As we embark on the year 2018, it’s important to do a 2017 year in review of the most significant public safety events that quickly transformed the way we plan, respond and allocate resources before, during and after a crisis. 2017 was a trying year that tested public communities and first responders alike, and as a result, the new year shows promise for new public safety communication trends. Here is an incomplete list of major incidents that occurred in 2017 and resulted in change:
1. Sutherland Springs, TX Church Massacre – Soft Target Hardening: Protecting church soft targets is a top concern for public safety officials and houses of worship facility owners alike after a gunman murdered 26 people in the First Baptist Church of Sutherland, Texas on November 6, 2017.
2. The Opioid Crisis – First Responder PTSD: 2017 brought to light how the opioid crisis is taking a toll on the mental and physical health of first responders across the country, calling for more training and support groups.
3. Critical Infrastructure Security and Resilience Month – Protecting Vulnerable Populations: Declared by President Trump in November 2017, the focus on infrastructure resiliency for communities also highlighted the importance of including vulnerable populations in future planning efforts. A constant struggle for public safety officials is maintaining vulnerable population databases and in some cases, they have access to better data for infrastructure assets over local residents.
4. National Mental Illness Awareness Week – Mental Health Crisis: An annual event in October focuses on the awareness of mental illness. Public safety officials and communities from all over the nation spend a week participating in activities to help fight the mental illness stigma.
5. Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria – Severe Weather Resilience: the 2017 hurricane season devastated several communities in Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico. Public safety officials went into high gear pulling together evacuation orders, rescuing people stranded in their homes or vehicles and treating hurt victims.
While these incidents carry some heartache and self-reflection, the public safety industry has and to be hard at work to make individuals and communities safer. Ensuring that our industry stays ahead of the curve with key technologies and procedures will continue to be of the upmost importance as we head into 2018.
2018 Public Safety Communication Trends
After reflecting on 2017 events, Rave Mobile Safety CEO Todd Piett spoke about the shift in public safety communication trends and changes in the security industry as a whole going into the year ahead:
Crowdsourcing and engagement
It is not uncommon for witnesses to withhold information because they are afraid of potential backlash, but simply by giving people the opportunity to share details in a secure and confidential manner can quickly eliminate any fears. These tips are invaluable to public safety officials, whether they are of a sensitive nature or provide eye witness accounts. By promoting safe and secure lines of communication such as two-way texting, it can prevent victims or witnesses from feeling judged when sharing critical information.
Private and rapid communication
Securing information during emergencies requires that officials provide private lines of communication that are easily accessible to approved individuals. Unfortunately, sometimes those that come to support during an event or major disaster are not always looking to help, but rather prey on those who are in a sensitive situation. Because of this, it is important for the public to have reliable lines of communication with the necessary personnel.
Improved collaboration across silos
The development of FirstNet certainly serves as an example that the public safety industry is implementing communication systems that are secure and collaborative. Although communication between different states and safety organizations will become better, there is still a big disconnect between officials and individuals or victims on-site during an emergency. Without schools or corporations granted access to government communication networks, response times will be held up behind traditional boundaries. In the new year, we expect that some of these communications will start to open up, through mobile communications, text 911 offerings and more.
The public safety industry hit a tipping point in 2017, shining a light on the fact that emergency events are no longer just single incidents. Whether the events are spread out across several locations or are done through unorthodox methods, teams from every part of the public safety sector have identified the importance of coming together to provide better outcomes in the future.
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