Texting 9-1-1 Proves Lifesaving in Family Violence Cases

family violence

Texting 9-1-1 Proves Lifesaving in Family Violence Cases

Written by Jackson Lucas, Rave Mobile Safety
Published on October 17, 2017

Victims of family violence often fear they will put themselves at greater risk of harm by making a phone call and verbally communicating with 9-1-1. It has become clear that the majority of victims will opt to communicate silently with authorities via text message if the option is available.

Community leaders can and should be doing more to educate, support, and protect their people from family violence. Technology like 9-1-1 SMS texting is one method of protection worth considering. There have been dozens of cases where 9-1-1 texting has proved life-saving in domestic violence situations. The following stories form a small sample of these instances.

Mother Protects Children from Raging Husband

West Olive, Michigan 

In Ottawa County, a 9-1-1 dispatcher received an incoming call from a local resident who immediately hung up the phone. The dispatcher decided to cross reference the dropped phone number with their call records to try and determine an address. The dispatcher assumed the call was likely an accidental dial, but past experiences taught her that something more serious could be happening. The dispatcher initiated a Chat session, an SMS texting conversation available through the Rave 911 Suite, to determine if an emergency was occurring and if help was needed by the dropped caller.

The reply text message from the caller informed 9-1-1 there was an emergency and help was needed immediately. The woman said her husband was “on drugs and raging”, threatening the safety of their entire family. She continued to inform dispatch that her children were also inside the home, frightened by their father’s mental and physical state. The dispatcher continued to communicate with the woman via text message and informed her responding officers were on their way and to stay safe until they arrived. When officers arrived at the scene, the woman and children were found safe hiding inside the home. The husband had no knowledge that 9-1-1 had been contacted, which likely ensured the family’s safety. Had the husband known that his wife had called for help and was communicating with emergency responders, this family violence situation may not have ended on a fortunate note.

Father Saves Daughter From Abusive Boyfriend

Grand Rapids, Michigan 

In Michigan, a 9-1-1 call came in from a distressed father to report his daughter’s boyfriend was becoming violent and threatening to kill her.  Unfortunately, this was not the first time this woman’s life had been in danger – she’d been a victim of domestic assault many times in the past. The father advised 9-1-1 that his daughter was currently with her belligerent boyfriend and feared he would follow through with his threats. She felt too unsafe to call 9-1-1 herself but was able to text her father that she was in danger. Kent County 9-1-1 dispatchers decided to initiate a texting conversation with the daughter and hoped she would be able to provide them with the necessary information to send help as quickly as possible.

The daughter was unable to respond to 9-1-1 dispatchers for an unknown reason but likely feared her boyfriend seeing the texting conversation.  She was able to continue texting her dad critical information that he was able to relay back to Kent County 9-1-1 dispatch through SMS. The situation continued to escalate when the boyfriend threatened to slit the daughter’s throat and throw her down the stairs. The daughter told her father she feared there wasn’t much time and she needed help right away. To make matters worse, there were children in the home as well and the daughter feared for their safety too.

Fortunately, the information exchanged between the family violence victim and her father allowed police officers and first responders to locate and rescue the woman along with the other children in the home. Responding officers immediately arrested the assaulter and took him into custody.

Woman Assaulted by Husband Unable to Speak to 911

Hot Springs, Arkansas 

An incoming 9-1-1 call was transferred to Garland County 911 late one night that detailed a woman was being actively assaulted by her husband. The assaulting husband was so violent against his wife that her injuries disabled her ability to speak verbally to 9-1-1 dispatchers. The husband was reportedly coming in and out of the room, continuing to verbally and physically assault his wife. During one of his short absences, the woman was able to come on the phone and in an inaudible whisper say her husband had left the room. Unsure of when he would return, the woman agreed that she would be able to communicate via text message. The responding dispatchers then advised the woman to hang up for her own safety and immediately initiated an SMS texting conversation with the assault victim using the Rave 911 Suite Chat feature.

The woman was able to safely provide important information to 9-1-1 through text, including her current location, her name, and the name of her attacker. Responding officers arrived on the scene with the information they needed to rescue the woman safely and take her husband into custody.

What You Can Do

More than 10 million Americans are victims of domestic and family violence annually. 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men will be victims of some form of physical abuse by an intimate partner during their lifetime. Here are 4 ways you can protect yourself, your loved ones, and the people in your community from family violence.

Spot the Warning Signs Early: If you suspect someone you know is being abused, speak up! Expressing concern and offering support may be what they need to seek help. If you are not sure what to look for, or if you are unsure whether or not you might be in an abusive situation, start by recognizing the signs.

Educate the Public: Make sure your community is aware of various resources that are available to victims of domestic abuse. Where can victims go if they are seeking safe shelter? What are some discreet ways victims can report abuse? Programs such as Green Dot work to educate school-aged children, young adults, and various communities about bystander training and violence prevention. Continue to build awareness campaigns in your local communities and work together with community advocacy groups.

Protect Your Victims: Many domestic violence victims feel alone and confused. Victims feel as though they have nowhere to turn for help. Start by recognizing their courage when they confide in you. Be patient and comforting. Victims may be hesitant to come forward because they may fear retaliation from their abuser. Believe their story and protect them.

Empower 9-1-1 Dispatchers and First Responders: Individuals seeking help during a domestic violence incident often feel verbal communication with 9-1-1 can escalate an assault. Many victims say they feel more comfortable communicating silently via text message. 9-1-1 call takers can use the Chat feature of the Rave 911 Suite to initiate a two-way conversation via text message to collect information and dispatch units to send help. First responders can also be trained to spot the signs of physical violence while on standard medical calls and provide help before another assault occurs.

The National Domestic Violence Hotline

Contact: 1-800-799-7233 or visit www.thehotline.org

 

 

 

The One Mind Campaign and Community Engagement at IACP 2017

one mind campaign community engagement

Why the One Mind campaign and community engagement strategies are sure to dominate the conversation at IACP 2017

Written By Sean Lauziere, Rave Mobile Safety

 

IACP stands for the International Association of Chiefs of Police – it is an annual conference held this year in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

This weekend, police chiefs from across the globe will convene at the annual conference for International Association of Chiefs of Police. The agenda will include strategies for officers to improve their response to calls involving mental health issues through the One Mind Campaign. Other sessions will speak on community engagement and forming tighter knit relationships with residents and sadly, some sessions will have an open discussion on how to respond to active shooters and mass casualty incidents such as the tragedy that unfolded in Las Vegas.

For Rave, the annual conference is an opportunity to learn from the men and women that oversee police forces across the country, and it also provides us with the chance to demonstrate how Rave’s 911 enhancing solution, the Rave911 Suite, can play in integral role in addressing the issues discussed throughout the conference. There are a couple of sessions and topics in particular that I am particularly excited to sit in on, and they focus around two common themes; Community Engagement, and the One Mind Campaign.

Community Engagement  

One thing that struck me about this year’s schedule is the focus on improving community relations by facilitating dialogue between residents and the officers that protect and serve. Community policing strategies have dramatically impacted the way officers interact with members of the public, and Rave has been at the forefront of enabling the exchange of life-saving information in emergency situations. Whether a family inputs a detailed medical history or simply provides a dispatchable address, the Rave911 Suite’s ability to present critical information leads to a more effective response. This is a crucial way to develop a stronger relationship with families and individuals, and helps paint a more holistic picture of the community. For example, the understanding that a family has a child with autism in the home and may have some additional concerns when dialing 9-1-1, or knowing when the person on the other end of the phone suffers from clinical depression and is on antidepressants represents information as the first step toward building trust and improving relationships in towns and cities across the country.

The One Mind Campaign

For me, the most exciting conversations this year will include the One Mind Campaign. One Mind is an innovative approach that will help bridge the gap between law enforcement and those who suffer from a mental illness. One Mind hopes to provide enhanced training, encourage partnerships with mental health organizations, and outline a more comprehensive approach to mental health emergency response.

Today, 264 agencies across the country have taken the pledge, and their commitment will improve outcomes during these high stress calls, and foster a better line of communication between members of the community who suffer from a mental illness and the police who risk their lives each day in service to their communities. Rave has spent a lot of time understanding the needs of those with a mental illness, and the challenges faced by first responders during these emergency situations. That research can be found in our whitepaper on Police and the US Mental Health Crisis.

