Jan 29 2019
Public Safety

How IoT and FirstNet Can Deliver Emergency Response in Smart Cities

Connected devices and network technology can help first responders amid fires, traffic accidents and other emergencies.

For decades, public safety officials have relied on dispatchers to alert them of active emergency situations. Dispatchers act as the intermediary between witnesses at the scene and emergency responders. However, the information they relay might not always be complete, and first responders may lack mission-critical knowledge before arriving. To solve this, cities need a way to give public safety officials eyes and ears on their communities to better assess emergencies, reduce response time and deploy the appropriate agencies to respond

Today, smart city technologies, powered by Internet of Things sensors and connected devices, are allowing cities and public safety agencies to do just that. Cities around the world are installing nodes and cameras on utility poles, traffic lights and street furniture to create a vast network of sensors that capture critical data for first responders. 

Once emergency managers are notified of a situation, they can use FirstNet — the nationwide, interoperable public safety broadband network overseen by the First Responder Network Authority — to connect with other agencies and dispatch teams to specific sites, such as a car accident or downed power line. 

A 2017 report from the National League of Cities found that 66 percent of cities have already invested in some type of smart city technology. And over the next 20 years, the SmartAmerica Challenge predicts that cities will invest more than $40 trillion to integrate IoT into new and existing infrastructure. As smart city technologies become more mainstream, they will transform departments from trash collection to snow removal, but the benefits for police, fire and EMS are among the most powerful. 

IoT technology has the potential to transform emergency response in several ways. 

How IoT and FirstNet Aid Fire Response and Recovery

When firefighters are called to a burning building, it’s critical that they understand who might be trapped inside the blaze. To quickly identify victims, IoT sensors, including Bluetooth low energy beacons, can be placed within homes and other structures to provide indoor positioning information. Proximity sensors can determine an individual’s location to first responders, and wayfinding applications can guide responders to people inside. 

Using maps that show the location of people in a building, firefighters could easily locate them to evacuate them safely. Additionally, smart city technologies will eventually allow first responders to view building floor plans, utilities layouts and underground maps that can help them navigate power systems or wiring configurations that need to be accessed in the event of a fire. 

Using FirstNet, firefighters rescuing victims from inside a building could easily communicate with EMTs outside or share heat map data with other firefighters assisting with the recovery process.

MORE FROM STATETECH: See how counties are using mobile communications centers to respond to emergencies. 

Connected Tools Can Improve Traffic Accident Management

One of the most promising applications of smart city technology is traffic efficiency and accident management. Not only is this made possible by smart sensors placed on and around roads, but it also leverages the massive amounts of data generated by cars today. 

With IoT sensors, cities could be more proactive when responding to traffic accidents. For example, when two cars collide, each vehicle could transmit data to a cloud-based software program, which would alert first responders to a crash. 

Instead of waiting for dispatchers to share details, the appropriate agencies can respond in real time by knowing the exact location of the incident. And with FirstNet, public safety officials can easily dispatch additional agencies or specialty units as needed. 

Tech Helps Reduce Threats to Public Safety

Some of the most dangerous and uncertain situations for first responders are active shooter situations. It can be extremely challenging to identify where victims or potential suspects are located, and how first responders can bring victims to safety. 

Whether a shooting event takes place inside or outside of a building, IoT sensors can give first responders information on where gunshots have happened based on increased sound levels or density of people. 

For emergency managers, that enhanced data allows them to respond to public safety threats more quickly and efficiently, so more lives can be saved.

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