By Mary Kate McGrath - January 15, 2020
Each year, public safety leaders face new security concerns, from rising rates of gun violence to increasingly frequent and destructive natural disasters. Rising to meet these challenges will require local officials and first responders to create comprehensive, forward-thinking safety plans, embracing new and innovative solutions. In order to better prepare to protect your community, it's important to note several key public safety predictions for 2020. Taking time to understand the strategies, organizations, and technologies at the forefront of the public safety field will help build a stronger, even more sustainable safety plan for the year.
Back in 2019, public safety teams across the United States took the opportunity to reflect on the prior year, and among new priorities were a rise in cybercrime, a nation-wide push for expanded 5G access or first-responder networks, and finding new, reliable forms of emergency communications. Moving forward, innovative technology is likely to once again be at the forefront of public safety practices, as new developments are made in the development and implementation of artificial intelligence, unmanned aerial systems, and high-speed networks.
From critical safety technology to shifting priorities around cybercrime, the next year will bring security and technology trends prepared safety teams should look out for.
New Technology Will Shape Emergency Response. Public safety tools have undergone a technological transformation in recent years, and these are likely to continue to shape emergency response moving forward. Find a few of the key tools that will are likely to be utilized by public safety teams in the next year:
Debate Over Controversial Tech Will Continue. In recent years, certain tools have come under scrutiny by the public, state and local governments, and activist organizations. For example, facial-recognition technology continues to raise concerns about implicit bias and limited effectiveness. In January, several communities in Massachusetts banned the use of facial recognition technology, and a bill in the statehouse would put a moratorium on facial-recognition software across the state. Critics of facial recognition cite studies showing that facial analysis technology often recreates racial and gender bias.
Also, despite a rise in AI tools for public safety purposes, social-media monitoring remains a controversial practice. While some view social-media monitoring as a necessary way to screen for active-shooter threats, critics raise concerns about privacy and data-storage. It’s unclear what the best practice for storing student data will be, and since the technology is relatively new, there is no legislation to regulate storage or use. Debate over the practical and ethical considerations of social media monitoring are likely to continue, unless privacy advocates, state & local governments, and individual organizations can reach an agreements on how and when the technology will be used.
Cybersecurity. In 2019, government agencies faced an unprecedented number of cyberattacks, and these incidents are on the rise. From infiltrating public records to disrupting medical facility operations, cybercrime will continue to pose a serious threat. In addition to potentially slowing down first response, a cyberattack can compromise public access to information, such as police logs or building permits. If a community is ill-prepared for a cyberattack, responding can be costly and time-consuming. For example, if a government office is hacked, compromised computers and other technology will need to be replaced.
Cybersecurity experts on the state and local level will need to prepare for increased number of threats in the next decade, and officials will need to put cybercrime at the forefront of security planning by hiring well-trained and digitally liteerate chief information security officers. Artificial Intelligence (AI) will play a big role in both cyberattacks and defense, according to Forbes. AI can learn to flag patterns of coincidence or behavior that suggests an attempted attack, but attackers can also learn to adapt to hide behavior and trick defense mechanisms.
Management of Vulnerable Residents Will Be Essential. In the wake of unprecedented natural disasters, public safety managers have focused efforts on emergency response for vulnerable communities. Back in 2018, officials in California were unable to sufficiently warn residents of fire-risks, especially those who might have had difficulty evacuating. Last year, the state struggled to keep residents informed about preventative power-outages, further compromising residents who need access to electrical medical equipment. California's struggle to meet vulnerable community's needs over the past several years demonstrate why first responders should implement an appropriate response plan for these individuals.
Creating a web-based, citizen-provided vulnerable needs database will continue to be a best-practice for state and local safety managers looking to keep their community safe. A vulnerable needs registry allows residents to volunteer data for analysis, planning and emergency response. Administrators can then send an emergency notification or message to an individual based on their need and location, and provide resident-targeted polls to adjust ongoing incident management to each resident's personal needs.
Technology Will Play A Greater Role In the Opioid Crisis. Moving forward, technology will play a greater role in curbing the opioid epidemic in communities across the United States, and alleviate the toll the crisis is taking on first responders. Analytics tools will be applied to better track patient patients and prescribing patterns, and by collaborating with policymakers tech-leaders are hoping to stop doctor-shopping or over-prescribing.
Critical Emergency Communication For Emergency Response. For every major concern - from an active shooter scenario to a wildfire - implementing a quick, effective emergency communication plan will continue to be of critical importance. A mass notification system with a range of capability can be a powerful tool for mitigating an emergency, no matter which issues end up at the top of your public safety checklist. By choosing a system with a full-range of capability - such as the ability to integrate with public address systems, sirens, or digital signance, and send out geo-targeted polling during a natural disaster, emergency managers can ensure that their first responders are prepared to meet any situation that might arise over the next year.
Mary Kate is a content specialist and social media manager for the Rave Mobile Safety team. She writes about public safety for the state & local and education spheres.
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