Dr Nihar Ranjan Sahoo
Consulting Manager, Wipro Ltd
It is always a challenge for safety and security organisations to monitor and control security breaches and protect citizens from man-made and natural disasters. Mankind has had tryst with all kinds of disasters including earthquakes, flooding, hurricanes and accidents since times immemorial. A few in recent times include the 26/7 flooding of Mumbai, 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack, Sikkim Earthquake, the 9/11 terrorist attack in the US and the recent tsunami in Japan.
When data pertaining to these man-made or natural disasters is fused with data pertaining to critical infrastructure, population densities and other community values, vulnerabilities can be observed, modelled and better understood – example include explosions of nuclear plants post-tsunami in Japan or a terrorist attack in a thickly crowded area like World Trade Centre in New York, US that caused astronomical losses in terms of private, community and public assets.
The risk and hazard assessment provides the foundation for the overall emergency management programme. GIS technology provides the capability to map and analyse hazards of all types and visualise their potential impact. Based on the potential impact or probability of occurrence of any particular hazard, priorities for mitigation, contingency and response plans can be developed. However, it is always a challenge to predict, monitor and control a crisis.
It is observed that effective and efficient crisis response planning and management is often a challenging task owing to the following reasons:
- Disparate spatial and non-spatial data sources and poor as-built information and associated attributes;
- Inaccurate and imprecise spatial information, often non updated or unrealistic;
- Lack of awareness of the capabilities of GIS in crisis planning and management;
- Poor control of information related to assets, safety and emergency management;
- Administrative and procedural inadequacies;
- Difficulties in undertaking frequent field studies to know ground reality;
- No single window or unified interface for viewing reality information.
Advances in technologies such as sensors, actuators, cameras, biometric devices, RFID, GPS and their integration with GIS provides innovative ways to increase operational efficiency and effectiveness. These technologies allow building of a seamless integrated analytics solution with a unified interface to enable organisations in quick-and-precise decision making. The basic objectives of this article is to propose a solution framework that helps provide a unified interface with seamless integrated disparate information and improved information access to all stakeholders; adopt a standards-based approach to enable integration with other related applications, various departments; establish an emergency management system and help protect critical assets and infrastructure; plan appropriate tool deployment for emergency management; improve organised interaction between local government and its citizens and other stakeholders and stimulate good governance and re-engineer processes for better service delivery.
Traditionally, public safety agencies – police, fire brigades, and emergency medical services maintain their own control rooms which are not connected to each other. Effective incidence /crisis management requires a virtual command and control room with a unified interface providing a common operating picture (COP) that carries out a collaborative and enhanced decision process and accelerated response planning by fusing information from multiple sources to create actionable intelligence. This helps in rapid decision-making; accurate and timely identification of threats based on early warning and judicious assessment before implementing an effective response; rapid identification of vulnerable critical assets; rapid dissemination of critical information; re-establishing a feeling of control and restoration of normal activities quickly.
This intelligence – led surveillance carries a large spatial component i.e., GIS. A GIS provides a robust and competent platform to analyse vast amounts of varied data from disparate sources including location-based information to bring out a holistic view of the problems and plan proactive / reactive response strategy. A spatial database comprising of varied datasets from GPS, sensors, actuators and other technologies provides a platform for an integrated analysis to enhance the utility of emergency operations centres (EOCs). Select functions that can be executed include crime/ disaster detection and analysis; intelligence collection, archived data access and information exploitation; logistics management and critical infrastructure analysis and protection. Hence, to build a citizen-centric eco-system in the overall crisis administration, GIS plays a major role in incorporating and integrating all the business functions under one umbrella with varied data from disparate sources. Fig.1 describes select layers that are generally integrated to have a holistic view of the crisis scene and effectively prepare response plan.
Fig. 1: Knowledge Layers in Crisis Management
Although every incidence is unique, the responses often share certain common elements. It requires mission-critical infrastructure to collect data, interoperable communications to seamlessly analyse and rapid dissemination of real-time data before, during and after the crisis of emergency life cycle management as shown in Fig 2, 3 and 4.
Fig.2: Emergency Management Life Cycle
Fig. 3: Features in the Emergency Life Cycle Management
Fig. 4: Framework with components of the safety and security life cycle
This complex and rapidly evolving discipline requires an architecture framework of open platform for building solutions that enable integrating multiple technologies. The objective of the solution would be to:
- Provide a unified interface with seamless integration of disparate information and improved information access to all stakeholders; and
- Adopt a standards-based approach to enable integration with other related applications / departments and enhance efficient inter-departmental coordination.