Rave has also worked with nonprofit organizations to raise awareness for the Rave911 Suite. In states like Michigan, Arkansas, and Delaware, where the Rave911 Suite is available on a statewide basis, there are a number of cases where residents were able to engage more effectively with first responders by taking personal safety into their own hands. By signing up today at Smart911.com, you can provide information on you or your loved one’s mental health status, identify any medications you may be taking, and even list your caregiver as an emergency contact so that they can be contacted in an emergency. The information you input is only visible during a 9-1-1 call and can provide first responders with critical knowledge that enables a more effective response during emergencies. This technology offers a way to enact the goals of the One Mind campaign by taking the training that officers receive and combining it with critical data that. If responders can identify a resident with a mental health issue quickly, it will allow for a more informed and effective intervention and response.

Conclusions

IACP is a whirlwind show, and with so many educational sessions and events, it’s a unique opportunity to understand what law enforcement officials across the country have on their mind. This way, we might better understand how Rave fits into the larger picture of emergency response and community safety.  One thing I do know is that Rave will remain at the forefront of leveraging new technology to improve community engagement and mental health response. We will also continue to support the One Mind campaign, and other initiatives improve relationships between members of the community and the police departments dedicated to protecting the residents that depend on them.

Be sure to come see us at Booth #1649 and learn how Rave can partner with your law enforcement and first responder agencies to protect residents and improve emergency response of all types.

 

Why UX Matters When Seconds Count

why UX mattersWhy UX Matters When it Comes to Critical Safety Communications

User experience (UX) is the study of how someone interprets and engages with an interface. When it comes to product development here at Rave for our mass notification and panic button systems, one of the most important processes – next to performance – is the application of sound UX principles into the design of our apps.

“Why UX matters” is a critical concept and one everyone in the public safety industry should consider. While coding, performance, security, and other factors behind a safety app are necessary to ensure a user can send a notification to the right audience, or make a panic call in the nick of time, if the user can’t visually identify and make sense of the interface, quickly, while possibly under tremendous stress, it will defeat the entire purpose.

Designing an app should start with first understanding and hierarchically ranking its primary goals. From there, we can incorporate four key elements into our design process to promote a successful user experience.

1. Determine All Possible Use Cases and Situations

The concept of why UX matters starts with the user. What are the most common situations in which a user would use a particular application? Many times, this needs to begin with field research and other forms of study, such as targeted focus groups. For Rave Panic Button, we were able to boil it down to five types of emergencies: Active Shooter (or other type of active assailant), Fire, Medical, Police Needed, and other 911 emergencies. While there might be other emergency types such as a chemical spill, streamlining by common situations provides a cleaner user interface.

All emergencies are serious and require perfectly tuned crisis communication; however, the Active Shooter button is separated in the interface by a different color, position, and size than the other buttons. The idea is that this emergency type would be the one that could potentially send the user into the highest state of panic, so having that button be the most abundantly clear and accessible is important.

2. Weigh Human Factors Heavily

When people are unexpectedly faced with an emergency, the “10/80/10 rule of survival” usually applies, where only 10 percent react, eighty percent don’t know how to respond, and the final 10 percent shut down completely. Therefore, as 90% of people will experience physical and mental limitations due to an overdrive in their sympathetic nervous system, the design of an interface utilized in such situations must be deeply considered. Accounting for factors such as decreased mobility or dexterity, both physical and mental, the design will need to support a simple, minimalistic user interface, with large call-to-action (CTA) buttons labeled with abundant clarity.

Why UX matters when it comes to labeling items like CTA buttons is critical. Think of labeling CTA buttons in three virtual languages:

1) the primary language of the target audience,
2) iconography (icons/visual aids), which has evolved into a language in itself thanks to social media and modern cell phones, and
3) the words that are read to a visually impaired user who has his/her device in accessibility mode.

By applying these three simple principles for our Rave Panic Button app, for instance, a user in an active shooter situation will be able to open the app and quickly activate the active shooter button – the single button activation feature allows the app user to launch a facility-wide alert, initiate an emergency call to 9-1-1, and seek refuge at the same time.

3. Enable Efficiency and Accessibility

Making safety apps user-friendly goes beyond designing for different screen sizes and operating systems. Contrasting colors can be used to draw more attention to components that require the most attention or that will affect immediate next steps. Here at Rave, we measure this using a tool designed to evaluate contrast effectiveness and ratio.

Remember the yellow box at the beginning of this page?

Black font on a yellow background is among the most visually noticeable combinations on the planet. When Rave Panic Button is activated by an app user, a 9-1-1 operator immediately sees a window pop up on one of their five or six screens with a similar yellow box, alerting them to the emergency type and location.

While having as many visual aids as possible is a very sound practice, good UX design has to go beyond the visuals.

Rave’s Smart911 service, for example, is used by over 43 million US residents, and as such, testing for web accessibility is imperative. Some of our users, who are blind or are visually-impaired, use Job Access With Speech (JAWS) screen reader software. We conducted user testing with The Carroll Center for the Blind in Newton, Massachusetts to optimize screen reader compatibility for what could be a life-saving tool for its users in the event of an emergency. The importance of this extra step in designing Smart911.com can be summed up by the Carroll Center’s Accessibility Services Manager, Bruce Howell, who states, “When designing and coding are not done with accessibility best practices, many potential users are prevented from enjoying the full potential of the product or service.” He’s right.

Understanding why UX matters goes beyond the typical or target user. In Rave’s case, for instance, it is critically important for our services to support a simple interface experience for emergency management and first responders — through our simple interface, we enable a faster response to 911 callers.

4.  Anticipate Human Error

30% of 911 calls are attributed to pocket dialing, and with safety apps on touch-sensitive phones, it can be even easier to accidently send a false activation. Built-in protections such as a slide-lock or press-and-hold activation strongly decrease the likelihood of a false activation, but again, design should also consider if they might hinder the ability to send real activations. As with so many things in life, it’s a balance, and the answer is somewhere in the middle.

 

Learn More About Why UX Matters

The UX design process for safety apps is complex, but necessary. By incorporating these four elements into our design processes, we strive for the end result to be a safe and happy user. Find out how Rave’s safety apps can help your community today.

Breakdown of Four Emerging Trends in Corporate Risk Management

corporate risk management trends

 

Four Emerging Trends in Corporate Risk Management

 

“The corporate security landscape for 2018 will focus on identifying realistic needs and aligning them with the right tools to build a robust workplace security and safety program.”

– DON AVIV, CPP, PSP, PCI, CHIEF OPERATING OFFICER INTERFOR, INTERNATIONAL

 


Don Aviv, a 20-year veteran in the security field, presented a webinar on four emerging trends in corporate risk management. Here’s a quick overview of his main points and how corporate leaders can implement a more effective and realistic corporate security program.

To start, Don lays out the four emerging trends in corporate risk management.

 

Trend #1: Successful Deployment of Corporate Security Systems 

Don argues that before deploying security systems, corporations should think twice before spending money on bells and whistles of security technology upgrades. The temptation to spend on frills is due to a misaligned vision of security needs; security budgets should instead keep pace with real security risks such as disgruntled employees. Long-term security planning is critical and should consider total cost of ownership, including ongoing maintenance, add-ons and additional hardware and software tools.

Watch clip 1 of 4 to learn more about successful deployment of security systems.

 

Trend #2: Improved Awareness of Workplace Violence and Response

Don reminds us that a huge misconception with workplace violence is that it only involves active shooter incidents. While active shooter incidents invoke the most fear, other types of workplace violence are far more common. Don provides supporting workplace violence statistics.

Because of the diversity of incidents and unique needs of each organization, Don recommends developing a custom security training program focused on prevention and not reaction. Traditional “run, hide, fight” guidelines don’t apply to all organizations and settings. Customized approaches to security will help meet an organization’s specific needs, threats and vulnerabilities.

Watch clip 2 of 4 to learn more about the importance of customized security programs.

 

Trend #3: Protecting the Lone Employee

Another major trend in corporate risk management is protecting lone employee, defined by Don as any employee that travels or works from a home office. Whether in the office or in a remote location, corporations still are responsible to protect lone employees. While statistics show that the number of lone employees will grow to 105 million in 2020, many corporations have insufficient resources to deal with this situation. Don also points out that ROIs exist for protecting lone employees and can be accomplished with straight-forward technology-focused tools and ongoing training.

Watch clip 3 of 4 to learn more about protecting the lone employee.

 

Trend #4: Enhancing Employee Communication

Rave Mobile Safety’s Product Manager, David Batastini, stepped in at this point to close the webinar and speak about the importance of enhancing communication between employers and employees. His main message is

that the better corporations can communicate with employees the better corporations can mitigate workplace threat vector incidents.

