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UK police use analytics to improve disaster response

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Using the mobile app, citizens can alert emergency services to incidents by submitting written reports, video recordings and pictures

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Platform allows police to collaborate with citizens during disaster events
Platform allows police to collaborate with citizens during disaster events
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Two-way platform allows civilians to share intelligence and their experiences

Trial scenarios included gang warfare and a chemical weapons attack

A security-themed research project designed to improve disaster response times has been successfully tested by the emergency services in West Yorkshire in the UK.

 

SAS Business Analytics has collaborated with Sheffield Hallam University and other partners to help emergency services better manage crisis scenarios. By analysing first-hand intelligence from the general public, the aim is for emergency services to be able to respond faster and coordinate response efforts.

 

To deliver on Project Athena, the consortium has developed a mobile app along with a command and control platform that allows police, ambulance services and the fire brigade to collaborate with the public during disaster events, such as natural catastrophes and terrorist attacks.

 

“In the test scenario, the commanding officer received excellent intelligence about events unfolding on the ground. This meant officers were dispatched much faster than we originally anticipated, helping us rapidly restore order,” said Jessica Gibson, project manager, West Yorkshire for Innovation at West Yorkshire Police.

 

The two-way platform allows civilians to share intelligence and their experiences of a potential incident to the emergency services before they arrive on the ground. Using the app, citizens can alert emergency services to incidents by submitting written reports, video recordings and pictures.

 

Analytics from SAS then determine the urgency and severity of a situation and allows police to scan social media for deeper insight. Authorities can also distribute information and advice through social media and send targeted warnings to app users in the vicinity, engaging citizens in a productive dialogue as incidents unfold.

 

SAS enables us to sift through enormous quantities of data extremely quickly, so we can cut through the noise to the critical facts,” said Babak Akhgar, professor of informatics and director of the Centre of Excellence in Terrorism, Resilience, Intelligence and Organised Crime Research (CENTRIC), Sheffield Hallam University.

 

“By enabling citizens to contribute their insight, we give emergency services the understanding they need to make better decisions about how to respond and ensure the right resources are sent from the outset.”

 

While trialling the Athena technology, the consortium enacted a range of potential real-life scenarios -- including gang warfare, a chemical weapons attack and vulnerable people going missing -- at a simulated environment at a West Yorkshire Police facility in Wakefield.

 

Volunteers were asked to download and examine the Athena app before the test and use it to report suspicious activity. Participants often supplied video and photographic evidence, as the simulated incidents played out.

 

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