How Smart Buildings Can Assist Public Safety Response

The outside incident commander directly managed and received the information feeds from all sensors as opposed to the direct response teams. (Center for Innovative Technology)


It is Fall 2021, and everyone is relieved life is returning to a post-COVID pandemic norm. A local university is welcoming its incoming class with a free concert in the basketball arena. Several thousand students take a break at intermission to go up to the concourse, grab some popcorn and socialize. Suddenly shots ring out, and two people fall to the ground. Everyone in the vicinity scatters; some head outside, others hide, still more go back down to the arena floor where the band is readying for its second set. A wave of panic sweeps the arena as more shots are heard.

The two university police officers on duty in the command center at the arena realize something is wrong. One calls for backup while the other runs in the direction of the gunshots. Within minutes several more campus patrol officers arrive on scene and are sent to join the first officer moving around the concourse. Within the next five minutes, backup from the local city police force arrives. The second team of officers pivots in the other direction around the concourse to intercept the moving target. Fortunately, the campus police locate and neutralize the shooter before the two groups converge.

But the incident is far from over. Answers to many other questions are needed:

  • Is there more than one shooter?
  • How many people are injured and need attention?
  • Might there be explosives or incendiary devices hidden in the building?
  • Who is in charge?


In the next few minutes, a local special response team arrives and begins to sweep the building. The team sets up a command center in the parking lot, and EMS support swoops in. University police set up a warm zone on the south side of the arena and support the medics working to locate and treat victims as areas clear. Some city officers and campus police engage in crowd management, seeking to calm the situation, find eyewitnesses and look for a possible second shooter. A public affairs officer coordinates with the university and begins to interact with the gathering press corps. It takes 37 minutes to find the last of the dozen victims, hiding behind a trash receptacle, but it is too late by then. The on-scene commander gives way 90 minutes later to a state response team that engages to help clear the building.

SMART BUILDING EXERCISE

This nightmare scenario was the basis for a major training exercise at the EagleBank Arena at George Mason University (GMU) in November 2019, which was led by GMU’s Special Response Team and included approximately 80 law enforcement and fire and rescue personnel from a variety of state, local and university organizations. Many had never had the opportunity to train in such a large facility or interact with such a large number of students, each playing various roles including the shooter, members of the crowd and victims.

But this exercise was even more unique and consequential than just the scale and scope. The Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology (DHS S&T) Directorate supported the exercise. GMU faculty and administrators, as well as industry teams led by the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) and Smart City Works guided the drill to explore and research smart building technologies’ effectiveness to help save lives and improve response.

Many leading-edge sensors, including video and audio, shot detectors, particulate sensors, WiFi detectors, occupancy detectors and others, are wired into the arena. The sensors are packaged in an EXIT sign’s footprint and brought into a display on a “single pane of glass,” including both typical building management systems and the public safety sensors.

The technology allows for 2D and 3D visualizations in the command center and tablets in the incident command center. These sensors need to provide value to the building owner on a day-to-day basis, including cost efficiency, among other things. They have a proven ability to help reduce energy consumption, manage the facility, and reduce insurance costs. If an incident occurs, these same sensors are the ones available to help manage the incident.

LESSONS LEARNED

In the debriefs, command-level and tactical responders and technologists commented that this was the first time they had ever joined together to think about how to improve the technology. The lessons were numerous.

The highest value sensors were the real-time occupancy detectors that were viewable on an interior facility map. Understanding where response team members are within the structure in real-time is critical for incident management, particularly where responders from different organizations interact. These sensors effectively help guide the response to where people are and locate all of the 12 scenario victims significantly faster than the search teams. These same sensors can also help building owners reduce energy consumption, helping to cover the costs of installation.

The outside incident commander directly managed and received the information feeds from all sensors as opposed to the direct response teams. This tactic reduced the overall response time and allowed response teams to focus on the direct mission and utilize their standard training and procedures.

Video and audio were most useful on map-based displays rather than the typical panel of 12- or 16-video feeds, which provided only limited situational awareness for people unfamiliar with the building.