David talks about traditional reactions that happens when a workplace incident occurs: the event takes place, corporate leaders try to find out if their employees were present and if so, they try to figure out how to communicate with them by scrambling through various sources such as travel itineraries. By using tools that put one-touch communication in the hands of employees with critical communications platforms such as Rave Alert and Rave Guardian, corporations can better respond to security threats.

Watch clip 4 of 4 to learn more about opportunities for enhanced communication between employers and employees.

Want to learn more?

The full recording of the webinar is only 28 minutes long, but includes additional tips on corporate risk management and the full Q&A session. Check it out here or let us know if you’re interested in attending more webinars.

The Reality of Mental Health Emergency Response in the U.S.

 

Why Mental Illness Awareness Week Matters to First Responders

Written by Mary Kate McGrath, Rave Mobile Safety

 

In October, the National Alliance on Mental Illness and other wellness organizations will participate in Mental Illness Awareness Week (MIAW). The event takes place from October 1-7th, and was established to raise awareness about mental illness. Over the course of the week, organizations and individuals will help fight the mental illness stigma, support those affected by mental illness in their search for help, and push for equal healthcare. Many will get involved during MIAW, and for law enforcement and other public safety officials, the initiative shouldn’t be overlooked.

The Burden of Mental Health Underfunding

The United States is in a mental health crisis. Over 40 million men and women suffer from some form of mental illness and public health institutions and treatment centers are universally underfunded. The number of individuals coming forward with mental illness or addiction struggles continues to increase, as cuts to psychiatric treatment centers and other resources also rise. Without the proper resources, when the more serious symptoms of a mental health emergency kick in, a person’s behavior might be mistaken as erratic or dangerous, leading to the incarceration of nearly 2 million people per year instead of sending them to a designated treatment facility. As a result, law enforcement is often the only available resource for those experiencing a mental health emergency.

A Better Mental Health Emergency Response

Many public officials have started to recognize the effects of the burdensome mental health system and have taken steps to reform police response to a mental health emergency. The One Mind Campaign started by the International Association of Chiefs of Police hopes to encourage successful interactions between law enforcement and people struggling with mental illness. Nearly 180 police departments from around the nation have joined the campaign and have committed to establishing four practices over a 12-36 month time. These practices are straightforward, and the plan for implementation can be adapted to suit state and local agencies.

1. Establish a clear relationship with local mental health organizations. There are national organizations like NAMI and Active Minds that spearhead campaigns in local areas, but independent organizations can be found in local communities as well.

2. Develop and implement a model policy addressing police response to persons affected by mental illness.

3. Consider an additional 9-1-1 information service to provide call takers and first responders with more insight into the mental state of a 9-1-1 caller and how to best approach the situation before arriving at the scene.

4. Train and certify 100% of your agency’s sworn officers (and non-sworn in staff such as emergency dispatchers) in Mental Health First Aid for Public Safety. For more information, or to sign up for a First Aid class, visit: https://www.mentalhealthfirstaid.org/i-pledge/.

5. Provide crisis intervention classes for at least 20 percent of your agency’s sworn staff (and non-sworn in staff such as emergency dispatchers) to better prepare members to de-escalate situations in the field.

Join the Fight Against Mental Illness Stigma

Use this MIAW to look into resources to improve response to mental health emergencies and build awareness. Consider joining the One Mind campaign, leveraging technology that can help provide critical information before an interaction between first responders and someone with a mental health illness, or create your own mental health awareness program. Be sure to spread the word on social media using #IntoMentalHealth through the week of October 1st.

New CBS Series “Wisdom of the Crowd” Features Real Safety Technology

wisdom of the crowd emergency safety management technology

Is TV Catching on to Modern Emergency Safety Management Technology?

By Mary Kate McGrath, Rave Mobile safety

Wisdom of the Crowd

A new fictional crime-fighting show is coming to CBS on Sunday nights, and it will feature crowd-source tools in use today by emergency safety management leaders. In the series, Wisdom of the Crowd, a technology mogul invents a crowd-sourcing app in the hope of solving his daughter’s murder. The tool ends up being a valuable asset to law enforcement and will help solve future crimes. While the show is bound to be a dramatization of law enforcement procedures, it demonstrates a growing awareness of how public safety officers are investing in technology.

The Current Use of Crowd-Sourced Crime-Fighting

Emergency management teams already use tools reminiscent of the crowd-sourcing app featured in the show, and 2-Way Anonymous Tip Texting is becoming a necessity in community safety plans. In the past, emergency responders would allow citizens to call in anonymously. However, statistics show that people, especially millennials, are more comfortable using a text format and therefore more likely to report crimes if this option is available.

Some law enforcement agencies have had an early start in adopting these technologies. In 2008, the New York City Police Station installed a program where citizens could text the word CRIME (or 274637) and initiate a conversation with the department’s Detective Bureau. When the program was launched, Police Chief Paul J. Browne told the New York Times that teenagers and young adults in particular, often prefer to communicate via SMS text rather than speaking to each other face to face. Browne said, “That might appeal to someone who wants to provide [law enforcement] information in a text form as opposed to talking.”

In the Wisdom of the Crowd, the “Sophe” app will involve citizens in the law enforcement process, making it an even more realistic depiction of today’s emergency safety practices. The show is expected to offer genuine insight into how public safety organizations can continue to embrace technology to protect citizens.

The Benefits of Modern Crime Fighting Tools

Crowd-sourced information is invaluable in situations where an individual feels uncomfortable speaking on the phone. Communicating via app can be discrete and allows law enforcement to respond to crimes that might have otherwise gone unreported or unresolved. An example of such a resource is an app called Rave Eyewitness, which streamlines the communication process for both public safety managers and residents. Because the tips are submitted anonymously through the system, residents don’t have to worry about protecting their phone number and privacy. It also displays usage and incident patterns over time for dispatchers, providing insight into the public’s needs.

According to CEO and co-founder of Rave Mobile Safety, Todd Piett, this app technology empowers individuals to participate in personal and community safety. “Rates of engagement rise significantly when people are given the ability to make anonymous reports,” Piett said. “Voicemail boxes have been replaced with smartphone apps or SMS tip solutions that allow users to submit pictures or even stream videos of emerging situations to security from their mobile phones.”

When it comes to trends in community preparedness and large-event safety, technology also plays a key role. In addition to crowd-sourcing mobile applications, public safety officials also leverage social media and temporary SMS System Opt-in systems to enable faster communication with the public if necessary. These modern practices prove essential for large events such as concerts, sports games, and community events. In preparation for large and high profile events, law enforcement will often monitor social media before the event as a way to determine the approximate number of people attending and identify potential threats. The Wisdom of the Crowd will likely touch on the use of crowd-sourced crime information at large-scale public events.

The Turning Point for TV and Modern Crime-Fighting Tools

The Wisdom of the Crowd brings up an important quandary facing law enforcement today. Public officials need to develop comprehensive safety management strategies that won’t alienate the community, and technology could be the answer. Crowd-sourced information enables law enforcement to cultivate a level of trust and dependence with the public, as users are directly engaged in the law practices thus enabling a heightened sense of transparency.

As new technologies become a reality for public safety officials across the country, we expect them to appear on television more often as well. The world is changing – law enforcement and TV shows alike are adapting to today’s technological advancements – and the exciting new series Wisdom of the Crowd is just one example of that.

Disaster Response Challenges for Coastal Communities

disaster responseCourtesy of the Chicago Tribune

The Challenges of Disaster Response for Communities Living on the Coast

Written by Jackson Lucas, Rave Mobile Safety
Published on September 28, 2017

Houston’s Urban Development Strategy Backfires

It has been almost a month since Hurricane Harvey devastated parts of South Texas by dumping staggering rainfall over metropolitan Houston — almost 50 inches in some areas — in an event the National Weather Service has called “unprecedented”.  Harvey was the most extreme rain event in Texas history, challenged only by tropical storm Allison back in June of 2001, and scientists are pointing to rainfall measurements as an example of increased storm intensity. The frequency and strength of tropical storms are challenging Houston’s risk assessment and disaster management strategies, forcing many residents to put pressure on local government officials and city planners to update emergency protocols. The Memorial Day Flood of 2015, the Tax Day Flood of 2016, and most recently Hurricane Harvey have all exposed Houston’s structural vulnerabilities.

