FirstNet Works to Foster Innovation in Public Safety Apps

By Jeff Posner, FirstNet Senior Applications Architect

If you know FirstNet, then you know we are focused on putting broadband technology into the hands of public safety personnel nationwide. What you may not know is that FirstNet also is leading the way on a host of public safety-focused technologies, not the least of which is in bringing to market the best possible software applications for public safety to use in emergencies and day to day scenarios.

“The excitement surrounding FirstNet not only is in its broadband capabilities, which will be a game-changer, but also in the competition for public safety apps that we expect it to spark,” FirstNet Chief Technology Officer Jeff Bratcher said. “If FirstNet can help foster that kind of technical innovation, we will open up a new world in which first responders are more prepared, safer, and in better position to serve the public, from the apps they will be able to access.”

When speaking about the technology FirstNet will enable at the APCO Emerging Technology Forum in Seattle recently, Jeff Johnson, Vice Chairman of the FirstNet Board said, “That device will change every aspect of life and work for public safety.”

Preceding the Technology Forum, APCO International hosted its third technology workshop; this session’s topic was App Interoperability. The APCO workshop brought together members of FirstNet’s applications team, based in Boulder, Colorado, with representatives from public safety, government agencies, telecommunications and app designers.

In this workshop, participants called for the creation of a tool for developers to use for testing their apps for interoperability and cybersecurity on FirstNet’s network. Open, transparent, and objectives based self-test tools are critical to innovating quickly within the applications ecosystem for several reasons. Transparent tools enhance confidence in the reliability, stability, and security of applications. Such tools enhance the productivity of application developers in validating their efforts prior to further, typically costlier, testing procedures. Finally, online tools are a very cost effective way for demonstrating the functionality of an underlying solution.

Efforts like APCO’s AppComm website and collaborations with FirstNet have helped to increasingly involve public safety in the dizzying pace of app development. Law enforcement, firefighters, paramedics and others have been quick to tell FirstNet the kind of apps that would vastly improve public safety.

Some of those include:

  • Distributing images of suspects, lost children, or evidence reliably and in real-time
  • Viewing 3D floorplans of structure fires with all critical infrastructure such as firehose connections, real-time images of hot-spots, locations of panic alarms including all three dimensions of location
  • Real-time 12-lead ECG under mission critical, congested conditions
  • Access to a virtually unlimited collection of critical data from the field whether it be health information, law enforcement records, or licensing data

There is virtually no limit to the variety of applications and information that can be built once a mission critical, broadband data network is constructed to demanding needs of public safety. Even now, participants in FirstNet’s Early Builder program have deployed and are actively using mobile broadband solutions including situational awareness, collaboration, and push-to-talk (PTT) to support and enhance their operational posture.

Captain Chris Lombard, a Seattle firefighter, is among many who are excited about the prospects FirstNet holds. “We can’t even begin to imagine the opportunities that are going to be available for public safety. Who would have thought, even five years ago, that we would have been able to exchange the types of information or the amount of information that we are able to exchange today?

“What excites me is that there is some firefighter, EMT, patrol officer out there that right now has an idea and they’re just looking for the mechanism to be able to get that idea in motion,” Lombard added. “Whether it is passing or sharing information, whether it’s finding out what would make their jobs easier, better, orhelpful to other people. I think those are the things that excite me about the potential or the opportunities that FirstNet is going to enable for us.”

FirstNet continues to search for new and innovative ways to exploit the intersection of public safety needs, mobile broadband, and the revolutionary change in software development created by mobile devices.  By opening the doors to more developers, providing them with the tools and support commonly afforded open development environments, and promoting our vision of a fully integrated development ecosystem, public safety personnel will have access to more focused apps and more timely data than ever before possible.

Partnering to Improve Public Safety Apps

This is a companion post to the AT&T Developer Program blog.

Mark Reddish, Senior Counsel and Manager of Government Relations

For most people, a dead battery on our smartphone or slow download is just an inconvenience.  But imagine the impact of a dead battery to public safety professionals or the citizens they’re trying to serve during an emergency.  What about congested wireless data networks when seconds count?  APCO recognized that apps hold great potential for public safety and has been working to address these issues and ensure apps are as effective as possible.

For a start, APCO created the Application Community (www.AppComm.org) to facilitate collaboration and serve as the single trusted site for public safety apps.  As developers sought to have their apps included on AppComm, the need for evaluation criteria became evident.  Thus, APCO developed the Key Attributes of Effective Apps for Public Safety and Emergency Response to provide public safety professionals, app developers, and the general public with an outline of important considerations for apps that include public safety or emergency response features.

