Security Technology Executive

SEP-OCT 2017

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www. • September/October 2017 • SECURIT Y TECHNOLOGY E XECUTIVE 37 responding with other jurisdictions. Leveraging a shared tool allows for better communication across county lines with residents and first respond- ers, and enhances situation awareness for all agencies to improve coordinated response during events – whether that be severe weather, active shooter, fire, explo- sion, natural disaster or terrorist attack. One example of this is the city of Tusca- loosa; Alabama's recently launched local alert system. Named TuscALERT, the sys- tem was built on a cross-jurisdiction emer- gency notification platform that already had a strong presence in the area, as the system already provided critical weather and emergency information to residents in nearby Northport, Tuscaloosa County, and the Tuscaloosa County Emergency Management Agency. It was a clear choice to help bring the city's emergency notification efforts under one umbrella, according to Rob Robertson, Director of Tuscaloosa County Emergency Management Agency. With residents and employees regularly traveling across city and county lines, Robertson says, "A shared system provides us with better connectiv- ity with other counties and organizations, including a larger neighboring county, Jefferson County, AL." While the two EMAs were already working together for closer collaboration and communication between the two counties, the regional system made their communication and notification work more efficiently and in more of an automated fashion than ever before. • Increased resident awareness and event management. The abil- ity to effectively share information with attendees, stakeholders, area businesses and local residents is critical, especially during large-profile events, as incidents from traffic to riots can arise at a moment's notice. A shared communica- tions system provides an effective and reliable method for all regional city offi- cials to alert attendees of event-related activities and emergency information. While preparing for Pope Francis' his- toric 2015 visit to the United States, the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Manage- ment (OEM) faced a unique challenge from a communications standpoint. With over 1.5 million visitors expected to flood the city, the 70+ local, state and federal agen- cies involved in the event needed to effec- tively engage with not only residents but anonymous travelers from out of town who could easily opt-in to also receive informa- tion about closed roads, event locations, and other critical information. The Philadelphia OEM deployed a criti- cal event management and communica- tion solution that all regional agencies used to identify and attract both resident and visitor opt-ins in a very short amount of time. In seven days, the City of Philadel- phia amassed over eleven thousand opt- ins. By comparison, according to the Phila- delphia OEM, it took almost eight years for them to amass 15,000 Twitter followers. Similarly, to prepare for the inaugura- tion of President Donald Trump, Washing- ton, D.C. government officials worked with various agencies, including the U.S. Park Police, Secret Service, National Guard and the city's Homeland Security and Emer- gency Management Agency (HSEMA) – in addition to neighboring police, fire and emergency management agencies and volunteers. A key factor in ensuring public safety during the weekend activities was the unified critical event management and communications platform that all agencies used to facilitate secure, fast and effective With recent advances made to mobile technolog y and its creation of a more connected public, local businesses, governments and their respective public safety departments have grown better equipped to share critical updates during all types of security and community events. Image Courtesy of sharing of information. Leveraging one system among all agen- cies helped ensure officials could be aware of, communicate, respond to and manage various types of incidents throughout the weekend. For example, on the day of the inauguration, a few groups of protesters became violent, but with a shared commu- nication platform, law enforcement agen- cies were able to quickly respond to and manage the incidents. • Streamlined training and support. Regions that band together to procure a critical communications system have the benefit of dedicated vendor support that offers ongoing technical assistance. A common platform also allows users across each agency to form a user community to help each other better understand and maximize use of the system. Especially during large-scale events, running live training drills with all agencies ahead of time verifies who receives the messages and response, and allows them to test the effectiveness of each template. For example, before the inauguration, HSEMA hosted a full-day dress rehearsal in D.C.'s emergency operations center to help them prepare for any event that would put residents and visitors at risk. This included a joint training of the emergency alert sys- tem by the vendor. The training ensured staff members were proficient in using the communication system, and also assured message content, contact lists and policies relating to public and internal communica- tion were followed by all the participating agencies. During large-scale events, towns, coun- ties, and numerous departments can be affected. Often, communication between these groups is limited to begin with. Add in event and IT disruptions and slow com- munication and response times can put citizens at further risk. A shared event management and commu- nication system allow com- munities to share informa- tion around regional and industry- specific events that improve their pre- paredness, coordination, and communications to all impacted individuals and groups. About the Author: Imad Mouline is the Chief Technology Officer and GM, Critical Event Management at Everbridge

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