The video was most useful forensically, with some analytics able to verify that there was only a single shooter in this scenario. Specialized shot spotters were not much more helpful than simple audio. The response teams were too focused on heading for the stimuli presented in action to manage this kind of external information. The response team leader suggested red/yellow/green visual cues on EXIT signs might indicate where recent activity has triggered sensors within the last minute.

The evolution of these technologies in this and other in-building testbeds continues as part of the ongoing DHS S&T SCITI Labs program with CIT. For scenarios such as a chemical release or secondary incendiary devices, particulate detectors come into play. For example, during installation in the arena, these secondary sensors could detect fresh paint residue in the building. They even could identify popcorn machine activity. Newer versions will have the sensitivity to detect a range of chemical signatures including fire ignition and biological molecules such as COVID-19.

The SAFETY Act may help incentivize building owners to install these systems by reducing their liability and changing building codes to allow IoT-enabled EXIT signs. Normal equipment replacement cycles will help increase adoption over time so these sensor capabilities become more common.

Drone-based versions of the occupancy sensors could fit easily inside an arena to help significantly speed search and rescue. Portable versions of the full sensor and electronics suite are also in the works for protective service types of missions or special event gatherings.

Technology is changing rapidly. The public safety technologies tested in this exercise are proven to reduce risk, increase public safety response effectiveness, and save lives. These capabilities can be most effective when the responder community is actively involved in the design, trial and use of new technology from its inception. We encourage you to look for ways to engage!

For more information contact CIT at SCITI.Info@cit.org and visit www.cit.org/vasmart.

​By David Ihrie | Police1.com​
 
About the author
 
David Ihrie is the Chief Technology Officer (CTO) for the Center for Innovative Technology (CIT) in Virginia, a non-profit that creates technology-based economic development strategies to accelerate innovation, imagination and the next generation of technology and technology companies. He has over 40 years of industry experience as a direct innovator in the fields of satellite and terrestrial communication, computing and information science. He has been a principal in seven startup companies in industries including nuclear power, digital broadcast and analytic software for the intelligence community.

He has used the CTO position as a platform to help build four breakthrough enterprise-scale innovation organizations. The National Technology Alliance brought non-traditional technology companies to help solve hard problems for the intelligence community. MACH37 is the first vertically focused business accelerator for cybersecurity. He leads a program with DHS Science & Technology Directorate to bring leading-edge innovation to the first responder community and has partnered with Smart City Works to create the world’s first infrastructure-focused business actuator. Currently, he leads Smart Communities initiatives for Virginia and is helping bring this new generation of capability to all Virginians.

Using Technology to Mitigate Mass Violence: Before, During and After the Call

A King County Sheriff bomb disposal unit officer walks near a robotic device near the scene of a shooting involving several police officers in downtown Seattle, Thursday, April 20, 2017. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren)​

 

This article briefly describes some technologies for handling mass shootings and other mass violence events based on lessons learned from over 50 after-action evaluations, including the Virginia Tech shooting, the Aurora, Colorado theatre shooting and the Boston Marathon bombing. In the Marathon bombing incident, thermal imaging found one of the two suspects. In the Aurora theatre shooting, a robot disarmed a complex explosive device left in the shooter’s apartment that was intended to booby trap officers investigating the location.

For technology to be useful, it must be available quickly, and officers have to be trained in its use. In some incidents, officers had not practiced sufficiently to use the interoperability features of their radios. Or even more basic, could not quickly remove shotguns from their car mounts.

In this article, we will review technologies that can be used before, during and after the active phase of an incident.

PREVENTION TECHNOLOGY

The best intervention is one that is averted before it starts, such as identifying bad guys and stopping their entry.

Magnetometers and radiometers are being used more frequently to screen building entrants, but are far from common in places of public assembly such as shopping centers and stadiums. Israel, which is under continual threat of terrorist attacks, has widespread entrance screening, which has been successful, though at considerable expense.

Artificial intelligence software that processes video from surveillance cameras can detect weapons with high probability, and then alert law enforcement. This can replace more unwieldy magnetometers.