 

The Key Attributes include issues such as security, privacy, and data and battery efficiency.  APCO invited partnerships with a variety of stakeholders to address these items, which resulted in a collaboration with CTIA – the Wireless Association® – and AT&T to examine how apps manage data and battery usage.

The Application Resource Optimizer (ARO)

Understanding the importance of mobile app efficiency for police, fire, EMS, and other public safety officials, CTIA and AT&T offered to support APCO’s efforts to improve apps.  AT&T’s ARO is a diagnostic tool for optimizing mobile app performance.  It’s free for developers and can be used to improve app battery life, data usage, and responsiveness by pinpointing the source of wasteful data & power drains.  ARO analyzes “traces,” sample app activity, for 24 Mobile Best Practices to expose hidden problems in the code and provide clear recommendations on how to fix them.

APCO invited a few developers to participate in an app efficiency testing program using ARO with support from CTIA and AT&T’s experts.  Here are two examples of how apps were improved by these partnerships:

PulsePoint

PulsePoint is literally a life-saving app, created by a non-profit foundation.  When someone in a public place needs CPR, the app “dispatches” nearby trained users and shows them the location of the closest AED.  These citizen and off-duty responders then initiate CPR and in some cases deliver a rhythm-restoring shock before first responders arrive, dramatically increasing the victim’s chance of survival.  When lives are at stake seconds truly matter.  Due to the always-on nature of PulsePoint, it’s critical that the app operates as efficiently as possible.

Using ARO to evaluate PulsePoint revealed that while the app was well conceived and engineered there were opportunities for improvement.  After ARO identified optimization strategies, the app gained meaningful network efficiencies.

 

STING

STING is a situational awareness system with mobile apps that allow field units and commanders to share real-time location information, pictures, notes, and mission updates.  The majority of their users are law enforcement teams who perform a variety of dynamic operations (SWAT, Narcotics, Mobile Field Force, etc.), but they recently released fire and EMS versions of STING that are also in use today.

Data and battery efficiency are especially critical to STING for two reasons.  First, whereas consumers have access to power throughout most of the day, first responders in the field have to be able to operate for long periods without recharging a device.  The challenge is heightened because frequent GPS and compass orientation updates – important tools for STING – can drain the battery quickly.  Second, for security reasons, data is not permanently stored on the device so accessing photos and notes from the system requires a data connection for download and upload of information.  Together, these factors make STING’s data connections more important, which requires more intensive management of battery and data usage by the app.

ARO’s evaluation helped the developers ensure STING manages the GPS location and orientation acquisition appropriately while creating data connections and throughput as efficiently as possible.  STING is constantly evolving as features are added, new smart devices are introduced, and wireless networks improve; hence, ARO allows STING’s developers to continually evaluate new algorithms and architectures to optimize the system.  It’s now a tool they use regularly to keep the app running at optimal performance.

 

APCO has continued working with developers, public safety professionals, and industry experts to identify issues and work toward solutions.  (Learn more here.)

In addition to collaboration with developers and industry experts, input from public safety professionals is critical to app quality.  From identifying unmet needs to refining the user interface, anyone with experience in public safety communications, police, fire, and EMS has an important perspective to contribute.  When it comes to emergency response, there’s no substitute for first-hand experience.

Whatever your area of expertise, consider joining APCO’s efforts to improve apps for public safety and emergency response.  We’re always looking for public safety professionals who are willing to share their expertise and industry partners who can help us evaluate apps for security, efficiency, and other aspects of design.

Contact: [email protected]

Equipping Volunteer Responders with Broadband Technologies

This blog is a repost from FirstNet’s website.

By Vicki Lee, FirstNet Association Manager

FirstNet has been charged by Congress to build, operate, and maintain the first high-speed, nationwide wireless broadband network dedicated to public safety. Knowing those that we serve at FirstNet is all too important.

Throughout FirstNet’s consultations with the states and territories, we have been learning about the complexity and incredible commitment of our nation’s public safety community. The input from these meetings, the public safety data that states provide, discussions and meetings with the FirstNet Public Safety Advisory Committee, and firsthand experiences like fire academy training are shaping our vision of the nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN). We need to know how first responders prepare for and respond to emergencies of all sizes, as well as the communications capabilities they need to execute their mission.