Houston metropolitan, which is located in the greater Harris County area, has experienced rapid population growth over the past two decades and is now the 4th largest city in the United States. Infamous for weak zoning regulations and unchecked development, Houston has continued to overdevelop flood-absorbing prairie lands in order to support its almost 6 million residents. There is a lot of undeveloped green space outside Houston’s metropolitan boundary.  Because these prairies and wetlands are located in designated floodplain zones, their value is cheap. This has encouraged land redevelopment for commercial and residential use and unfortunately has left many Houstonians vulnerable to extreme rainfall events.

While the expansion of Houston’s metropolitan boundary has kept real estate prices and population density low, it has resulted in expansive urban sprawl. Between 1996 and 2011, impervious surfaces in the Houston area increased 25%. Sewer systems and river systems are currently overwhelmed and unable to absorb heavy rainfall, inadvertently directing water to unsuspecting residential subdivisions.

Houston has seen more urban flooding than any other area in the country over the past 40 years, said Sam Brody, Texas A&M scientist and urban planner. A significant number of buildings that have flooded over the past 15 years reside outside the FEMA -designated 100-year floodplain, an area considered to have a 1% of flooding in a given year. Becuase of their location, these structures are not required to obtain flood insurance. For many uninsured residents, extreme rainfall events catch them off guard and unprepared.

There are natural solutions that can mitigate heavy rainfall. Wetlands and prairies naturally absorb water in their soils. When these landscapes are allowed to function properly, floodwaters can spread out and slowly seep into the ground. Unlike paved roads and parking lots that immediately force water runoff into nearby drainage systems, wetlands and prairies can hold water for weeks.

disaster response
Katy Prairie, located just west of downtown Houston, was once 600,000 acres of flood-mitigating grasslands. Today that land has been reduced to less than a quarter of its original size.

Scientists agree that protecting green space and tightening development regulations in floodplain zones is crucial for mitigating heavy rainfall and floods. Jim Blackburn, professor of environmental law at Rice University, points to studies that show prairies can absorb as much as 11 inches of rain per hour. Comparatively, Blackburn says Houston’s current drainage system is designed to clear out only 12 to 13 inches of rain per 24-hour period. Officials and urban planners in Houston need to rewrite current zoning policy to include recommendations made by environmental scientists to ensure that continued urban growth is sustainable and acts to protect residents.

Some Policymakers Are Choosing Not to Collaborate

As Houston continues to grow in population and severe rainfall events become more frequent, it’s imperative that zoning policies and land use plans recognize the challenges of urban sprawl. Unfortunately, some city officials disagree with scientists and urban planners who argue land development should focus on preserving green space and managing urban growth. Instead, officials are ignoring these recommendations and are opting to spend millions of dollars retrofitting old drainage systems and widening bayous. When questioned about this decision to update existing infrastructure, disaster response management coordinators admitted that these fixes would not protect Houstonians against another Tax Day Flood but chose to continue the facelifts anyways.

Mike Talbott, longtime head of Houston’s flood control district, disagrees with scientific evidence that shows unchecked development is damaging to community health. Talbott says he has no plans to study climate change or its impact on Harris County, ignoring evidence presented by climate scientist and urban planners. Talbott has also critiqued scientists and conservationists for being “anti-development” and says “their agenda to protect the environment overrides common sense”. In a 2015 study by Talbott’s own Harris County flood control district, data does indeed point to the effectiveness of prairie grasses at absorbing floodwater and concludes that “the restoration of 1 acre of prairie would offset the extra volume of runoff impact of about 2 acres of a single-family subdivision, or about 1 acre of commercial or retail development.”

disaster response
Interstate 69 is covered by floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey in Humble, Texas

To be clear, simply preserving Houston’s green space will not protect residents from the next severe rainfall event. Houston is naturally prone to flooding: it’s flat, built along the coast, and is influenced by the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico. According to Phil Bedient, professor of environmental engineering at Rice University, “Houston is the most flood-prone city in the United States. No one is even a close second – not even New Orleans.” It is crucial that city planners and local officials recognize how current infrastructure failures are negatively impacting community health and how they must rethink current disaster response management protocol. Tightening development regulations to preserve green spaces and protecting residents who live in poorly zoned communities is a first step in establishing proactive, rather than reactive, community safety. Collaboration amongst policy makers and scientists is necessary to ensure future development projects are multifaceted, protecting both the economic incentives of urban expansion and the people who live there.

Superstorm Sandy Catches New England with Empty Wallets

Scientists worry changes in the frequency and intensity of severe weather events are linked to climate change and are likely to worsen over time. Preliminary evidence supports scientists who say climate change is impacting the Atlantic tropical storm season, meaning New England may become more susceptible to tropical storms in the future. Unfortunately, coastal management protocol along the eastern United States was built without factoring in severe tropical storm landfall events. This leaves numerous coastal communities unprepared and vulnerable. Infrastructure here is not built to withstand storm surges of Sandy’s magnitude and disaster response management teams are not equipped financially to handle rebuilding efforts after the storm has passed.

disaster response
Hurricane Sandy damage in Ortley Beach, N.J.

A 2013 study by the U.S. Department of Commerce provided estimates of the total damage inflicted by superstorm Sandy to impacted communities. New Jersey and New York estimated a combined $78.9 billion in infrastructure damages, far less than the $50.5 billion Congress ultimately approved from the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act. To make matters worse, the $50.5 billion approval was not granted in one lump sum, but to be spread out over the next decade. In the meantime, coastal communities across New England will be forced to allocate money from elsewhere in their budgets to cover these damages. But what can local and state officials do? One answer is to learn from those who have experienced similar disasters, such as Louisiana and the United States’ gulf coast.

Hurricane Katrina Forces Louisiana to Reflect, Rebuild, and Reinvent Itself

Since hurricane Katrina devasted New Orleans in fall of 2005, Louisiana has become a new model for coastal management and regularly hosts visitors from around the world who wish to learn from their resiliency efforts.  State Congressman Garret Graves has been instrumental in fostering this new internal innovation and aims to increase collaboration across governmental agencies in order to streamline coastal restoration projects. Prior to Hurricane Katrina, Graves said that Louisiana was largely subservient to the Army Corps of Engineers, the federal entity charged with building and maintaining our country’s coasts and waterways. Local officials became frustrated with the bureaucratic red tape that surrounded federal disaster relief aid. While state officials waited for federal aid, Louisiana residents remained vulnerable to the next impending disaster.

After Hurricane Katrina devastated much of the Louisiana coast, Graves said there was a lot of reorganizing. Officials started to allocate state funds for future coastal mitigation projects and strengthening their own internal capabilities to push back against the strict regulations and wait time imposed under federal assistance. Coastal communities around the country, including New York and New Jersey, can learn from Graves to increase their own self-sufficiency and be proactive in storm preparedness.

How You Can Protect Your Community

Disaster relief efforts are failing at all levels of the government because they are fundamentally reactive– a necessary response to a catalyst. Current disaster response management protocols fail to help residents prepare in advance because policies focus too much on rebuilding efforts and ignore proactive planning for future incidents. This type of thinking is dangerous to community health because it serves to protect some parts of the population while leaving others exposed and vulnerable. Minority, disabled, and elderly populations are adversely affected by community disasters at proportionally higher rates than their wealthier, able-bodied counterparts. It is crucial for emergency managers to proactively engage with all members of their community, including lower-class residents and those who identify as having access and functional needs. To do this, city officials can establish a special needs registry and determine who is likely to require additional pre and post-storm assistance. This proactive thinking can also determine zones of risk, such as which residents live in areas prone to flooding, and can guide disaster relief funds allocations more effectively.

As the accuracy of climate modeling continues to improve, many legislators and disaster response management supervisors should be looking towards climate scientists for answers. If scientists can predict where tropical storms will make landfall, urban planners and city officials can rethink their coastal management strategies. Accurate storm projections can provide information federal agencies need to allocate funds for disaster relief budgets and to create more targeted disaster response efforts.

Preparing for natural disasters requires innovation, a willingness to adapt, and most importantly the ability to collaborate. Coastal communities need to develop a creative and comprehensive approach to coastal protection and management. This starts by policymakers recognizing the strengths of leaders from across different industries, from social workers and environmental scientists to urban planners and engineers.  Moving forward we must admit our mistakes, build upon our failures, and continue to prepare for unexpected emergencies– the safety of our communities will depend on it.

Emergency Alert System Tips to Comply with Clery Act Requirements

clery act compliance

Emergency alert system tips to enhance your mass communication strategy and comply with Clery Act requirements

Written by Andrea Lebron, Rave Mobile Safety
Published on September 25, 2018

On October 1st, several higher education institutions receiving federal funding will be required to disseminate a public annual security report (ASR) to employees and students. The Clery Act was updated in 2010 to require colleges and universities to include emergency response and evacuation procedures in their ASRs. While the Clery Act doesn’t specify how campus emergency officials should initiate communications, such as through an emergency alert system, it does outline the scenarios that may require a timely notification or means for alerting students and faculty.

