Big data has become a trend in everything from improving operational efficiency to driving customer service. In law enforcement and public safety, data provides a vast new resource that can help departments and teams transform into more effective units. Public safety often relies on quick decision making on the part of law enforcement officials and officers. By aggregating data, individuals are better able to make strong decisions that are appropriate for the situation.
Big data used for natural disaster response
Big data, uses sophisticated systems to collect and analyze vast quantities of information. According to Emergency Management Magazine, volunteers at Splunk, an operational intelligence software provider, are working to cull data from people’s Social Media feeds to identify if, where and when a pattern is emerging. During Superstorm Sandy, this technique was proven very useful. A team from Geeks without Bounds looked at hashtags and Instagram photos related to Sandy and combined that with evacuation rate and available resource data such as food, water, shelters and fuel. In this way, the team was able to pinpoint where resources were scarce.
“You can imagine the ways it can be used in real time for response during an emergency,” said Stephanie Davidson, director of federal civilian sales for Splunk, according to the news source. “It’s really helpful for where to allocate those resources to the places that need them most.”
Applying this technique to Public Safety is relatively new. According to the news source, the first real test run where the approach program showed its mettle was during Hurricane Sandy.
“This is an area that has been technology- and concept-driven, which is how most innovation happens, but now we’re getting to the point where it all falls under the big data tent [and] how do we know what is more useful and less useful,” Art Botterell — associate director of the Disaster Management Initiative at Carnegie Mellon University, Silicon Valley, told the source. “This is a conversation that I haven’t heard emergency managers having.”
Right now, there is no perfect model for identifying when and where criminal activity or disaster-related issues are occurring. But, advancements in big data are bound to bring about a change in how public safety is coordinated is maintained in the future, according to experts.
“That perfect model doesn’t really exist everywhere,” Theresa Pardo, director of the Center for Technology in Government at the University at Albany, State University of New York, told the news source. “If we think about the adoption of big data, we also have to look at the maturity of … the data use environment generally within any emergency management community or agency.”
Big data for training and response planning
While developers work to create innovative approaches for disaster management by using data culled from social media, others have focused on creating meaning from the disparate databases used for responder training, certification and crisis planning. Aggregated data can provide law enforcement and public safety departments with the information they need to make better decisions during an emergency. Fusing information about individual responders, their assigned equipment and what tasks they are authorized to perform can have a significant impact on the quality of the response.
“There is no doubt that situational awareness is critical during a crisis,” said Ari Vidali, Envisage CEO. “As an emergency unfolds, crisis managers need to quickly assess the scope of the crisis and pinpoint the right personnel that have the necessary skills, equipment and training to respond.”
In a world where minutes can make the difference between life and death, big data promises to shorten decision cycles which is a benefit that cannot be ignored.
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