As a former volunteer firefighter and EMT, I understand firsthand that volunteer first responders play an important role in keeping our communities safe, particularly in rural areas. FirstNet team members recently had the opportunity to join the Wheaton Volunteer Rescue Squad (WVRS) in Maryland to get a firsthand look at how wireless broadband is already improving emergency response.

When you think of volunteer responders, you may imagine members of the community carrying a pager and meeting up at the station before responding to an emergency. That’s not the case in Wheaton; the department’s too busy. In 2014, the station responded to more than 9,000 incidents. That’s spread across three EMS units and a heavy rescue squad. WVRS is fully integrated with the Montgomery County (MD) Fire and Rescue Service. During the day, Monday through Friday, staffing is provided by county personnel. Nights and weekends, WVRS is staffed 100% by volunteers, many of whom ride after working a full day at their full-time jobs.

WVRS has fully embraced technology. In addition to using mobile data terminals (MDTs) to receive dispatches and update the unit status, many of the responders are using personal devices to map directions to the scene, look up a patient’s medications to get a medical history, and check the status of local hospitals.

Wheaton Volunteer Rescue Squad responded to more than 9,000 incidents in 2014.

 

In the FirstNet blog, we described how first responders are coming up with some innovative solutions to improve operations, and we saw more of this in Wheaton. Notably, a deputy chief at WVRS – whose day job is in IT – set up a dispatch feed that authenticated users can access via smartphone to quickly map directions to the scene, and the station’s TVs are triggered to display the nature and location of an incident whenever one of their units is dispatched.

Wheaton responders were intrigued by the idea of a NPSBN and the possibility of advanced capabilities like helmets with pull down screens and mission critical data, but in the meantime, they’re looking for improvements to the tools they already have. Between the county’s computer aided dispatch (CAD) system and less centralized resources like incident pre-plans and notes maintained by individual stations, there is a lot of useful information being underused. Of course, this is where mobile apps can really help, and in some cases they already are. For example, it’s common to encounter non-English speaking patients in Wheaton, and a few members were recently given access to a beta version of an EMS translation app.

The technology FirstNet brings to public safety will be a game-changer, but ultimately, it’s the commitment of our nation’s public safety professionals that keeps our communities safe. The willingness to serve on a voluntary basis epitomizes this commitment. “I am honored to be a part of this unit and the important mission we have every day to keep [this county] safe,” said Chat Halambe, a volunteer firefighter who is also a full-time student. At FirstNet, we’re honored to do our part, too, and we strive to ensure that first responders have the best tools available to protect our communities.

Vicki Lee is FirstNet’s Association Manager and Public Safety Advisory Committee (PSAC) liaison. She previously worked at the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) for 17 years, where she served as a project manager on programs which focused on collaborative work with other national fire and emergency service organizations such as the International Association of Fire Fighters, the National Fire Protection Association, and the Congressional Fire Services Institute. Vicki led several projects that brought together representatives from these organizations and others to develop reports, training programs, and other work products for the fire and emergency services.

Mutual Aid: App Developers and Public Safety Experts Collaborating

By Mark Reddish

It’s no surprise that public safety apps are better when developed with input from public safety experts.  What’s surprising, or at least exciting, is that professionals from two different worlds can work so well together when they’re practically speaking different languages.  Great things happen when developers and public safety professionals collaborate and help each other understand terms like stacks, Git, the cloud, PSAP, AED, trauma-code, and – fittingly – mutual aid.

October 17-18, I participated in a public safety app hackathon hosted by AT&T at its Foundry in Atlanta, Georgia.  Developers had 24 hours to build apps from scratch that would improve public safety and emergency response.  APCO assisted by inviting public safety professionals to serve as mentors and by providing “hackathon guidance” that described basic considerations for public safety operations, use case examples, and suggestions to inspire the developers.

“It’s just amazing to see what can happen when you get public safety experts and computer experts together…”

The hackathon began with presentations from the event’s sponsors, who described the development tools they were providing, and experienced public safety professionals, who described the important role new technologies can play in supporting public safety communications and emergency response. When I had a chance to address the developers, I encouraged them to take advantage of the law enforcement, EMS, fire, and 9-1-1 professionals in attendance and emphasized the value of designing apps based on advice from the experts.  The mentors included former APCO President Dick Mirgon, Dia Gainor, Executive Director of the National Association of State EMS Officials, Ray Lehr, Maryland’s Interoperability Director and FirstNet Point of Contact (who has experience guiding app developers, as this FirstNet blog describes), and APCO members from the Georgia Chapter: Executive Council member Angie Bowen and dispatcher Cory Hayes.