For some federally-funded universities with multiple campuses spread throughout different locations, compliance with the communication portion of the Clery Act can be challenging. A mass communication system such as Rave Alert helps meet this requirement to communicate campus-wide, but not without optimizing the system to its fullest potential. Here are the three best practices to achieve mass communication requirements under the Clery Act.

1. Be as organized as possible. While this may sound like a ‘master of the obvious’ recommendation, it’s critically important to successfully optimize a mass communication system. Whether an event that occurs is classified as life-threatening or not, immediate classification allows school emergency management staff to assess the situation and alert students and faculty in a timely manner as well as provide them with next steps to how they should react in the emergency. It also allows for specific targeting of areas that are most affected. When every second counts in a life-threatening situation, a pre-scripted message is needed immediately to notify those on campus of the threat. By using a template, institutions can send an emergency notification in just two clicks ensuring they get the notification out as fast as possible.

2. Perform drills for non-emergencies. An emergency alert system should be tested and used for situations across campus other than emergencies. This will get students and faculty more familiar with receiving the alerts, and they’ll be more prepared to react appropriately in the event of an emergency. It’s also a great way to ensure that there are no issues with the system. Routinely testing emergency alert systems at least once a year helps ensure that the information in the system is the most current.

3. Capture lessons-learned from each use. As the use of an emergency alert system increases over the years, university emergency management staff will likely learn that every situation has unique elements that will likely need to be handled differently. For example, staff may second-guess pushing out notifications if they’re required to create a new emergency alert for each instance. Pre-scripted templates would have to be constantly evaluated and updated to cover new scenarios. Training is also crucial in resolving this confidence-level issue. Making use of training mode within the emergency notification system can help users practice sending alerts in the interface so that they can be more comfortable if these situations were to occur in the future and make suggestions for changes.

Overall, organization, testing and regular evaluations are key when it comes to complying with the Clery Act’s emergency notification requirements. While you can always go beyond Clery Act requirements and expand your notification system’s reach, don’t wait until an emergency occurs to use your alert system. Optimize your system and be sure that campus safety officials are prepared to react appropriately.

For more on the Clery Act, click here.

Corporations Still Unprepared for Emergency Situations

Rave Mobile Safety survey reveals improvements needed to define leadership in corporate safety and security

 

  • 27 percent of companies do not have a clearly defined person overseeing safety and security
  • Companies were most unprepared (25 percent) for situations involving an active shooter
  • Employee awareness and training is the biggest safety challenge
  • Medical emergencies, weather events and technological emergencies are considered the most likely to occur

FRAMINGHAM, Massachusetts, September 21, 2017 –As security and employee safety remain at risk, unpreparedness is still affecting many corporations according to the Trends in Corporate Security survey from Rave Mobile Safety. Rave, provider of critical communication and data platform solutions trusted to save lives, has released the findings before attending the ASIS International 63rd Annual Seminar and Exhibits (ASIS 2017), held in Dallas, Texas September 23-28. Completed anonymously by 150 managers in corporate safety and security, employee safety, physical plant security, IT security and business continuity, respondents identified factors driving corporate safety and security decision making. According to the data, even with growing awareness around risks in the workplace, there is a continued unpreparedness in corporate security.

“The results of this survey highlight the work that must still be done across corporations to better protect employees during emergencies,” said Todd Piett, President and CEO of Rave Mobile Safety. “Organizations continue to face threats from medical emergencies to weather events and prepping with emergency plans, safety technology and clear management roles appear to be clear missing pieces for our respondents.”

Unpreparedness may lie in the fact that corporations have not chosen a singular department to lead their safety procedures. According to the survey, the responsibility for business and employee safety lies with a number of different departments, with corporate security (51 percent), facility security (39 percent) and human resources (30 percent) selected most frequently by respondents. Within these departments, 28 percent of companies do not have a single person in charge of corporate security and six percent of those companies the ownership is completely unclear.

Along with confusion over department responsibility and lack of management of safety/security programs, emergency plans are not standard amongst the respondents of the survey. Of the current emergencies affecting safety/security today, companies were most unprepared for situations involving an active shooter (25 percent). Emergency plans were also not standard for medical emergencies (18 percent), natural disasters (12 percent) and fires (8 percent).

More than half of respondents revealed that employee awareness and training (58 percent) as their biggest safety/security challenge. Even further, smaller companies (2500 or fewer employees) indicated a higher instance of this challenge, with 71 percent indicating employee awareness and training as their biggest challenge.

In the area of communication technology, mass notification was still not adopted by 21 percent of respondents. Companies are also failing to utilize multiple methods of communication during emergencies. Email (21 percent), text (20 percent), voice calls (21 percent), building alarms (20 percent) and social media (65 percent) are currently not being utilized by respondents as a form of communication during emergencies.

The complete findings from the Trends in Corporate Security survey, including details on the management of safety/security, past and present impact on security/safety and the technology being used to assist emergency situations can be found here and will also be revealed during the ASIS International 63rd Annual Seminar and Exhibits (ASIS 2017), held in Dallas, Texas.

Are Hurricanes Worsening With Climate Change?

Are Hurricanes Worsening With Climate Change?

Written by Jackson Lucas, Rave Mobile Safety
Published on September 22, 2017

The Rundown – What We Know

  • August 25th – Hurricane Harvey makes landfall in southeastern Texas as a Category 4 storm with winds of 130 mph
  • September 6th – Hurricane Irma, which reached a maximum wind speed of 185 mph, hits the eastern Caribbean as a Category 5 storm
  • September 8th – Hurricane Jose remains stagnant in the southeast Caribbean as a Category 4 storm before moving towards central Mexico
  • September 10th – Hurricane Irma makes landfall in the Florida Keys as a Category 4 storm
  • September 18th – Hurricane Maria devastates the islands of Puerto Rico and Dominica as a Category 4 storm. Over 95% of Puerto Rican’s are without power and experts are saying it could be months before power is restored to the island.

September is historically the most active month of the Atlantic hurricane season, leaving many to wonder how much more we can handle. As communities across the coastal United States and the Caribbean begin their rebuilding efforts, let us reflect on the 2017 hurricane season thus far and put these storms into historical perspective. For the first time on record, the continental U.S. had two Category 4 landfalls in the same year- Harvey and Irma. Hurricane Harvey brought unprecedented rainfall to southeast Texas – producing 51.88” of rain in Cedar Bayou, Texas – the most rain ever recorded in the continental U.S. because of a tropical storm.

As global temperatures continue to rise, climate change will remain at the forefront of urban planning, coastal management, and emergency preparedness discussions. Public policy frequently excludes climate science, impacting the effectiveness of proposed solutions. Faced with global climate change, what can citizens and government officials do to rethink emergency planning? The first step is to learn more about the science and work to understand what it is telling us.

The Scientific Evidence of Change

Dramatic atmospheric warming over the past century is the result of human activity and the burning of fossil fuels. While there are a number of different materials that are harmful to the planet when we burn fossil fuels, CO2 is likely the most famous. These materials, known as greenhouse gases, trap heat inside the atmosphere and work to keep the Earth warm enough to sustain life. However, too much greenhouse gas in the atmosphere will trap in more heat than we need, gradually warming Earth’s temperatures to a point that is unsustainable for a growing population. While scientists have proven that Earth has moved through relatively warm and cold periods throughout our history, the exponential rise in global temperatures since the beginning of the 21st century is a direct result of human activity and the release of greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere.

Climate scientists have been able to measure the direct impact of greenhouse gases on many of Earth’s processes, including ocean acidification and considerable melting of the world’s ice caps and alpine glaciers. Greenhouse gases have increased atmospheric temperatures, resulting in significant changes to atmospheric patterns and an increased frequency of severe weather events such as droughts and heavy rainfall.

But how does global warming specifically affect the intensity of tropical storms? As the temperature of the atmosphere increases so does the temperature of surface and ocean water. When you heat up water, you excite all of the atoms that make up each water molecule. Think about how a pot of water becomes excited as it begins to boil on the stove, the water has more energy as it heats up. This energy is what causes evaporation, and more evaporation means more water in the atmosphere. As temperatures continue to rise, we can expect to see more intense rainfall associated with storm events.

