Author, Darren Chalmers-Stevens, Group Chief Operating Officer at CriticalArc
Today there’s a huge choice of technologies available to take pressure off busy control rooms
Think about all the systems being offered, designed to improve situational awareness and command & control. Most security and policing teams will use some or all of the following: real-time officer location systems, public safety apps, tools for mass communications, lone worker monitoring tech, sat phones, panic buttons, vehicle tracking, GIS, tip reporting, and systems designed to monitor and ensure mental health and personal wellbeing. And that’s before you count CCTV, access control, alarm systems, and physical security monitoring tech. One major organization that we’re working with has no fewer than 37 separate systems in their control room, including nine with specific communications functions: dispatch, direct comms, radio, and three phone systems, to name but a few. There’s even one system designed to unify the others which, I wasn’t surprised to learn, hasn’t been configured properly.
The problem is, not only does all this overlapping technology cost more, it starts to do the opposite of what it promised to achieve. It hampers operations and makes them more labor-intensive than they should be, and as a result, delays response. This is particularly consequential to first responders, where seconds save lives. The delays are predictable because with every additional tool or system comes the risk of increased complexity, different sign-on credentials, different front-end interfaces to access the system, different commands and shortcuts, etc.
When separate systems continue to get added to solve singular, specific challenges, snags and quirks build up that need to be worked around
Good control room teams will always find ways to compensate — dispatchers or control room officers will make the best of whatever tools they’re given. But if you have too many tools that are siloed, that can only be used from dedicated workstations or operating systems, you reach the point where the most important tool in the control room is the swivel chair that lets operators skate from one screen to the next. Instead of efficient, unified control platforms – an ideal described in the IT world as ‘a single pane of glass’ – you end up with siloed systems that are clunky and complicated.
Why is this still a common problem in security control rooms? Budget allocation may be one reason. Awareness that such solutions now exist on the market to solve this problem maybe another. When funds are limited, security managers and police chiefs feel they have to choose which single priority to address, and how to spend what they’ve fought hard to get.
They also worry they must balance the costs of employing and retaining good people against the expense of upgrading infrastructure. Usually, the route that seems most straightforward – and least risky – is to just add one more dedicated technology to solve a particular problem. By contrast, taking a more strategic approach and stripping out some of those siloed systems can seem more daunting. But it doesn’t have to be, and there is a better way to think about this.
There are major savings to be made, and big efficiencies to be gained, by stripping out complexity
Right away you can cut the costs of multiple maintenance contracts and software updates; and you can save on training and operating expenses. And once a unified system is up and working – it doesn’t take long either – other benefits quickly become apparent, from reduced operator workload and stress, and considerable reductions in first responder response times, though to improved performance during major incidents. And today, our unified platforms really do make operations smoother. All those functions I listed at the beginning can be handled by one, seamless solution: SafeZone. That single pane of glass operation is a reality for security control rooms right now, and it isn’t expensive or complicated to achieve. As we unify the existing systems, we can start to imagine the other integration possibilities including radio systems, weather systems, CCTV, access control, fire, Building Management System (BMS), and incident reporting to name but a few. The direction of travel is clear, a unified safety, security, wellbeing, and emergency management solution enables real-time situational awareness, team coordination and response while also providing SafetyEverywhere for your community and giving you post-incident operational insights across your enterprise.
Start your journey today, get in touch with me or one of the team at CriticalArc to have a chat!