The COP plays an important role in inter-agency collaboration, information dissemination, tracking and monitoring of the response services till a case is closed. The participating responders can view an identical two- or three dimensional map of the incident scene, its proximity, geographic direction of spread of threat in case of a fire / chemical plume including real-time locations of hostile and friendly participants. The crisis management solution has five broad components –
- Geospatial engine: This includes spatially locating the crisis-scene location on two- or three-dimensional maps; drive down to the interior of a building, route-analysis; proximity analysis and other spatial decision support, disseminating information to the probable victims via real-time neighborhood analysis; spatially identifying right static and mobile responders in real-time in neighbourhood to share and collaborate information.
- Call tracing: This component includes tracing a call over the 2D / 3D GIS based on manual or automated alerts. The manual alerts can be based on information received offline, while the automated alerts may be from devices – camera supported with video analytics/ other sensors / or a distress call dialed at 100, 101, 102,103 or 911 captured through computer telephony integration (CTI)
- Dispatch engine: Supports dispatch operations and tracking.
- Rules engine: Defines and applies rules for responding to sensor input, sends information to appropriate responders, possible victims at threat
- Information collaboration and dissemination: This component includes disparate data integration and transformation into actionable information and display over a GIS – this may have a seamless integration of 2D and 3D-GIS (of building interior layout), besides others – CCTV, sensors, detectors and others that use different communication protocols and communication medium of different technologies / platforms.
2.1 Geospatial engine
A spatial data management system for emergency operations needs to have the ability for effective execution and supervision of plans, policies, programmes and practices that control, protect, deliver and enhance the value of data and information assets. The system need to be capable enough of gathering, managing and processing data of disparate sources and distributing information to appropriate users when and where needed. Multiple spatial technologies, when processed and integrated together, play a crucial role in response planning and crisis management. Some such technologies are as follows:
- 2D GIS – Includes multi-layer integrated analysis from varied sources – base map, critical infrastructures and assets, responders’ locations, geo-coded sensors, cameras, actuators and executing spatial analysis –buffer zone/proximity analysis, masking, overlay analysis, routing and spatial query-based analysis.
- 3D GIS – LIDAR (light detection and ranging) or Pictometry-based as-is visualisation of the landscape provides critical information beforehand while planning for emergency management. Parameters that can be studied include road width, possible traffic bottlenecks, nature and dimension of the building at threat /crisis, road/rail/airport connectivity networks.
- Panorama – 2.5 dimensional and 360¬¬o view of the landscape and another source of providing as-is visualisation of the landscape.
- Unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) – provides real-time and online 3D visualisation of the landscape and planning for critical emergency response planning.
- Satellite imagery – Multi-band data in terrain and landscape analysis help in response planning for threats / alerts captured. Typical incidences like terrorist threats, border securities and digital image processing of satellite data help analyse the terrain and plan effective response mechanisms.
The EOC or the command and control room may provide a remote comprehensive unified spatial visualisation interface of seamless integrated information in real-time as given in Fig.5.
Fig. 5: Spatial Data Management Dashboard of Emergency Management
Spatial analysis capabilities to support emergency planning and monitoring may include:
- Locating the crisis scene over map: Manual alerts through email, SMS, fax or automated alerts from sensors, cameras, telephone (devices geocoded) can be represented over a2D / 3D GIS with standard symbology for effective visualisation and analysis.
- Proximity analysis to visualise the neighbourhood landscape – road condition, buildings, critical assets and infrastructure at threat.
- Real-time visualisation of the neighbourhood in cases where the camera installations in place and are geocoded.
- Real-time 3D visualisation of the terrain through unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), 3D GIS or panorama and executing 3D terrain analysis to help responders prepare response plan.
- Locating fire brigades, police stations, ambulance service providers, medicine stores, hospitals, clinics, dispensaries, medicine stores in proximity and their details. Depending on the crisis and its intensity, the responders can be selected for rescue operations.
- Real-time shortest/optimal/alternate route analyses and providing route advice to responders from different locations.
- Tracking the responder vehicles and providing them online real-time advise as required.
