Risk, Resilience and Security – Three Key Functions of Public Safety Technology

Controlling public safety is a major concern of governments, and that’s where public safety technology comes in

The legitimacy that results from managing a crisis has an instant and lasting impact on public opinion and the daily lives of citizens. This means that public safety is both a risk and an opportunity. Indeed, if alerting citizens and managing an emergency are inefficiently handled, citizens may be put at risk. On the other hand, understanding emergency processes for response develops resilience to risk. Ensuring emergencies are dealt with effectively requires adopting public safety technology that can facilitate the operational management of a crisis quickly and effectively to limit its potential damage.

Public Safety Technology Includes Public Safety Platforms

First, managing communications properly and responding to a crisis in an organised manner requires a holistic and well-coordinated approach. Crisis management agencies must interact with each other and the public effectively to minimise economic damage, secure a country’s infrastructure, create political capital for the serving government, and, most importantly, save lives.

In a survey of first responders, results showed that 66% of “high performers” – those who express satisfaction with their organisation’s overall performance – use data analytics technology in their work and consider it important to their workflows. Not only do they use new public safety technology in their work, but they also have a high degree of confidence in it.

A global survey of 12,000 people found that 71% of citizens say public safety agencies must integrate fast and flexible systems to improve public safety outcomes. 88% say they want to see public safety transformed through the use of public safety technology.

The best public warning platforms have a broad capacity for the communication, synchronisation, and analysis of complex data. These are often generated from granular and hyper-localised sources such as weather forecasts or traffic reports and obtained through satellite imagery and even social media.

Warning platforms also allow public authorities to communicate with the population in locations where an emergency is occurring rapidly across multiple channels so they can reach up to 95% of the population. This helps to inform emergency responders, and they can be configured specifically to suit the needs of different emergency services in different countries. Dedicated technology platforms make the dissemination of an alert simple, immediate, and above all, effective.

Where Does Climate Come Into Public Safety Technology?

From a global perspective, climate-induced emergencies are among the most frequent and have some of the most extensive and devastating social and economic consequences. A World Bank report in June 2021 highlighted how climate change is intensifying the frequency of these emergencies. Between 1980 and 2020, natural disasters affected nearly 50 million people in the EU and cost EU governments approximately 12 billion euros yearly.

Many governments have invested in advanced technologies that can measure climate-generated changes and their associated risks, resulting in a huge amount of climate data. According to NASA, these global climate models have been quite accurate. This has helped to improve predicting emergencies. Meanwhile, NGOs and charities have been active in mitigating the impact of natural disasters by focusing on relief.

Already, improved multi-hazard early warning systems have led to a significant decrease in mortality. A World Meteorological Organization report found that deaths during natural disasters fell from 50,000 in the 1970s to less than 20,000 in 2010.

What has been missing too often in the ‘last mile’ of emergency management is communication. This focuses on alerting people and giving directions to rescuers through planned and agreed-upon operational procedures between the competent national authorities.

Realising this last mile is an important step in developing resilience to the effects of climate change. Today’s technologies make this possible by optimising emergency response, managing data, disseminating national or local alerts, ensuring privacy, and providing situational intelligence. At the same time, public warning platforms reduce the costs of emergency management and increase public safety by bridging the information gap between authorities and citizens through the use of fast, accurate emergency communication. This is central to the governmental development of risk resilience.

The UK is a Case In Point for Public Safety Technology

While the UK is no longer part of the EU, the government has continued with plans to equip itself with a warning system. This aligns with the regulatory push within the European Code of Electronic Communications Article 110. Earlier this month, the government announced its new life-saving public emergency alert system, which has been tested on the mobile networks of EE, O2 and Three, whose coverage represents the majority of UK mobile phone subscribers. This is powered by Everbridge Public Warning Cell Broadcast technology and will target the mobile phones of residents and visitors present in any area impacted by an emergency. At the time, Oliver Dowden, MP, said that the system was strengthening the UK’s national resilience to deal with various threats, from flooding to wildfires. He said that it would revolutionise the government’s ability to warn and inform people who are in immediate danger and help to keep them safe.

The new system leverages existing telecom infrastructure, with no opt-in required, to reach everyone within a geographic area to reduce disaster risk, support first responder communications, and analyse disaster communication effectiveness for subsequent mitigation activities. The platform is fully compliant with data privacy regulations, including GDPR. It allows public safety agencies to send an alert to any device within a few seconds without sharing any personal details, such as names or phone numbers.

From an economic point of view, the cost-benefit analysis indicates that having a modern public warning system in place today – enabling the coordination of multiple responses to each crisis scenario – reduces reconstruction, human and social costs by at least ten times.

As the UK has demonstrated, the technology is ready. Companies specialising in the sector are constantly investing in the development of platforms that improve the management of communication between key stakeholders at the local, regional, and national levels. The systems currently available handle alerting the public and continuity of communication in a bi-directional manner. It is this technology and the continued investment in it that is keeping the public safe.

Source: Open Access Government