Facial recognition technology is another form of surveillance-camera processing. Following mass shootings, some schools in Florida installed the technology to screen for students, teachers and approved visitors. This can identify persons of interest to LE, such as those with outstanding warrants or restraining orders. However, the technology is raising concerns about civil liberty and racial equity. And sometimes the potential harm-doer is authorized to be present, such as someone who plans to attack fellow students or co-workers. [1]

Where several buildings are involved, like a college campus or industrial site, it often is desirable to order an immediate lockdown. One approach is an electronic emergency lockdown system where a security officer or other authorized person can push one button to lock all doors on all buildings at the same time. We saw this demonstrated in a large city university, which prefers anonymity.

Other physical security technologies include access control readers on buildings or rooms in-office or in-classroom video broadcast capabilities, and of course vehicle barriers.

EARLY WARNING TECHNOLOGY

The goals for early warning systems are to alert law enforcement that an incident has started, and to alert the people at risk of an immediate threat, and what to do.

Technologies can provide real-time information and instructions using visual and audible communication modalities, both indoors and outdoors, through personal and public means. There ideally should be capabilities for two-way communications for event reporting and message verification, and an audit trail for post-alert analysis. Such warnings are commonly used on cell phones for weather events and amber alerts and can be used for other threats as well.

Traditional loudspeakers and megaphones also can alert those in danger, and relay instructions on what to do, especially for those without a cellphone on, or who have not registered for alerts. Some agencies have reserved use of public safety vehicle “hi-lo” sirens as a rudimentary but readily available warning system. One of the latest versions of loudspeaker technology allows messages to be broadcast from an LE cellphone to an area. This super-powerful loudspeaker system, known as an LRAD or Long Range Acoustic Device, can be mounted temporarily at a rally or rock concert or staged at the scene. It is louder and clearer than most loudspeakers.

Outdoor fixed or mobile electronic messaging signs are old technology but can be effective to supplement broadcasts.

Shot detectors can discriminate shots from other noises. These systems can be fixed (e.g., on telephone poles, as in Washington DC), or mobile (e.g., on SUVs) that can be parked at outdoor events like rock concerts and demonstrations. The detectors immediately report that a shot has been fired. They can also pinpoint the source for larger munitions, such as RPGs.

INCIDENT OPERATIONS AND MANAGEMENT TECHNOLOGY

For an active shooting, current protocols call for the first officers on the scene to go to the shooter. The most basic technology is for officers to wear ballistic vests with rifle plates inserted and be equipped with long guns. Endoscope attachments to officer cellphones can help see around a corner without being exposed. Extensions of this are optical fiber technologies that enable officers to see into rooms through existing or drilled holes.

“Black box” systems can link building security cameras directly to police commanders. [1] To trigger the linkage, an authorized person in the building hits a “panic button” or turns on the system via a coded cellphone call. Police then have real-time views inside the event building via its surveillance cameras, to help guide their response. Again, some schools have installed such systems following mass shootings of schoolchildren.

Drones with cameras are increasingly inexpensive, and usually faster and cheaper to deploy than helicopters, but they need to be quickly available and operated by a trained user. Drones can give an excellent command view, check rooftops, examine bomb damage, and look for suspects and victims.

Digital files of building plans should be readily available to incident commanders. Even better is 3-D imagery of the interior and exterior of complex building sites. They can be produced with rotating laser survey scanning instruments.

GPS tracking software that shows the path used by a patrol unit or officer on foot to get to the scene can be installed in cellphones. They can show follow-on units where to go. Think of a complex of buildings or an outdoor setting where the street address alone may not be enough to find the specific location of the incident.

Live bodycam video and images can be relayed to an incident commander to improve situational awareness.

Large incidents requiring mutual aid can be managed better with compatible regional CAD systems, so the incident commander knows who is where and can track their assignments. Responder locations can be shown graphically.

Portable license plate readers may be installed or staged at locations from which suspects, witnesses and victims may be fleeing, to assist with the investigation.

Interoperable communications are critical in a large incident. They enable responders to communicate with sister agencies such as fire and EMS, neighboring jurisdictions, and state and federal agencies. Many “black boxes” can handle frequencies of other agencies interoperably. Interoperability worked well by and large at the Boston Marathon bombing across local law enforcement, and to FBI and National Guard units.

Often a large incident requires calling up off-duty officers, which can be done with software that is an extension of daily attendance systems.

