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Market for Disaster Management Tools Expands to Meet Need

As hurricanes, wildfires and earthquakes grow in strength and frequency, first responders are increasingly adopting new digital tools like drones and integrated dispatch systems to improve response.

drone flying over forested hills
Adobe Stock
A recent article in Emergency Management* featured the use of drones to patrol beaches in Atlantic City, N.J., to safeguard beachgoers from dangerous high tides and sharks. As drones become more affordable, their use will continue to evolve, playing a key role in emergency management and public safety, according to a recent survey by Verizon Frontline.

In that survey of 2,000 law enforcement officers, firefighters and emergency medical personnel, 43 percent said they expect that drones and other robotics will be in their response toolkit within five years. The most recent data from the Center for Digital Government* shows similar findings: 53 percent of cities and 49 percent of counties are currently using drones in some capacity.

San Antonio-based Darkhive recently won a defense contract to manufacture drones. Darkhive was formed to develop drones for the military and also to make the unmanned aerial vehicles more affordable for the public sector. It has tripled its workforce to evolve with the increased demand.

Indeed, drones are just one of several technologies currently available for public-sector disaster management, as agencies seek to add new tools to their arsenals in the face of increasingly extreme weather events and other emergency situations.

CAD-to-CAD, technology that connects computer-aided dispatch systems among first responder agencies, is an area that reflects a hot market, as its deployment in North Carolina to expand mutual aid suggests. CentralSquare Technologies joined forces with eight public safety agencies there to deploy the connective technology to improve responses to hurricanes and other incidents.

“By connecting agencies through real-time data sharing, North Carolina’s many agencies can act as one unit to deliver faster emergency response and more effective support for citizen safety regardless of borders or jurisdictions,” said Dara Brenner, chief product officer at CentralSquare, in a statement.

Geospatial technology has become critical for emergency management personnel in navigating a number of different scenarios, including wildfire warnings. The technology, such as Genasys Protect, divides areas into zones based on geography so that messages can be targeted to just those people who really need it. Officials can model the extent of the hazard and then select the areas they want to reach with mass notification.

Public safety agencies are increasingly seeking geospatial tools to add to their toolkits, and Versaterm Public Safety recently announced an integrated platform with geospatial company EagleView to give first responders and officials an eye in the sky with “orthogonal and oblique imagery,” meaning they can see top-down and side angle views of structures and roads.

Everbridge is a well-known commodity in the field of mass notification and dashboards, increasingly a space with massive competition that is fueling innovation. Everbridge 360 is a new dashboard that provides a “comprehensive, unified view” of critical collaboration and coordination tools.

Genetec is also a player in the space hoping to capitalize on the public sector’s need to integrate data from different systems in a single dashboard that provides an overview of data in a systems operations center or real-time crime center. The technology can improve service delivery and eliminate “black holes” of legacy systems for better, more actionable insights for public organizations, including schools, police departments and transit.

911inform has come out with a mass notification tool for schools that not only alerts school personnel of an emergency with a press of a button but also locks down the school grounds and sends a 911 call to police that includes maps and live video feeds from the campus.

This article is part of a series looking at the gov tech companies bringing their expertise to areas seeing major growth in the market, which originally appeared in the January/February 2024 issue of Government Technology magazine. Click here to view the full digital edition online.

*Emergency Management and the Center for Digital Government are both part of e.Republic, Government Technology's parent company.
Jim McKay is the editor of Emergency Management magazine.