Increasing Situational Awareness and Public Safety with Smart Technology

- January 27th, 2020

Advancements in smart technology are giving law enforcement and security personnel the tools they need to increase situational awareness and improve public safety.

Mass shootings in the United States have risen sharply in the last five years, creating the need for security systems that can maintain public safety. 

In 2019, there were 417 mass shootings — defined as an incident in which four or more people, excluding the shooter, were shot but not necessarily killed. It appears as if 2020 will, unfortunately, be on the same track.

“Of the 97 mass shootings, 81 percent of the mass shooters used a semi-automatic rifle or pistol,” said sociologist and epidemiologist Lori Post, the director of the Buehler Center for Health Policy and Economics at Northwestern. “When a semi-automatic rifle or pistol is used, the death count gets higher.”

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The rise in mass shootings and terrorist attacks in the US and abroad has created a global security market that is expected to reach US$532 billion by 2022 due in large part to the increased demand for advanced threat-detection technologies, according to a report by Research and Markets.

It may not be possible to completely eliminate mass shootings like those perpetrated in Dayton, Ohio, and El Paso, Texas, in 2019, but mitigating the risks posed to the public and law enforcement is possible with the right detection tools and information. Innovations in smart technology are improving the ability of security personnel and law enforcement to maintain total situational awareness when securing large public events.

Public safety and situational awareness

Total situational awareness is a centuries-old concept based in military theory. In The Ace Factor,  author Mike Spick pegs situational awareness as the critical skill possessed by ace pilots in the US Air Force. Those fighter pilots with a high level of situational awareness are able to make on-the-spot decisions when reacting to a fast-changing environment. Situational awareness involves three main components: perception of the elements in the environment, comprehension of the situation and projection of future status.

“For law enforcement and security personnel, situational awareness is a concept closely involved with being aware of what is happening around you in a location where there are people that you have a duty to protect. The keys to maintaining that awareness come from a well-secured perimeter and an effective surveillance system,” Kal Malhi, a retired member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the founder and chairman of First Responder Technologies (CSE:WPN), told Investing News Network.

Effective surveillance of large public events can give law enforcement and security personnel the information they need to make on-the-spot decisions to identify and respond to threats, minimizing loss of human life when tragedy strikes. “What we found in our research is that a 10 to 15 second heads up can mean the difference between life or death, particularly in these active shooter situations,” said Malhi. “Modern advancements in smart technologies that allow for the surveillance of a larger perimeter have the potential to provide first responders with that 10 to 15 second heads up.”

Smart technologies emerging to improve public safety

To maintain situational awareness and a well-secured perimeter, today’s law enforcement and security personnel are using smart technologies that allow for the rapid collection of actionable intelligence. “Technology is changing core aspects of how we interact as a society, and as society changes, so too will the tools, techniques, and concepts the men and women of law enforcement use to keep us safe,” wrote Deloitte Consulting in a recent report on The Future of Policing. For the authors, the next century of policing is expected to center on harnessing digital technologies to improve the safety of both officers and the public.

Digital communications systems, augmented reality devices and increasingly small electronic surveillance units are making it possible for officers and security personnel to gain the valuable information required for rapid response. Some of these digital technologies include thermal imaging, radar, augmented reality glasses, smart fences, video analytics and remotely operated aerial drones. Emerging smart technologies such as WiFi-based concealed weapons detection technology also offer further situational awareness solutions for the future of public security.

First Responder Technologies is developing a patent-pending Wi-Fi-based concealed weapons technology solution designed to be deployed in and around the perimeter of soft targets (places of worship, stadiums, universities, theaters, etc.). This solution could be used as a standalone solution or tie into existing security, such as video cameras and gun recognition systems providing a layered defense system. Licensed from Rutgers University, the technology uses channel state information in Wi-Fi signals to detect concealed weapons, allowing first responders to covertly scan and assess subjects as they approach on foot. The technology is considered cheaper to build, safer to use and has fewer regulatory hurdles than contemporary millimeter-wave and cognitive microwave radar systems.

The ability for law enforcement and security personnel to be alerted of a potential threat before approaching a venue will allow them to take actions such as locking the doors and informing emergency services. This technology could be combined with traditional doorway security such as metal detectors and X-ray machines to form a layered increase in the security.

“The complicating factor in making public events like the Boston Marathon safe is their sheer size. Scanning equipment, checkpoints and other technology already familiar from airport screening would not have done much to prevent this marathon attack; instead they merely displace the threat to where the queue for that security screening masses people,” reported Scientific American. “As a RAND Corp. analysis of security at Los Angeles International Airport showed, reducing the time spent in ticket lines and security processing was the single most important variable in reducing the potential number of casualties and injuries from this type of terrorist attack.”

Takeaway

The rise in mass shootings and terrorist attacks needs to be met with swift, effective solutions if law enforcement and security personnel are to mitigate the safety risks posed to themselves and the public. Advancements in smart technology that allow first responders to secure larger perimeters and covertly detect threats are presenting opportunities for law enforcement officers to play a direct role in preventing future attacks.


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