Some incidents pose a concern about chemical, biological or radiological threats. There are good static and mobile CBR detection systems. For large, potentially problematic events (e.g., the Boston Marathon, or New Year’s Eve), the detection units can be pre-positioned. Many local agencies rely on nearby National Guard or federal CBR detection units for this purpose. CBR detection monitors were critically important immediately after the bombs went off at the Boston Marathon; they showed that the bombs were ordinary explosives and not contaminated with worse stuff, key information on proceeding with rescues and the investigation.

Robotics are increasingly available for analysis of packages, disarming bombs and even interdiction, but they are often expensive and require considerable expertise to use. Since time is of the essence, some agencies like to have several inexpensive, simple robots that have a mounted camera, can shake a package, and operate almost like a toy. As mentioned earlier, robotic bomb dismantling reduced casualties in the Aurora theatre shooting – not in the theatre, but at the shooter’s apartment, which he had booby-trapped. The robot used to snip wires on the explosive device actually was operated by an FBI expert in the DC area! As a side note, nearby military units are often relied on for EOD assistance, but they may not be trained to collect and preserve evidence.

Armored vehicles often take too long to get to a scene unless there is a prolonged incident, and may appear too militaristic to purchase these days if you do not already have one. A dual-role rescue vehicle may be more acceptable. They can be invaluable in rescuing citizens and LE personnel.

AFTER THE VIOLENCE STOPS

Every patrol vehicle should have a medical first aid kit with tourniquets and occlusive dressings for sucking chest wounds. Many lives have been saved by officers not waiting for the first ambulances to deliver care, or where the wounded are in a hot zone.

Immediately after an MCI, police departments often are overwhelmed by families and media seeking accurate information about the people killed and wounded, and where to get assistance. Often victims are spread across multiple locations. Public assistance software can be used to centrally track the location and status of victims, and information such as where personal effects have been taken.

A host of facial recognition and other picture analysis algorithms can be used to identify a shooter or bomber. The FBI did a masterful job in going through cellphone and security camera recordings to quickly identify the Boston Marathon terrorists.

It is beyond the scope here to go into DNA and other technologies available to crime labs, but it is a good idea to have the crime lab that you use to review the state-of-the-art technology.

CONCLUSION

We hope this article gives you some ideas about the technology that you might consider for dealing with mass casualty incidents. More are in the pipeline, such as small robotic devices that can scurry ahead of officers to search for perpetrators and victims; remote-controlled scoop stretchers to retrieve victims from hazardous environments; more advanced drones for use indoors; and technology (other than TASERs) to disable without killing perpetrators. Most important, however, is to make sure that your officers know how to use the technologies you already have.

Police1 readers: If you know of successful technologies in practice not noted in this article, we would appreciate hearing from you. Email editor@police1.com.

Reference

1. An excellent report on technology that can be used in schools and elsewhere is “A Comprehensive Report on School Safety Technology” prepared for The Department of Justice’s National Institute of Justice by The Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory in cooperation with The Johns Hopkins University School of Education, Division of Public Safety Leadership. The research described in this report was sponsored by the National Institute of Justice, 2016.

By Philip Schaenman and Hollis Stambaugh | Police1.com

About the authors
Philip Schaenman is founder of TriData LLC, which specializes in public safety consulting and research. He has advanced engineering degrees from Columbia and Stanford Universities. He led over 50 after-action reviews of mass casualty incidents and has written articles and reports on advanced technology for public safety, and technology for improving the efficiency of police and corrections.

Hollis Stambaugh, a former senior project manager at TriData, heads HS Management Consulting. She has been the project manager for many after-action reports, consulted on improving arson investigation in over 50 communities, and helped lead a series of focus groups across the nation on technology needs for counterterrorism. For further information, email pschaenman@tridata.com.

The First Responder Network Authority

Talbot County’s (Maryland) first responders received a boost in their wireless communications with the addition of a purpose-built cell site. Photo taken on August 27, 2019.

 

“So, what’s FirstNet?” You may have heard this on a tradeshow floor. You may have overheard it in the locker room. You may have even asked it yourself. Set to the most simplistic of explanations, the First Responder Network Authority is an organization established by congress that oversees the implementation of the FirstNet communications network built with AT&T. What the FirstNet Authority is not is the provider of the service.  