- Integrating 2D GIS with 3D GIS / panoramic data of interior layout of a building for a crisis in building interior.
- Locating citizens at threat in the neighbourhood in real-time via integrated services of cell sites of mobile phone service providers. Bulk SMS web services may help disseminating the crisis details as a part of evacuation operation.
- Locating and planning to deploy mobile responders in real time – police vans, ambulance vans, paramedical vehicles in proximity and resource details for rescue operations.
- Remote real-time 3D visualisation of the terrain or the floor-wise interior of a building to effectively plan for rescue operations before reaching the disaster site.
- Remote online training to crew before they reach the site to act on.
- Access occupants and asset database of the building under distress or at threat and prepare response plan.
- Real-time online visualisation of the nature of the building and details on the construction material, design etc to plan evacuation strategy.
- Spatial data mining to visualise historical cases of similar nature or/and those in neighbourhood to help in effective response planning and contingency and mitigations actions.
2.2: Call tracing – auto alert; actuations
Traditionally, emergency organisations monitor input from each type of sensor on a separate interface in isolation. Effective response to large-scale disasters requires that all responders and other participants rapidly access all available information spatially – location of the incidence, its neighbourhood and geographic extent of the crisis. The sensors and actuators can be geo-referenced to enable locating crisis on the map. Select auto-alert or actuation devices used in emergency management are as follows:
- Real-time analytics carried out from the inputs of geo-referenced sensors – camera video, audio, radar and others to detect events of interest and send auto-alerts in an integrated environment. The analytics internally filters false negative and false-positive signals.
- Geo-referenced quantitative sensors that measure the physical and chemical properties of a system or its environment – temperature, light, pressure, humidity, flow, seismic acceleration, chemical, biological, radiological, nuclear and explosive (CBRNE), noise level and send alerts when the signal exceeds a pre-set threshold value.
- Geo-referenced qualitative sensors that work on the basis of presence or absence of objects, activities and patterns, using real-time analytics from video, audio, radar, sound navigation and ranging (SONAR) and terahertz imagery send alerts for events like –
- Perimeter breach
- Virtual fence intrusion
- Object stolen/ left behind
- Flow control / motion Tracking
- People/vehicle counting
- Vehicle starting/ stopping/moving
- Camera obstruction
- Dwell time/ loitering
- Video motion detection
- Object identification and classification
- Object tracking.
- Physiological sensors like fingerprint, palm print, hand geometry, hand veins, facial recognition, facial thermograph, iris, retinal scans, ear canal, odour, DNA; or behavioural sensors – signature voice recognition, gait, keystroke entry, including speed and pressure; or physical access / swipe cards sending alarms as they find any abnormal signature. This, along with the CCTV footage of the trespasser in real-time, can be visualised from the COP.
- CTI-CLI integration to auto-locate crisis scene based on the geo-coded telephone number of citizens, or extension numbers in large commercial /business establishments.
- Remote actuation that responds automatically on sensing a crisis: For example:
- As the device captures audio /video alert of perimeter breach / intrusion, the system automatically sends audio alarm; it activates water valves and sprinklers for a fire alarm, temperature sensors automatically invoke fire sprinklers.
- Audio or video / image alert through email/ SMS or upload at FTP / web server enabling sending of bulk SMS alerts to responders or/and citizens at threat in neighborhood in real-time.
The sensor, actuators and other related technologies can be grouped as in Fig.5 to provide a seamless data integration and execute emergency management.
Fig.5: 3D visualization- locating Incidence, neighbourhood at threat, transportation network
Fig.6: Seamless Disparate data Layer integration
2.3 Dispatch services
Emergency responders need access to critical information and services from any place, any time and while mobile that helps in collecting and analysing situational information quickly; evaluating the status of strategic assets and personnel; coordinating and allocating assets and personnel to respond to the incident; and remotely monitoring the environment, responding vehicles and personnel by sensors affixed to their body.
Select pro-active emergency services may include locating possible victims and mobile responders based on their mobile numbers in real-time and sending bulk-SMS as alert or for response; alerting citizens to potential public safety threats via Internet portals, TV, Radio, SMS etc; location-specific signage: distributing timely, accurate, and location-specific messages about the incident to first responders and citizens at threat; multimodal emergency calls – alert switch, voice/ video call, instant message, SMS, and intercom; and multimodal signage and communication displaying evacuation routes – text / video based electronic signs or audio based instruction disseminations.
