Situational Awareness and IP Technology

Emergency Situation

Is it just me, or does it seem as if each morning we turn on the news only to find yet another incidence of first responders selflessly putting their lives on the line to remedy a situation? Some days it’s a man-made tragedy like a mass shooting or a hostage-taking, other times it’s an act of nature like a mud slide, sinkhole or a wildfire roaring out of control as it edges ever nearer to hillside homes.

We’re seeing the big picture, the situation from all angles, but have you ever thought about what it’s like for the individual responder, limited to only what his five senses tell him? That’s why situational awareness is of critical importance, and why it is important to make use of IP camera systems and other available technology to facilitate this awareness.

The Bubble

In its training materials, the United States Coast Guard defines situational awareness as:

“The ability to identify, process, and comprehend the critical elements of information about what is happening to the team with regards to the mission. More simply it’s knowing what is going on around you.” (That’s their italics)

Then they go on to elaborate “when we lose the bubble, i.e., situational awareness, we increase the potential for human error.”

Putting Situational Awareness into Action

Situational awareness depends on the synchronization of three components:

The People

First Responder

It is critical that those who need to make fast-paced, critical decisions get the right information, analyze it, and predict what may happen next. In most situations, several agencies are in the midst of things – police, fire, EMT’s, and maybe military. If the situation is to be brought to as safe a conclusion as possible, they must coordinate their courses of action.

The Technology

Having technology in place is the best way to…

  • Discover where things or people are
  • Gather information from several sources
  • Enable critical decision-making

IP Camera Systems

IP Camera

If mounted in a locked-down building, IP camera systems can allow responders to keep track of the whereabouts of an armed individual. If any wireless cameras are in place to observe wildlife in preserves or parks near a wildfire, they can be used to provide information as to the direction a fire is taking or its level of containment.

Thermal Imaging

Thermal imaging cameras, since they work by mapping images based on the detection of heat, do not require light like a conventional IP camera system. A thermal imaging camera would be of use in areas where dense smoke keeps out light. They would also be invaluable in a darkened building, as would I-R cameras.

Infrared cameras

Infrared Camera

IR cameras do require external light, the light supplied by infrared illuminators. Since this form of light is invisible to the human eye, it can be used in a dark building without the intruder being aware of its presence.

License Plate Recognition

License Plate Recognition Camera

A synchronized license plate recognition system can be used to identify any suspicious cars parked in the area. A license plate reader would record the number, extract the alpha-numeric information, and compare it to a database containing license plate numbers of suspected terrorists or traffic scofflaws. In addition, it may be possible to retrieve time-synchronized video of the car in question.

IP Network Attached Paging and Intercom

If a campus-wide PA over IP intercom system, which connects to the ethernet school system, is in palace SWAT teams could stay in contact with personnel in the school or even negotiate with the intruder.

PA over IP System
PA over IP System

The Process

Most courses of action that turn out to be erroneous can be blamed on a lack of, or lapse in, situational awareness. Because any emergency situation can change from second to second, it is important for responders to communicate with each other and stay connected to their technology. Kintronics has outfitted the military, police departments, fire departments, and municipalities of all sizes with IP camera systems. Should you need information about these, IP door access control or Emergency Paging over IP, call 914-944-3425 to speak to an engineer or fill out an information request form.