I connected with Assistant Chief Harry Markley (ret.), and subject matter expert for FirstNet Law Enforcement. “We’re no more a vendor than the FBI is a vendor. We’re actually part of the federal government,” he says.

Harry MarkleyThe First Responder Network AuthorityHarry Markley is the law enforcement liaison for the FirstNet Authority. His experience includes over 31 years as a police officer, retiring from the Phoenix Police Department as chief of the patrol division. He’s been with the FirstNet Authority for about two years and has since produced a newsletter sharing news and information with law enforcement. I spoke with him mid-May.

The FirstNet network has been in operation for two years and, according to Markley, 99% of the U.S. population is covered with 12,000 public safety agencies. That’s breaks down to 1.3 million connections worldwide—a significant milestone for a network so young.

It’s this acceptance that keeps Markley optimistic and parallels the network’s advancement to the Apple iPhone. “The iPhone came out 11, 12 years ago. I remember when you looked at the phone you had about 50 apps on it…and we thought it was the most amazing thing in the world. Now, if you look at the iPhone today and the 100’s of thousands of apps, the capabilities of the camera—those are the leaps to be made.

I just think about where we will be in another 10 years. Just like the iPhone, what this network is going to be able to do and how it’s going to be used are going to be amazing. It’s going to have a significant impact on not just law enforcement but on public safety as a whole.”

AT&T won the FirstNet bid and are partnered together in a 25-year long contract. While the organizations aren’t responsible for the technical side, they’re comprised of teams to oversee various aspects (like confirming reported speeds) to make sure that the build deadlines are being met.

The other side of the First Responder Network Authority organization comprises of education: what FirstNet is, what Firstnet can do, what Firstnet can’t do, and whether or not FirstNet is even the correct choice based on circumstances, location and if the service is right for the agency at the time. With his experience of going from a heavily populated area in Phoenix to the middle of nowhere within Arizona, Markley is realistic and cuts to the point, “It might not be right for everybody. That’s part of my job. Talk to them, find out what their needs are. What their resources are. Where they are located on the planet and if this is the right service for them at this time.”

It starts with coverage. Put simply, without cellular coverage you can’t talk on your phone. Without cellular coverage you can’t use data. But that doesn’t mean that coverage can’t move where you need it. Should there be a need where there isn’t coverage—say, responding to a wildfire in the middle of nowhere—a fleet of deployable units can be sent to the location. You can even use a tethered drone with a ground-based power source to provide a temporary cellular tower.

What about the radio?

Consider the computer in the patrol vehicle. Consider your smartphone. Often cellular coverage for these devices can go where radio coverage hasn’t. “We’re not looking to replace mobile radios,” Markley says. He tells me a story from Arizona, where Phoenix, the fifth largest city in the U.S., is heavily populated – there are extremely rural areas. “Areas where our state police don’t have any radio coverage at all”, he says. Once they hit radio darkness, officers were flying blind with the closest back up an hour or more away. FirstNet built with AT&T were able to provide a solution to allow officers to use their mobile phones to communicate to dispatch through an LTE-LMR integration. One trooper was quoted, “Now I can do police work again.”

Markley goes around the country demonstrating the capabilities of FirstNet, by making a call from Florida to dispatch in Arizona in the midst of IACP 2019 as well as utilizing the new Push to Talk app to connect to California while in Guam.

Can I sign up?

Many officers inquire about 1) whether they qualify and 2) if they can sign up privately. Short answer: yes, if an officer wants to be on the network on their own—they can.

Oftentimes, many people consider public safety as only police, firefighters, and EMTs— but the FirstNet Authority includes so much more. “It’s not always sworn,” he says. “There are task forces that are made up of military and civilian and they do search and rescue for a sheriff department, or they’re a part of a drug task force where they aren’t actually a sworn law enforcement officer but they provide support.” Law enforcement agencies and officers alike can contact AT&T for more information on who qualifies for access on FirstNet.

The network is only in its infancy. “We’re so early on in this process that what we’ll look like even five years from now will be so much different than what it looks like now,” says Markley. “When you look at live streaming video, when you talk about being able to live stream dash cam video, body cam video, video cameras on the end of electronic weapons. The possibilities are endless.”

