information such as body worn video footage, images or videos from mobile phones, GPS data and automatic number plate recognition. With data being stored in a myriad of different departments and databases, it’s easy to see why data management can be an extremely complex task.

Considering potential applications and future-proofing, will help IT departments to deploy the most suitable solutions. For instance, will police officers recording an arrest on a body-worn camera, live-stream the recording to nearby officers for assessment and support to save time? Can fire and rescue crews assessing burning buildings use digital blue prints and live helicopter camera footage to improve how they handle the situation?

However to realise the benefits of this data, many forces will need to consider adopting cloud-based systems in order to store and improve accessibility to this data. Currently many forces are using a wide array of methods and systems to store information – including burning footage to disc or tape. It’s imperative to centralise operations and adopt common systems as this not only facilitates cross-department collaboration, but also promotes the sharing of information with other agencies.

Adopting the cloud will allow emergency responders to tackle their growing data storage problem in an affordable and scalable way. Once data is stored in the cloud, analytic and evidence management tools can be implemented to provide real-time insights, meaning forces become better informed and officers will be able to use advanced mobile applications on the go.

To meet these increasing demands and efficiencies, APD Communications have developed the Hosted Control Room

Designed to take advantage of the Emergency Services Network, reduce capital expenditure and increase the features and functionality available in our Incident Control Centre Services, Customer Relationship Management and Location Services, our hosted control room provides a cloud-based data and communications platform that revolutionises emergency services' communications.

  • Seamless Upgrades - With our hosted control solutions, the headache that comes with upgrades are a thing of the past. Managed in the cloud, your upgrades are seamlessly rolled out to your control room without any down time.
  • High Availability and Security - We also know how important it is for you to eliminate any risk of downtime in your control room. That's why we're accredited to ISO 9001, ISO 20000, ISO 27001 and ISO 27018
  • Truly Scalable - This subscription-based service works on the number of licences you need, per user, per month. You can add or remove user licences based on demand

More Control

Responding to emergencies quickly and efficiently is a challenge that communities have always faced. Thanks to emerging technology, it’s becoming easier for responders to assess threats, share information, and plan emergency responses. Many of the latest innovations in emergency response are poised to revolutionise the way response teams analyse events and coordinate their activities, while others are dramatically changing the way everyday citizens handle emergencies.

Since the introduction of text messaging services in the mid 1990s, society has transitioned from communicating solely by voice to using data services (email, text and instant messaging, social media, etc.) for communicating with others. Whilst this transition may have also impacted on Public Safety communications, in most emergency situations, voice continues to be the primary form of communication. That principle is likely to remain the case for some years to come due to the inherent speed that voice messages can be passed.

However, the younger generation of police officers, paramedics and fire and rescue personnel are more comfortable than ever in communicating via portable laptops, tablets and smartphones. Sharing messages and images, uploading and exchanging video clips are now considered the norm. In time it is likely that such usage will become so fundamental to their daily operations that it will become mission critical.

Social Media

The Tavistock Institute recently carried out a survey of UK citizens on their use of smartphones and social media as well as their propensity to use them in an emergency situation. Below are some of the key findings. The full report can be found here.

  • Around a third of adult citizens have used social media during an emergency to look for or share information

  • Use of social media during emergencies is significantly lower among those aged 45 or older
  • The proportion of those aged 18-24 who have used social media in an emergency (56%) is very similar to the proportion of those aged 25-34 (54%)
  • Younger people (aged 18-24) are more likely to use social media to look for information during an emergency, while those aged 25-34 are the age group most likely to share information on social media
  • Women are significantly more likely to use social media in an emergency than men – particularly to share information with others
  • The main reasons for not using social media in an emergency include technological concerns – for example that mobile phones would not work properly in an emergency – and concern over trustworthiness (that information on social media is not reliable)
  • Less than half of citizens state that data privacy issues are a reason for not using social media in an emergency
  • People are most likely to use social media to share weather conditions or warnings, road or traffic conditions and their own feelings or emotions about an emergency
  • The majority of UK citizens currently do not expect emergency services to respond to messages posted by them on social media – however, the expectation is much greater among younger citizens.

This research was conducted as part of the Emergency Management in Social Media Generation (EmerGent) study. 

As an output to this study, detailed guidelines have been produced to increase the benefit of social media use in emergencies and can be downloaded here.

Live Chat and Electronic Contact

Whilst access to emergency services in true emergencies is likely to remain as voice in the medium term, using electronic media to deal with less time-sensitive issues is becoming more common place, allowing control personnel or administrators to deal with priority activity more easily. Many first responders are already using web forms and live chat to report non-emergency issues, crime and incidents. There are also an increasing number of smartphone apps that are available for download and can be used to contact some emergency services in many countries.

British APCO took the lead on the work of the 999 Liaison Committee and launched the 999 App Certification Scheme in 2016. The scheme allows app developers to present their app to a team with relevant operational and technical expertise. More information on app approval can be found here. Two apps have already been accredited - RealRider and TapSOS.

How will all this impact the shift to ESN

At APD Communications we are work alongside critical suppliers as well as the emergency services to ensure a seamless transition to ESN.

Whilst progress towards implementation of ESN has been delayed by a minimum of 9 months according to the latest Public Accounts Committee in November 2017, we have been continuing to develop our services to ensure that our services are fully compliant with both a hybrid ESN / TETRA network and towards a fully transitioned ESN.

To keep updated on ESN and what APD are doing click here.

Sources:

  1. The Critical Communications Association
  2. The Tavistock Institute - report on using social media in emergencies, available at http://bit.ly/2sgQVVQ.
  3. British APCO
  4. House of Commons, Public Accounts Committee