As with prior hackathons, developers had the opportunity to address the audience and describe their programming skills and ideas in order to seek teammates.  The string of developers was broken, however, when Matt Hinds-Aldrich from Atlanta Fire Rescue stood up and said, “I don’t know how to program, but I know public safety.  And I have an idea.”  Within 24 hours, Matt had joined with two developers – Haider Khan and Kevin Coleman – who turned the idea into a tool that won the award for Best Public Safety App.

The app, “Safety Net,” is a mobile and web-based interface for tracking personnel in real time.  Employing tools like WebRTC, it enables users to call one another by tapping dots on the map that represent other users and can also be used to log location-related events like fire prevention visits.  Dispatcher Cory Hayes presented the award for Best Public Safety App to this team.  “It’s just amazing to see what can happen when you get public safety experts and computer experts together in the same room for 24 hours or less,” he said.  “The computer experts may not know anything about public safety, and the public safety experts may not know anything about computers, but at the end of the Hackathon, we all learned something from each other and these apps were created to help our responders and citizens.”

Dispatcher Cory Hayes with the Safety Net team.

Bringing public safety professionals and developers together has been our mission since launching AppComm.  Not only is advice from the public safety experts valuable to developers, but as Angie Bowen said, “APCO’s work with apps is very important to its leadership role in public safety communications.”  APCO has participated in hackathons, created resources like the Key Attributes of Effective Apps for Public Safety and Emergency Response, and held several app-related sessions at its events, including an app security workshop with NIST and FirstNet.  We’ve been calling on public safety professionals to join APCO’s efforts to ensure public safety apps are as effective as possible.  And it’s great to see APCO members answering the call.

Aside from being a fun competition and great opportunity for developers and public safety professionals to connect, this event represents broader progress toward creating the best tools possible for public safety and emergency response.  AT&T will hold another public safety app hackathon on December 12 in Silicon Valley.  If you’d like to contribute, you can register to attend or send your ideas to [email protected].

 APCO’s Angie Bowen and Cory Hayes look on as the developers prepare to hack away.

Rapid Response: Building public safety apps in 24 hours

By Mark Reddish

If you’d seen the empty case of Red Bull, you’d believe me when I say that writing code can be extreme.  On May 2-3, I experienced my first app hackathon, an event that was hosted by AT&T and held at 1776 in Washington, D.C.  The 24 hour-long competition drew over one hundred participants, including public safety professionals who were invited by APCO to lend their considerable knowledge to help the developers understand what kinds of apps would benefit public safety.  The collaborations yielded 15 new conceptual apps for public safety.  In this post, I’d like to highlight a couple of the winning apps and describe how this event fits into the bigger picture of APCO’s work with public safety apps.

The hackathon began with a set of app Challenges that were associated with a particular subset of public safety use cases.  For example, the APCO Location Challenge asked developers to create apps that provide location information to first responders in the field or help PSAPs receive information to improve emergency response.  The winners of this challenge, who also won 2nd place overall, created an app called Beckon that leverages GPS and Bluetooth signals to guide first responders to victims and provide patient- and location-specific data as responders approach the scene.  As APCO, the Federal Communications Commission, and other stakeholders address 9-1-1 location accuracy requirements in a current regulatory proceeding, it was exciting to see an elegant model of how new technology can help emergency responders zero-in on wireless callers in need of assistance.

 

APCO Location Challenge Winner – Team Beckon


Another notable use of new technology was an app called Glass of Life.  This app used Google Glass to display schematics of hybrid automobiles for first responders using the Jaws of Life.  Speaking the vehicle make and model brings up schematics that illustrate hazards to avoid during the extrication, including high voltage lines, battery banks, and airbags.  The app also allows users to check the statuses of local hospitals.  Imagine you’re trying to coordinate receiving facilities for multiple patients.  By speaking the name of a hospital, you’re presented with a color-coded display on the Glass screen that indicates conditions such as whether the hospital is clear, out of cardiac monitors, out of ER beds, or on trauma bypass.

In addition to using cutting edge technology for their apps, the developers excelled because they took advantage of the public safety practitioners who were at the hackathon to serve as mentors.  Collectively representing decades of experience in emergency response, these public safety practitioners helped the developers understand how law enforcement, fire/rescue, and 9-1-1 centers operate.  For example, Team Beckon revised their plan after trying on a firefighter’s turnout gear and gloves, which showed them the difficulty firefighters would have with using a smartphone.  The idea for Glass of Life arose from a firefighter’s description of the scene of a high-priority auto extrication with multiple trauma patients.  Simply put, the developers who sought advice from public safety practitioners built better apps.