Courtesy of Climate Central

 

Rapid technological innovation in the 21st century has allowed scientists to better understand and analyze climate data and predict future tropical storm patterns. Before these advancements were made, the accuracy of climate modeling systems was quite poor and storm tracking was unpredictable.  Scientists had enough evidence to prove that Earth was changing, but how fast and to what scale was inconclusive. The complexity of Earth’s processes made it difficult for scientists to provide that detailed of a timeline.

Then Superstorm Sandy hit New England in 2012 and challenged scientists to revisit many of their previous hypotheses.

What Scientists Learned From Superstorm Sandy

Hurricane Sandy surprised New Englanders when it struck New York and New Jersey in October of 2012. Residents along the northeast coast assumed that tropical storms could not reach them and the lack of emergency preparedness in many coastal communities supported this assumption. Tropical storms rarely make landfall north of Florida because of prevailing winds in the middle of the northern hemisphere that push storms back out to sea once they reach 30 degrees latitude.

Like many tropical storms before, Sandy originated off the eastern coast of Africa and traveled across the Atlantic Ocean towards the Caribbean. For storms that survive this journey across the ocean, the majority make landfall in the Caribbean, Central America, or the Gulf of Mexico. Sometimes tropical storms have their sights set much farther north to New England and the eastern United States coastline.  While along this northward path, strong winds and ocean currents usually divert these storms back to sea and leave behind a trail a heavy rainfall. Along with ocean currents and westerly winds between 30-60 degrees latitude, the Polar Jet Steam, a strong air current that moves eastward across North America and circles the Earth in the northern hemisphere, can influence the direction and path of these wayward storms.

This map shows the track of all North Atlantic and Eastern North Pacific major hurricanes (those storms attaining at least Category 3 intensity on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale)

If all of this is true, then why did tropical storm Sandy make landfall along the eastern seaboard and devastate coastal communities? Scientists are pointing the finger at unusual weather patterns and poor timing. The Polar Jet Stream was temporarily jammed in an ‘atmospheric roadblock’ because of a high-pressure system stuck over Greenland. This prevented the continuous west to east flow of winds in the upper atmosphere, trapping Sandy from the North. A storm system moving across the mid-Atlantic worked to trap Sandy from the south. With nowhere to go, Sandy made landfall.

Some climate scientists are pointing to an extremely warm Arctic summer to potentially explain this phenomenon.  Sea ice levels reached record lows during the 2012 summer season, exposing more open water to incoming solar energy, ultimately adding more heat and moisture to the atmosphere. These changes helped alter weather patterns and could have influenced the atmospheric roadblock above Greenland, but this hypothesis is still undergoing research. This raises the question amongst scientists and emergency management officials, are these random events the new normal?

Where We Go From Here

Unfortunately, climate research is still too dense and difficult for many of us to understand. In order for science to find its way into public policy, scientists must strive to make their research accessible to everyone. This starts with developing science education and seeking better ways to communicate climate change to those outside the scientific community. The debate surrounding climate change is far from over. As the climate continues to change, there will be many more questions asked than questions answered. There is work to be done to make sure coastal management plans are holistic and include insight into climate change mitigation strategies. Thankfully there are solutions out there and innovation can come from anywhere and anyone. Moving forward, it will be of the utmost importance that public safety officials have access to new information and technologies.

911 Community Engagement Strategy in Rowlett, Texas

911 Community Engagement

 

The Challenges of 911 Community Engagement:

No One Wants to Register Twice

 

Written by Beth English, Emergency Communications Director in Rowlett, TX

 

The Commitment to Effective 911 Community Engagement

Rowlett, TX is committed to executing a top-tier 911 community engagement strategy using outreach methods that address the core needs of the community while ensuring 911 telecommunicators and police forces are trained in the techniques and cultural competency.

A small bedroom community just east of Dallas, TX, Rowlett is focused on customer service and providing the best value to the taxpayers for their dollars. That’s why we implemented the Rave Alert mass notification system.

“The best thing since sliced cheese”

Several years ago, I was introduced to Smart911, a service that allows residents to create Safety Profiles to provide additional information to 9-1-1. Being at an agency where almost 90% of our calls were wireless, I thought the concept behind Smart911 was the best thing since sliced cheese!  Imagine being able to answer a wireless 9-1-1 call and have the caller’s information, including home address, prior health conditions, and even pictures…what a novel idea! What I didn’t know at the time was that Rave Mobile Safety was just launching an emergency notification solution for state and local agencies.

More Functionality for 911

About a year after we publicly launched Smart911, I attended my first Rave User Summit where I learned about Rave Alert another product in Rave’s arsenal of public safety tools. Because I still had two more years to go on my other ENS contract, I was unable to do anything at the time but inquire about the product. However, I learned everything I could over the next few months, requested some enhancements, and when it was time, I switched mass notification systems.

Saving Time with 911 Community Engagement

When I proposed to the City leaders that we change systems (again), they could only be described as panic-stricken. Their biggest question was WHY.  I explained to them that Smart911 and Rave Alert utilized the same database, so citizens would only have to sign up one time to register for both services. One of the problems I had had in the past was that it took too long to register for both Smart911 and the ENS, so the citizens would choose not to register for either. We agreed to switch mass notification systems in part because Rave Alert solved that issue with one sign-up portal.

Getting the Word Out

When I switched to Rave Alert, Rave helped me load my list of opt-in citizens. This function allowed me to send an email with the Rave Alert registration link to residents encouraging them to sign up for the new system. Residents were able to register for Smart911 and Rave Alert simultaneously, increasing the number of registrants.

In addition to the emails that went out, I also conducted community awareness and public education sessions. Rave Mobile Safety provides marketing materials for every special occasion (such as Fire Prevention Week), as well as for everyday marketing (such as videos, social graphics, flyers). I scheduled a time to speak to various groups including The Chamber of Commerce, the Senior Citizens group, schools, and crime watch groups where I handed out printed materials that were available on Rave’s website. We have also utilized National Night Out, a community police awareness-raising event, to host a table with information printed from their marketing resource portal.

Training and Ease of Use

Once we had the system configured, I went through the video training for using the system. The video took me through every step of sending the different types of messages in a few hours. After I completed the training, I sent the link to the telecommunicators. I gave them a deadline for doing the training and practicing in the system before we went live. The day the system went live, one of the telecommunicators (who had been on vacation) was asked to send an alert. She had not seen the training video yet, but the system was so intuitive, she was able to log in and easily send the message. Score!!

Severe Weather Alerting

Another great feature of the system is the automatic weather alerting. When tornado season hits, we generally don’t have time to send out all the notifications ahead of time. Since Rave partners with the National Weather Service, we have been able to do business as usual without having to worry about sending out notifications to tell residents to dive and take cover.

When Time is Critical

One of our best uses to date occurred very recently when we had a home invasion in which two of the suspects were shot by the homeowner. All four suspects were armed and on the run, with helicopters and officers searching with spotlights in surrounding neighborhoods. Our ability to quickly notify those neighborhoods to stay inside and lock all the doors more than likely saved someone’s life.

Routine Messaging for Non-emergency Communications

The Rowlett, TX 911 community engagement strategy leverages Rave Alert for far more than just emergency communications. Besides the usual public safety notifications about spraying the city for mosquitos, we use it for overtime alerts, fire marshal notifications for structure fires, and even neighborhood potluck parties.

Switching Your ENS

Switching mass notification vendors is never easy. However, Rave’s training, easy-to-use platform, integration with the National Weather Service, and unlimited messages ensured we can keep our residents informed and safe.

 


Beth English, ENP is the Emergency Communications Director in Rowlett, TX. She is responsible for the overall operation of the emergency communications center for the city of Rowlett including 11 Communications Officers and two Communication Supervisors. Beth oversaw the implementation of Rave 911 Suite including Smart911 and Rave Alert. She also spearheads outreach efforts to generate sign-ups in her community.

2018 Rave Summit: “Expect the Unexpected”

2018 rave summit

2018 Rave Summit: “Expect the Unexpected”

April 16 – 18, 2018

 

By Noah Reiter, Rave Sr. Director Customer Success

Public Safety, Campus Safety, Emergency Management and Corporate Security are facing an increasing number of highly complex incidents. While we may have previously described events such as a mass shooting at a nightclub, a vehicle plowing through a crowd at a city festival, a knife attack on a college campus, or the hurricanes we recently experienced as unprecedented, the unfortunate reality is that this has become the new normal. I remember the mantra from my public safety days, “Train for the worst. Hope for the best.” Given recent trends, we might be better served by updating that philosophy to something along the lines of, “Expect the worst: Prepare. Execute. Adapt.” It’s no longer a question of if it will happen, but one of when, where and how big.