2.4 Rules engine
The rules engine may include basic features like automatically sharing the case to the concerned officials depending on its type, priority of the crisis; setting the actuators in action based on the alert/alarm; identifying the right responders in proximity and information sharing – right hospital /clinic, police stations / fire brigade / ambulance services etc; identifying suitable mobile responders in proximity in real time automatically and provide access to crisis information and identifying the citizens at threat in real-time based on their tagging with mobile number and send alerts to evacuate.
Fig.7: Information Collaboration and Dissemination Framework
2.5 Information collaboration and dissemination
The COP requires real-time data access and data integration to provide a seamless and interoperable collaboration of information gathered from varied devices installed. Such data is transformed into actionable information and made available to the COP. Ideally, the system should provide real-time ability of setting access policy to appropriate decision makers; quickly add new individuals or agencies to the incident response team; secure access and usage of information interfaces, applications and access devices and dissemination of right information to the right people, at the right time; govern role-based information sharing depending on the type of crisis and relevant stakeholders / responders and communication protocol among the participants /responders; and enable agencies to manage their own information and user spaces and shared infrastructure, reducing the costs for the individual agencies.
For an effective response planning, first responders and rescue teams may require resilient and ubiquitous infrastructure that includes:
- Establishing ad hoc meshed network using all available nodes, which may include emergency vehicles or even the firefighters’ personal equipment, in case an existing infrastructure goes down;
- Establishing communications interoperability – analogue or digital radio, cell phone, traditional phone, IP phone, or laptop;
- Providing multimodal communications – including voice, video, instant messaging and SMS;
- Mobile computing – anytime-anywhere access to real-time video, maps with satellite imagery, GPS tracking, and global databases using wi-fi, satellite, MPLS, satellite, terrestrial trunked radio (TETRA) or GSM/UMTS for instance;
- Remote access, monitoring and configuration of all network elements and services across any local area networks (LAN), wide area networks (WAN) and metropolitan area networks (MAN) during a crisis;
- Open interfaces to integrate and access data from varied systems – physical sensors, satellite pictures, videos and photos from surveillance cameras, news services, blogs, Twitter messages, SMS, fax etc;
- Establish spontaneous (rather than prescheduled) communications – create ad hoc communications groups that link all people within a certain geographical area, regardless of their communication device or organisation to enable cross-agency collaboration in integrated response service;
- Online access of the inventory of critical asset and infrastructure maintained using active and passive RFID tags, bar coding, etc.
3. Solution architecture
Solutions providing functionality as described above have been developed and successfully implemented using client-server and thick/ thin-client web architectures. However, these solutions often do not provide a unified interface with seamless integration of multiple sources of information and technology. Most of the operations are executed in piecemeal fashion and do not provide a quick analysis and decision making support.
It was realised that this complex and rapidly evolving discipline would require an architecture framework of open platform for building solutions that enable integrating multiple technologies, and platforms, communication devices and networks to provide a unified interface with seamless integrated disparate information. This would also provide improved information access to all stakeholders and adopt a standards-based approach to enable integration with other related applications, various departments and enhance efficient inter-departmental coordination. Service-oriented architecture (SOA) has been recommended to build solutions of this nature. The major advantages of SOA include: loosely coupled open architecture; granular components and easy integration; open standards and protocols; allowing software and services from different sources and locations to be combined easily to provide an integrated service through Web Services – REST/ SOAP; the generic data access layer allows for integration with any database; interoperability between various software applications running on disparate platforms; and reuse of services and components within the infrastructure.
Sample solution architecture for reference could look like a diagram as shown in Fig.8.
Fig.8: Solution Architecture
The Web services would provide a standard means of interoperability between different software applications running on a variety of platforms and/or frameworks. All these products – sensors, IP-camera, actuators, video analytics and GIS (of most of the vendors) provide Web services to facilitate customisations for seamless integration to build a unified interface of the COP.
Combining geographic dimension to the data from sensors and actuators in emergency management will yield high-value insight for both operational and strategic decision making in emergency situations. Based on the specific business needs, various integration options can be evaluated and alternatives identified keeping in view the technology, quality and kind of available data. A GIS adequately configured, customised and integrated with other systems provides a platform of integration of data of varied sources – dynamic data in association with static periodically updated data, collation, synthesis and analysis to create a common operating picture and facilitate quick decision making.