 

Firefighter Steve Birnbaum educates a developer:

 

The benefit of practitioner input came as no surprise, but it was a timely reminder of the importance of connecting developers with practitioners.  Just a week before the hackathon, APCO celebrated the one-year anniversary of AppComm.

 

appcomm_infographic

 

As the only website devoted to public safety apps, AppComm facilitates collaboration between developers, the general public, and public safety professionals with the goal of making apps more effective.  A recurring theme throughout our app-related panels and discussions at APCO events, comments on AppComm, and interactions during the hackathon is that developers are eager to learn about emergency response from the experts.  They want their apps to make a difference.  By taking advantage of opportunities to influence app development, public safety practitioners can ensure the creation of effective apps tailored to the community’s unique needs.

If you’re interested in public safety apps, consider joining an informal AppComm group to contribute to APCO’s efforts.  Contact [email protected].  We’re looking for a diverse set of volunteers; no particular expertise is required.  When practitioners connect with developers, great things can happen for public safety.

For more about the hackathon, including app descriptions and the full list of winners, check out AT&T’s blog.

 

Hackathon Sustenance:

Innovative Ideas from the Boston Emerging Technology Forum

By Mark Reddish

On December 3-4, APCO held an Emerging Technology Forum (ETF) in Boston, MA.  We were honored to have several officials join us, including FCC Commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel, FirstNet Board Member Kevin McGinnis, and representatives from Boston police, fire, and EMS.  And, it being an APCO event, the audience was full of public safety professionals.  With so much expertise in one room, it was inevitable that the ETF would generate a high caliber discussion.  We sought to parlay this into a brainstorming session on creating effective apps for public safety.

On the morning of the second day, we held a couple of sessions focused on mobile apps.  The first was a demo of FireStop, an app developed by Princeton students through an entrepreneurship accelerator.  The founder and CEO, Charlie Jacobson, has been a volunteer firefighter since he was sixteen.  FireStop provides information for firefighters and incident commanders that makes fire ground operations safer and more efficient.  This team’s enthusiasm was infectious, and it was a tough act to follow.

Following the FireStop demo and an overview of AppComm, Chris Osgood and Nigel Jacobs from the Boston Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics presented Citizens Connect, an app that helps citizens report problems to city officials.  When residents submit a report (e.g. pothole, graffiti, broken window), they receive a tracking number allowing them to track service and receive an alert when the problem is solved.  While keeping the city in shape impacts public safety, the real takeaway for our audience was the process behind Citizens Connect.  The Urban Mechanics’ model for community-oriented innovation, and the app it produced, can be replicated across the country. 

As we transitioned to the brainstorming session, Don Denning, Boston’s Public Safety CIO, tied it all together.  FireStop and Citizens Connect exemplify a new age of faster, affordable innovation that can and will eventually flow into the public safety community.  Life-changing apps can come from new sources that have yet to be fully tapped.  Our brainstorming session was geared toward illustrating the potential for public safety professionals and app developers to work together to create innovative solutions.  And that’s exactly what we saw.

Don Denning used this graphic (borrowed from Chris Osgood and Nigel Jacobs) to explain the brainstorming session’s concept to the audience.  This “innovation wheel” diagrams the process the Boston Urban Mechanics use to deliver better services to their citizens, and it also represents the development phases for apps like FireStop that target unique user needs.

For the brainstorming session, public safety experts would explain the challenges they face – identify problems – to tech savvy developers who might be able to create an app that would help.  Mr. Denning asked everyone to suspend their worries, legal apprehension, and technical doubt.  Liberated from these constraints, we stepped onto the top of the wheel and began to identify problems.

Our first prompt for the audience was “Reducing non-emergency calls to 9-1-1.“  The audience ran with it and came up with several ideas, the first of which was reframing the prompt as “Reducing the burden on 9-1-1.”  Here are a few of the ideas generated by the discussion:

  • An app called CT Police Phones provides non-emergency numbers based on a user’s GPS location.  It was developed by a dispatcher who had first-hand experience with the burden unnecessary calls place on PSAPs.  By expanding the app’s service across jurisdictions and operating platforms, maybe fewer people would place non-emergency calls to 9-1-1.
  • The public needs education on when it’s appropriate to call 9-1-1.  Maybe an education-focused app could provide a decision tree to guide potential callers.
  • An educational app could also provide 9-1-1 practice scenarios.  For children, this would be a way to teach them about how to call 9-1-1 and describe an emergency.  There are already educational apps for public safety responders, and a similar app for telecommunicators could present training simulations.
  • An app similar to public alerting systems could reduce duplicative 9-1-1 calls by showing the public what PSAPs know to help callers determine whether they have information worth sharing.