As part of this new normal and heightened readiness posture, those in the preparedness and response continuum have had to rapidly evolve their procedures and training by understanding both the emerging threat landscape and lessons learned from past incidents. Many have also looked to a new wave of tools that can harness mobility, leverage data and work seamlessly across jurisdictional boundaries and agencies to enhance established procedures and tactics.

The 2018 Rave Summit event will be a highly engaging and educational user event where attendees will learn best practices from peers and hear guest speakers present their firsthand experiences and lessons learned from recent events. In addition, participants will be exposed to the latest offerings of Rave, the leading provider of data and communications applications for mission critical collaboration. All of these opportunities will be set against the magnificent backdrop of the Rocky Mountains in Denver.  So, take advantage of the early bird pricing and lock in the dates on your calendar – register now for the 2018 Rave Summit at www.ravemobilesafety.com/rave-summit/

This will be a content-packed Summit that will educate and offer a unique networking opportunity among your peers from all walks of Public Safety, Emergency Management and Security.  We look forward to seeing you there!

Security At The Emmy Awards

What Does It Take To Manage Security At The Emmy Awards?

 

Written By Mary Kate McGrath, Rave Mobile Safety

On Sunday, September 17th Stephen Colbert will host the 67th Primetime Emmy Awards at the Microsoft Theater in Los Angeles. It’s a big year for the event, which takes place during one of the most revolutionary periods in television history. Major stars will be in attendance as both nominees and presenters, including Alec Baldwin, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Tracee Ellis Ross, Nicole Kidman, and more. In light of recent events, attendees and audiences might have concerns about event security. The Los Angeles Police Department and related personnel plan to keep guests safe, and it takes a concerted effort to protect a large-scale, high profile event like the Emmy Awards.

2016 Emmy Awards

In previous years, law enforcement has taken steps to ensure the evening is safe for everyone. The 2016 Emmys occurred days after explosions in New York City’s Chelsea neighborhood and in New Jersey, and LAPD increased security as a precaution.  The police department issued a statement to assure Los Angeles residents that the threat had been assessed, and that safety at the awards was ensured. “People attending these events can most certainly feel safe, as our LAPD officers and other city partners have taken step to ensure a secure environment,” Police Chief Charlie Beck said in a statement. The statement also urged all participants in the show to stay vigilant, and report any suspicious behavior to an anonymous tip line. 2-Way anonymous tip texting is a tool often used for large-event safety, and will likely be available to those in the area for this year’s show.

2017 Academy Awards

While an exact security plan for the evening is not made public, the heightened security at similar events this year can offer some insight into what it takes to manage public safety for Hollywood’s biggest award shows. According to Variety, LAPD devoted approximately 500 officers to protection detail for the Academy Awards in February, 2017. The street and entrance outside of the Dolby Theatre, where the event traditionally takes place, was tented for the second year in a row. Every single one of the 3,300 guests had to pass through a three-tiered security perimeter before stepping onto the red carpet.

In addition, the LAPD’s Major Crimes Division and Intelligence division kept a lookout for threats against the event. “We have planned for all contingencies, from protests to even a potential terrorist attack and that is all [embedded] into the security plan, which is built on concentric rings of security,” Commander Blake Chow told the publication. The department was ready for any scenario that might arise over the course of the evening, and no major threats were detected before the show date. With a multi-faceted approach, law enforcement was able to manage public safety for Hollywood’s most well known event.

The Academy has a history of prioritizing security, and protects guests against threats of any nature. The highly-publicized affair is a potential target for violent criminals, as well as protestors, stalkers, and other risks. In 2015, the Hollywood Reporter published an extended look at the heightened state of security for the event. According to the publication, the work began months before the event even occurred, and everyone attending, from journalists to the evening’s host, (which was Neil Patrick Harris in 2016), was subject to a background check. Guests were forbidden from posting credentials to social media to prevent counterfeit passes to the event. The magazine even reported that undercover officers in formal wear mingled with the celebrities and kept watch from the bleachers in casual wear.

2016 Golden Globes

The Golden Globes also made headlines for implementing a massive security effort. Variety reported that multiple law enforcement agencies and private services were involved, including the FBI, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, and the Beverly Hills Police Department. In 2016, an effort to establish a check-in system for stars leaving the event and heading to the after party proved ineffective and left guests with long wait times. With the assistance of private security officers, event coordinators were able to revise the system by adding more security stations for processing party guests and faster bus routes through security checkpoints. According Lieutenant Lincoln Hoshino of the Beverly Hills Police Department, private security took on a lot of responsibility for this event, though that is not necessarily protocol.

2017 Emmy Awards

In the wake of recent domestic and international events, and during a charged political year, the Emmy Awards on September 17 are likely to embrace technological advancements and other strategies to ensure that the show and surrounding areas are secure. Read more about five security trends that are boosting event safety: https://www.ravemobilesafety.com/five-security-trends-improving-event-safety.

If the past is any indication, the LAPD and private security teams will have a comprehensive plan to manage the public’s safety at Sunday night’s Emmy Awards. Recent occurrences, from the attack on Manchester Arena to the chaos in Charlottesville, have made the general public question their safety during large-scale events and community gatherings. Guests for a prominent award show like Emmys need to feel protected, and public safety officials have approached the event with a strategy that they are likely to implement once again this year.

‪The press has gathered to see this year's red carpet rollout! #Emmys ‬

A post shared by Emmys / Television Academy (@televisionacad) on

Five Security Trends Boosting Event Safety

large event safety

 

The five emerging trends revolutionizing community preparedness and large-scale event safety

 

Written by Andrea Lebron, Rave Mobile Safety

 

Successfully managing event safety at large community gatherings is critical for public safety officials. Unfortunately, several recent incidents have made the public question their security at large events — forcing public officials to tighten their grip on suspicious activities while balancing the act of keeping a low profile and maintaining the public’s trust.

Thanks to recent advancements in technology and safety resources, five emerging trends are revolutionizing preparedness and safety management at large-scale community events.

1. In the Skies: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) or drones as they’re most commonly known have made their way above the crowds at many community events. So far, nearly 350 state and local police departments and other emergency management divisions have added drones to their event safety inventory and that number is rapidly increasing. Public safety drones give public officials the opportunity to monitor event activities from above and alert on-the-ground staff to investigate any suspicious activity.

2.  On the Web: Monitoring social media and dark web activity is becoming an important step in the event safety preparedness checklist. Information found on the web can provide better insight into the potential behavior and intentions of event attendees, especially if the event is focused on sensitive or political topics. It can also help public officials plan ahead to ensure they have enough event safety staff by estimating the total number of attendees listed on social media event pages.

3.  From the Crowd: Empowering the public to take ownership of their own safety and of others is critical to safety planning. Communication platforms made available through 2-way anonymous tip texting allow the public to be that extra set of eyes and ears at events. This can also help police covertly diffuse a potentially dangerous situation without causing panic amongst the crowd.

4.  Through Mobile Technology: Advancements in mobile technology including cell phones and smart watches have made it possible to communicate with targeted audiences through many different methods. Temporary SMS opt-in systems can be set up for one-time events as what Mackinac County in Michigan did for their annual community event, the Mackinac Bridge Walk. Event attendees can enjoy their activities with the peace of mind knowing they will be immediately informed of any critical incident such as an active shooter or a severe weather-related situation, as well as be instructed on what to do and/or where to go.

5.  With Crowd Control Tools: Physical barriers such as temporary barricades are standard equipment at large-scale events and have proven to be effective in events such as Boston’s Free Speech Rally. However, even separation between two opposing groups at a political event can fail, as was the case in Charlottesville, VA. It’s incidents like this that are unfortunately bringing forth new more extreme crowd control technologies that serve both offensive and defensive purposes.

Despite thorough planning, maintaining safety at large events will continue to be a struggle for public officials. By leveraging community relationships and the latest advancements in safety technology, the planning and management process will increase the likelihood of a safe event for all attendees and emergency response officials.

Tom Axbey: Closing Remarks

Closing Remarks After 9 Years as President and CEO of Rave Mobile Safety

Reflecting on Nine Years as President and CEO of Rave Mobile Safety

APRIL 1, 2008

I still remember not wanting to start my first day on April 1, 2008!

