Critical response

Terror is evolving. Once limited to hijacked planes and bomb vests, terrorists are resorting to ‘day-to-day’ resources such as rental cars and knives. These methods are more difficult to monitor, meaning that preparing for the unexpected is crucial.

Apr 20, 2017
By Nick Hawkins

Terror is evolving. Once limited to hijacked planes and bomb vests, terrorists are resorting to ‘day-to-day’ resources such as rental cars and knives. These methods are more difficult to monitor, meaning that preparing for the unexpected is crucial.

Nick Hawkins explains how communication and automated emergency management can help the emergency services evolve in line with changing terror tactics.

On Wednesday March 22, terror revisited London, with a direct attack on the Palace of Westminster. As the effects of the attack unravelled, emergency services worked in unison with police to treat the wounded.

The chances of being involved in a terrorist attack are incredibly remote, but for those in central London during the Westminster attack it would not have felt that way.

Despite its rarity, terror is evolving. Terrorists are resorting to ‘day-to-day’ resources, such as rental cars and knives, having realised they no longer need sophisticated explosives to take lives and spread fear.

These new methods are arguably more difficult to track. Preparing for the unexpected is crucial.

How can emergency services prepare for future crises?

Sophisticated communications technology can help unite emergency services during an incident, instruct citizens based on location and analyse activity for future attacks.

In the US, state governments use critical communications technology to communicate with residents when disaster happens. In many states, it is mandatory to share contact information with the local government.

Direct access to citizens’ details allows a mass notification approach in crises such as the Boston bombings. For example, the State of Florida used Everbridge, the critical communications platform, to manage public safety during Hurricane Matthew. As residents were forced to evacuate their homes and encounter unprecedented rainfall, wind, power outages and road closures, The State of Florida encouraged citizens to sign up for evacuation instructions and critical information sent via the platform.

With the threat of terror changing, the Government and emergency services will certainly consider the benefits critical communications technology can provide. For example, if the Government had a means of communicating with residents in a two-mile radius of Westminster Bridge, it could have locked down the area faster and prevented further pedestrians entering a potentially dangerous area.

The five pillars of critical communications

Central to the success of critical communications technology are five information exchange capabilities.

Emergency services can significantly improve crisis management if the following actions are implemented:

•Assess the impact of threats to the community or business through front-line and real time social intelligence, network information and weather feeds;

•Locate people, including emergency service personnel that may be on call and available or in the area of the attack;

•Automate incident response by incorporating standard operation procedures and communication protocols into response activities;

•Communicate effectively by notifying residents and employees on their preferred contact path/device, at the right time, with the information they need; and

•Analyse critical events to understand what can be learnt and therefore improved.

Power of multi-modal, critical communications platforms

Reliance on a single form of communication will not work during an emergency. It is important that police, ambulance and fire services – as well as the military – implement a multi-modal, critical communications platform to prioritise the safety of citizens and emergency personnel.

No communications channel can ever be 100 per cent reliable, 100 per cent of the time. Multi-modality transforms the speed at which people receive alerts. The most advanced critical communications platforms facilitate communication via more than 100 different communication devices and contact paths including, email, SMS, VoIP (voice over internet

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