Find more information at FirstNet.gov/police.

By Jonathan Kozlowski | Officer.com

Benefiting From Crisis Lessons Learned

COMMENTARY | Elected and appointed officials must anticipate a broad range of possible catastrophes and put effective plans in place now to meet challenges like Covid-19 and future disasters.

From hurricanes to pandemics, all disasters share a common set of characteristics. They are sudden, unexpected, carry severe life-threatening consequences and won’t abate until there is a satisfactory resolution of the underlying situation.

The key to successfully navigating crisis is recognizing the six distinct phases of emotional reaction that come before, during and after a disaster. They start with the pre-disaster phase, when people are gripped with fear about what is to come; next is impact, as everybody juggles different emotions and begins to comprehend the damage toll; and then heroic, when people can act to address the immediate challenges they face. Subsequently, there is the honeymoon phase, when people feel optimistic about how things will work out, which is then followed by disillusionment as individuals confront the totality of the tasks ahead of them. Finally, there is reconstruction, where people come to grips with what they lost and accept the need and timetable for rebuilding.

Viewed through this prism, the re-emergence of Covid-19 and the resulting seesaw between openings and closings is understandable as optimism morphs into disillusionment. For government, that means calibrating its ongoing engagement accordingly.

As the city manager of Panama City, Florida, where Hurricane Michael made landfall in October 2018 as the first Category 5 storm to strike the U.S. since 1992 and the strongest storm to ever hit the Florida Panhandle—our community knows the evolution of people’s reactions well. To that end, the successful four-part template that guided our recovery can, with some necessary customization, can help communities across the country manage the impact of, and recovery from, the Covid-19 pandemic. The key elements of that template are:

Outline Specific Lines of Effort: There is no question that disasters are complex operating environments. Therefore, the first step is to develop a strategy aligned to each specific function of the recovery effort that is overseen and staffed by the professionals best suited to those tasks and articulate defined goals and success metrics. In response to Hurricane Michael, we identified safety and security, economy, key and vital infrastructure and quality of life as the key lines of effort. This format could serve as an effective coronavirus response framework. For example, communities could focus their coronavirus strategy around health and medical care/personnel, economic continuity, equipment supply chain, community changes, and education. Without this division of responsibilities, the enormity of the crisis leads to confusion of roles and an inability to achieve sustainable progress.

Communicate: There is no such thing as over​-​communicating in a disaster. Officials should communicate as often as possible to the widest possible breadth to both internal and external stakeholders through the crisis and its aftermath. Within government that means setting expectations for city employees, like first responders, involved in the response so that they can rise to the occasion. Externally, regular communication to the affected community will foster trust and help reduce anxiety and displace rumor and speculation. Harnessing every communications tool available and driving a reliable cadence of information will earn the trust of citizens that their leaders are acting decisively on their behalf.

Document Work and Accomplishments: The need to prove that work was accomplished through a workflow is crucial. Given the sums of direct and reimbursed federal assistance at stake, and the urgency of the situation, audit trails and transparency play a key role in demonstrating that the assistance was used properly. Moreover, this careful tracking makes it possible for communities to tangibly demonstrate the value the assistance provided.

Prepare Proactively: Simply put, the time to prepare is before the crisis arrives. Start with conducting a candid vulnerability assessment and then map each major threat to a specific plan of action. Once those are in place, holding tabletop drills that further identify areas of improvement will make the difference between a successful response and one that falls flat. Working through these exercises will help teams make necessary changes that will preserve life and infrastructure. This process also presents opportunities for government leaders to recognize the specific types of relief it can provide like waiving taxes and fees before the crisis occurs.

In Panama City, we are working to ​​become the premier city in the Florida Panhandle. We are doing that by developing a strong bond with our resilient and resolute community and marshaling all of our available government resources to set overall objectives. Never is this more important than in crisis recovery. No challenge is too large or complex, to keep us from fulfilling our duties, not even one as omnipresent as the Covid-19 pandemic.

​By ​Mark McQueen ​| Route 50

Mark McQueen ​is the ​c​ity ​manager of Panama City, FL., and a ​m​ajor ​g​eneral (retired), United States Army.