These are just a few of the interesting concepts that our public safety and technology experts bounced back and forth during the session.  We barely had time to delve into our second topic, “Crowdsourced response,” and didn’t even make it to our third.

Based on the productivity of this discussion, which occurred live with little prior preparation or notice, it’s clear that APCO members and the public safety community at large are eager to innovate.  And developers are increasingly interested in catering to this crowd.  In the past year, we’ve seen mobile app hackathons for public safety, more tech companies at APCO events, and continued user registrations and app submissions on AppComm

If you’re interested in public safety apps, consider attending APCO’s next Emerging Technology Forum in Orlando, February 26-27.  We plan to replicate this brainstorming session, albeit with different topics.  You can also register on AppComm and submit ideas privately or post them in the open Group Talk forum.  That wheel of innovation keeps turning.  I can’t wait to see what it spins out.

Data Jamming for Public Safety

Dateline October 2013

Public safety is clearly immersed in a new era of communications technology.  FirstNet continues to make progress, including the related planning efforts at the state and local levels.  The APCO 2013 exhibit floor featured more broadband and advanced communications tools, gear (some wearable), networks, and devices than ever before.  At APCO 2013 and other APCO events, we’re seeing growing interest and popularity in new topics like social media, data analytics, and cyber security.  And as well-evidenced by now with APCO’s Application Community (“AppComm”) website, there is strong interest and significant activity surrounding innovation in really effective and novel mobile apps for public safety and emergency response purposes.

Additionally, federal, state, and local governments are unleashing all kinds of publicly available data, and the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy has been undertaking a series of “Data Jams” and “Datapaloozas,” led by U.S. Chief Technology Officer Todd Park, with some focused on public safety.  Essentially, these events bring together three distinct groups of people: data experts/statisticians (the nation’s top experts who are knowledgeable about the dataset that are available), “techies,” (talented innovator/entrepreneur types who create all kinds of new mobile apps and similar tools), and practitioners from the sector (in this case public safety) who become the focus of the event.

I recently had the opportunity to participate in such an event, called the “White House Law Enforcement Officer Safety Datajam,” held on September 26th in the beautiful Truman Room of the White House Conference Center. 

Better yet, I was joined by APCO President Gigi Smith, who, like many of her colleagues at APCO, brings a very impressive and high degree of public safety practitioner experience.  President Smith was especially suited for this Datajam, as her “regular job” is as Police Operations Manager for the Salt Lake Valley Emergency Communications Center in Salt Lake City, UT.

The way these Datajams work is that the four-hour event begins with brief tutorials from the data and subject matter experts.  In this case, for the data portion we heard from Mr. Park himself, and other esteemed representatives from the U.S. Department of Justice and U.S. Department of Transportation.  A “Law Enforcement Officer Safety 101” followed with an impressive line-up: Mr. Bart Johnson, Executive Director, International Association of Chiefs of Police, Mr. Mike Brown, Director, Office of Impaired Driving and Occupant Protection, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, and Mr. Craig Floyd, Chairman and CEO, National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial Fund.

These gentlemen helped to paint a picture of the perils faced by officers and the major causes of law enforcement fatalities including vehicle/traffic-related and felonious and violent assaults.  The goal of the Data Jam was to figure out ways to use available datasets to create new communications tools to help improve officer safety.

Following the tutorials, we were broken down into separate groups, ensuring that each had a data expert, techie, and public safety practitioner.  Each group came up with concepts, presented their ideas to the full audience, and then everyone voted for their favorites.

It was remarkable how many excellent ideas came out of this brief but intense event.  President Smith’s group, for example, focused on creating an app to reduce vehicle-related deaths.  My group looked to create a situational awareness app that turns officer intuition into actionable information.  Another team thought of an idea to encourage police vest use by implanting sensors that would detect whether or not the officer is wearing a vest.

The next steps are for one or more of these ideas to be developed into a workable prototype for display and recognition at a future “Safety Datapalooza.”  

As illustrated by this Officer Safety Data Jam and similar events and efforts, the public safety community is truly on the cusp of benefiting from new innovations that can help save lives, lead to more efficient operations, and improve emergency response.