As I reflect, 9 years later – I am immensely proud of what the Rave team has built and how we have been instrumental to so many customers in their preparedness and response continuum. From having 26 Higher Education Customers then in 2008 – to becoming the trusted standard for mass notification today, with over 1700 Higher Education institutions using Rave Alert to keep their students, faculty and staff informed of anything that may affect the safety and well-being of their campus community. Thousands of municipalities and corporations also see the benefits of utilizing the Rave Alert system as they too have a duty of care to their people and need to leverage multiple communication channels during any incident.

2010

Realizing the trend of mobile phone ubiquity, in 2010 the Rave team brought to market Smart911 – a way for citizens to provide additional data about themselves to 9-1-1 call takers in the event of an emergency. The Rave product team soon realized the critical nature of driving additional data and communication methods to 9-1-1 through the impact of Smart911 across the country. Today, Smart911 is just one feature of a revolutionary service called the Rave 911 Suite. The Rave 911 Suite incorporates Smart911 Safety Profiles, facility data, location data, notes for call takers, and the ability to deliver a text to any mobile 9-1-1 caller.

2016

We are very proud of the lifesaving impact Rave technology has had in thousands of municipalities and organizations nationwide. By taking lessons learned and leveraging the Rave Critical Data and Communications platform, the Rave team brought to market the Rave Panic Button mobile application system in 2016 – now deployed by thousands of K-12 school systems across the US.

Rave Mobile Safety logo

TODAY

It has been an honor these past 9 years to engage with, learn from and experience the public safety and preparedness ecosystem at every level. Our customers have always shaped our product innovation through honest feedback and guidance about how to match our vision and technology with their operational best practices.

None of this would be possible without the immensely talented Rave Team. Rave employees embrace working for a mission-based Company that builds impactful products; they work tirelessly to strive for excellence in every facet of the business. And, most importantly, have built a corporate culture of trust, transparency, care and humor! One such employee of over 11 years is known to many of you – Todd Piett. Todd’s vision, passion, work ethic and care have helped grow the organization into the fast and reliable working engine it is today. With that, it is without hesitation that I publicly congratulate Todd Piett as the new President and CEO of Rave Mobile Safety. In unison, I officially stepped down to become an official board member and advisor to the Company as I embark on other endeavors.

This is an exciting time for Rave as we grow on every level – organically, through mergers and acquisitions, expanding into new markets, extending our product portfolio, as well as integrate our solutions with key partners such as Intermedix and RapidSoS.

Todd Piett has the skills and experience to drive Rave to the next level of growth and most importantly – continue the focus we have always had on listening to and building great products for Rave’s fantastic customers!

From Harvey to Irma: Preparing for the Next Disaster

preparing for the next disaster
Written by Mary Kate McGrath, Rave Mobile Safety

 

Lessons Learned From Hurricane Harvey and Preparing for the Next Disaster

It is never too soon to start preparing for the next disaster. By looking back on the actions taken before, during and after Hurricane Harvey, we learn how to improve communications and evacuation plans well before Hurricane Irma makes landfall.

 

On August 25th, Hurricane Harvey made landfall. The state of Texas is still assessing the damage to Houston and surrounding areas, but after record flooding, approximately 200,000 homes were damaged and 13,500 were destroyed.

Now, just days after the storm, the Caribbean Islands and the state of Florida are bracing for extreme weather as well. Hurricane Irma, which hit Puerto Rico and the Northern Caribbean with devastating force, is already one of the most powerful storms ever recorded. Irma bore down with 185 mph winds, and brings with it storm surge and rainfall hazards, both of which could result in devastating floods.

It’s important to look at the response to Hurricane Harvey and consider the lessons from the storm. It is never too soon to start preparing for the next disaster, and by looking at past incidents, it becomes clear there are step we can take to improve response time and communications.

Weather Forecast Reliability

To start, FEMA warns against rely too much on the five day forecast. The government agencies and citizens shouldn’t underestimate a natural disaster, and hurricane damage can be unpredictable. According to administrator Brock Long, “The five day forecast is very hard to depict. I think that everybody needs to be monitoring this in the Gulf and up the East Coast and watching this very carefully to see what changes happen.” When it comes to hurricane preparation, it’s important not to rely on a single weather report and to anticipate any outcome.

Brock Long offers more insight into what public safety officials and emergency managers can be doing to enhance community readiness and avoid the disaster of delayed Mass Evacuation in this webinar co-produced by Brock Long and Rave Mobile Safety.

Evacuation Orders

Communities should pay attention to evacuation orders and emergency advisories, and follow them to the best of their ability. The state of Florida has provided plenty of shelter space, and home damage can be addressed after the storm passes. Getting to safety is the most important step. Emergency suppliers should be in position, and facilities like hospitals and nursing homes should be trained and poised to evacuate as well.

Leveraging Social Media

Utilize social media when appropriate. During Hurricane Harvey, many victims turned to Facebook or Twitter for help as floodwaters rose. First responders recommend using 911 and local emergency numbers first, but during Harvey many issued cries for help over social media. Hashtags like #sosHarvey and #helphouston were used to flag citizens in need, and the account @HarveyRescue documented the names and addresses of people in need of help. While it is always best to rely on 911 for emergencies, social media has proven an important tool for spreading awareness and information.

Emergency Planning

Make an emergency kit. It’s important to have supplies on hand in case of disaster. A well put together emergency kit should have a three day supply of non-perishable food and water, flashlight, batteries, blankets, and any medicine or prescriptions your family might need. For more ideas about a basic disaster supplies kit, check out the FEMA website.

Repairing the Damage

Hurricane Irma is an unprecedented storm. By reflecting on Hurricane Harvey and past emergency situations, it will be possible to further minimize the amount of people harmed by the disaster. The communities impacted will need support as they continue to pick up the pieces and rebuild.

Remember, donating home goods can interfere with relief efforts, and the best way to help hurricane victims is to donate cash to trusted organizations.

ASIS 2017 Trends and Expectations

ASIS 2017

 

ASIS 2017 International Conference Event in Dallas, Texas

Our goal at the ASIS 2017 conference is to speak with as many professionals from different business units with the enterprise or private sector, especially as it relates to employee crisis communications.

Written by Garth Fraser, Rave Mobile Safety

The show must go on for the ASIS 2017 conference, a resilient spirit that many Texans have shown despite the devastation left behind by Hurricane Harvey. As I watched the chaos unfold during and after the storm took its path, I began to think about how critical of a role communications played throughout it all. Having worked at Rave Mobile Safety, a leading provider of communication tools, for 2 years, I have seen the power of communication first-hand during and after emergencies, helping many customers install systems that have come to prove their worth.

On a personal note, I also thought about how important company to employee communication must have been as Harvey became an official hurricane mid-way through a work-day on Friday, August 25th. Hurricane Harvey was just one instance of the many types of situations that would warrant company to employee communication. Other examples include:

• Weather
• Active Assailant
• Fire
• Bomb Threat
• Gas Leak
• Medical Event

We continue to see this broaden to some instances which would require similar communications such as:

• Suspicious Person on Premise
• Local Police activity
• Disgruntled Former Employee
• Suspicious Package
• Regional Emergency Exercises
• Chemical Spill
• Cyber-attacks

Coordinated and effective employee communications during any incident is something my colleagues and I are looking forward to discussing more at the ASIS 2017 conference.

Rave’s Expectations at ASIS 2017

Our expectations at the ASIS 2017 conference are to speak with as many professionals from different business units with the enterprise or private sector, especially as it relates to employee crisis communications. We want to understand the perspective of Facilities and Environmental Health and Safety managers when weather, power outages and staff safety events become an issue and require mass communication.

Our understanding is that accessibility of off-hour leadership security notifications and situational awareness is a growing need for many corporations, as they allow teams to be in touch with safety advisories, fire drill announcements, staff safety events and potential safety hazards. We also hope to learn more about the importance to companies of one touch conference call bridging for critical meetings and the ability to implement a mobile panic button for traveling employees.
Lastly, two other potential company to employee communication opportunities that we want to explore are operations, information technology groups or IT and human resources.

Could the following communications examples for operation managers provide value?

• Supply Chain Disruptions
• Product Recalls
• Shift Delays or Cancelations
• Open Shift Availability
• Field Team Alerts

Likewise, could IT departments and human resources benefit from the ability to send urgent updates when say a cyber-attack hits an enterprise or if an outage has occurred? Company to employee critical communications could also be used for more light-hearted notes such as benefit enrollments, meeting/holiday reminders and event announcements.

Let’s discuss the importance of total communications for your enterprise when a crucial moment arises. Stop by Booth #4676 at the ASIS 2017 conference, meet the Rave Mobile Safety team and learn about a few of our products that provide company to employee critical communication platforms.