There is a lot of angst in the public safety world about the extent to which officials can use the available technology to send out alerts in times of emergency.
The technology exists for geo-targeted messages to be sent to a specific group of people, but it isn’t being used in the public-safety sector, and officials say that is costing lives.
A solution, being deployed in some schools and other entities, mostly in California, is offered by a company called Titan Health and Security Technologies (HST), which has deployed its two-way emergency communication platform. The system allows for two-way communication to geo-targeted groups via text, email, robocall in real time and access to maps, safety procedures and other resources. It also allows for the use of augmented reality to get real situational awareness.
“The function I love is that when you have an emergency, you can request the status of any group,” said David Marcus, campus business manager at deToledo High School in Southern California. “The question you want to ask them is, ‘Are you safe or not safe?’ They message back that they are safe or not, and you can see on your cellphone where their location is.”
Another feature Marcus talked about is the broadcast feature, which allows chosen administrators to send broadcasts and choose among a number of groups who will receive the message. For instance, at deToledo, groups are delineated by grade of student, faculty and even parents of each grade of student.
Marcus said the school used the app during the recent wildfires to inform students and faculty about whether classes were canceled and what resources were available for help.
Vic Merjanian, founder and CEO of Titan HST, described the solution as “taking everything you need to quickly resolve an emergency and putting it in the palm of your hand.”
Merjanian described a story of a life saved by the app soon after it was deployed in a school where a student drank bleach in class to try to commit suicide. The teacher pressed the medical emergency button, which immediately notified the school principal and the 911 dispatch center. The principal arrived in 30 seconds and dispatch was able to begin giving the teacher instructions on how to save the student in under a minute.
“With this, you can bring in your administrators, who can lock down the site with one touch,” Merjanian said. “They can send out broadcast notifications, they can do safety status, you can find your people, you can look up emergency materials, phone numbers, site maps, training videos.”
One of the more recent developments was the deployment of augmented reality, which happened about a year ago. This feature allows the user to check on personnel, plotting their locations in real time and identifying which ones are safe and not safe.
“We work in a high-rise,” Merjanian said. “Emergency responders could walk up to our building, scan it and see where to send help.”
He cited the recent local wildfiresfires, where people retreated to their swimming pools to escape the flames and ended up dying of smoke inhalation as a situation in which the platform could have helped.
“It would have sent out localized broadcast messages via text, landline, app, Web — all these channels — and asked if people were safe,” he said. “The fire department could have scanned the hillsides and found those people and saved lives.”