Gunfire Alerts, Like Fire Alarms, A New Standard of Care for Public Safety
In the United States gun crime is a widespread public safety challenge affecting over 2,000 cities of various size in every region of the country. More than 11,000 homicides are committed with a firearm annually, that’s over 30 murders every day. An additional 75,000 non-fatal injuries result from unlawful shootings every year.
Law enforcement has traditionally measured the severity of gun violence in terms of homicides and non-fatal shootings. Reports of gunfire to 9-1-1 are also tracked by police. Recent research, however, has confirmed that most illegal gunfire is rarely reported to police. With fewer than 1 in 5 shooting incidents reported to 9-1-1, gun crime is vastly underreported in the United States. It has been estimated that an unlawful discharge of a firearm occurs over 100 times for each homicide with a gun.
It’s Time to Leverage Technology
In my 25 years as an ATF agent, I responded to calls for service and searched for evidence of shootings. I partnered with task force officers and we canvassed large areas looking for a body. We hoped for luck because we lacked the precise real-time intelligence we needed to succeed. Instead of targeting the most violent shooters with state of the art technology, we arrested unlawful possessors of guns who happened to fall into our net.
Imagine what members of your community would think of a fire department that was only capable of responding to 1 in 5 fires. Such a hypothetical is comical and difficult to imagine as fire alarms and smoke detectors enable fire professionals to respond directly and very quickly to most every fire. In cities that have yet to embrace gunshot detection technology you have a scenario that is not hypothetical but a real public safety emergency costing countless lost lives and injuries that forever change lives.
The good news is that technology-- the same type of technology built into every school’s fire alarm system--can provide immediate alerts and situational awareness to help ensure safe and quick response. Real-time gunfire intelligence, combined with precise and rapid law enforcement response, can substantially improve the effectiveness of any gun violence reduction strategy.
Wide-area acoustic-based gunshot detection technology, such as ShotSpotter, has been deployed in over 90 cities in the U.S. ShotSpotter technology is currently at work in cities as diverse as Birmingham, AL, Boston, Detroit, Miami Gardens, FL, Milwaukee, Oakland, Peoria, IL and Washington, D.C. Many of the cities using ShotSpotter have realized that it is an effective tool in reducing gun violence. A year-on-year study of gunfire incidents in ShotSpotter-protected cities revealed a median decrease of 28.8%. For more on that, please read our National Gunfire Index.
Ensuring Officer Safety
Officers dispatched to a potential shooting situation need all available intelligence. Gunshot-detection technology gives police the tools they need to respond more safely, and to collect shell casings and other critical evidence, boosting law enforcement’s effectiveness. ShotSpotter instantly notifies officers of gun crimes in progress with real-time data delivered to dispatch centers, officers’ laptops, and smartphones. That means, in a typical incident captured by ShotSpotter sensors, the officers dispatched will know if the shots were fired in front of or behind a house, on the roof, or from a moving vehicle. It also greatly increases the odds that they will encounter one of the shooters and/or a victim in need of assistance, and related shell casing that can then be entered into evidence by the prosecution. It all starts with real-time alerts on confirmed gunfire in less than a minute.
Gunshot-detection technology is now playing a very effective role in faster response to ultimately make communities safer. For example:
The thread that unites these anecdotes is the ability to detect, locate and alert on gunfire in under a minute. When police start quickly and consistently responding to every single shooting in gunfire-plagued neighborhoods, they begin to restore the confidence residents have often lost in law enforcement. It gives residents tangible proof that the cops care and are actively working to make their neighborhood a safe, thriving community.
David Chipman is Sr. Vice President, Public Safety Solutions, SST Inc.
Listen to David Chipman on the Motorola Solutions' podcast 'MSI #4: Why Gun Fire Alerts Should be Like Fire Alarms' here:
More and more often when users log into their personal devices, they are greeted with “New Security Updates Available…Install Updates Now.” Whether we realize it or not, security patching has become an integral part of our digital environment as a result of us always being connected to and highly dependent on electronic devices. Software vendors are constantly releasing patches to protect our personal and professional information from the more than 117,000 cyber attacks happening each day worldwide. What used to be a common best practice has become an industry tactic for survival.
In the case of enterprise IT and mission critical radio systems, the burden of security patching is exponentially higher. The frequency at which they are released exacerbates the issue to the point where keeping up with the patching cycle becomes an overwhelming endeavor. It quickly escalates into a full time task that commands devoted expertise and technological resources. These networks are imperative to daily operations, so the question of whether to patch or not to patch is not even up for debate. Everyone agrees on its importance, the challenge is how to do it best.
Industry research shows that system administrators are not keeping up with the patch cycle which is, in turn, putting systems at risk from malicious software that is designed to exploit these vulnerabilities. According to a study by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) approximately 75% of all cyber security incidents exploited a vulnerability that already had a patch fix available. Recent research from Symantec on a coordinated attack aimed at the oil and gas industry pointed out that the hackers in this instance were not particularly advanced and exploited an old vulnerability using older malicious software (malware) that had been available through the cyber underground for some time. Hackers can rely more on inadequate patching, rather than their own ingenuity to develop new malicious tools.
When Land Mobile Radio (LMR) systems were based on circuit switched technology, the LMR system was considered a closed network. Those days are long gone. Today’s LMR system is at an optimal level of robustness due to its transition to an IP based environment. This changeover enabled the introduction of new features, interconnectivity to other IP based systems, use of standards based technology, and commercial off-the-shelf (COTS) hardware and software. In fact, from a fundamental standpoint, the differences between an LMR network and an IT network is simply the type of traffic traversing the system - predominantly voice on LMR and data on IT. However, the increase in COTS content borrowed from the IT industry and new interconnectivity has left the LMR system with the same security challenges - not previously experienced in traditional LMR - faced by IT system administrators. Therefore, keeping the LMR system patches current is now an imperative that cannot be ignored.
So, how hard is it to apply patches when they become available for the LMR system? We just accept the patches and move on, right? Not quite that easy unfortunately. First, the newest patches absolutely have to be tested in a sandbox environment before being deployed to the system. This is to ensure the fixes do not have a negative impact on highly sensitive, mission-critical operations. Software vendors are not privy to the mix of applications running on an LMR’s operating system (OS), the configuration used or the hardware they reside on. As a result, these vendors can not test all possible interactions.
Pre-testing and deploying patches in a timely manner are the cornerstone of good security practice and go a long way to reducing overall risk. Motorola Solutions has dedicated test environments with LMR system engineers who pre-test all applicable security patches and provide simple deployment options to make patching as easy and painless as possible. We understand cybersecurity, and we have the expertise to meet all needs. We have over 300 customers worldwide we support today with patching and other security services.
To learn more about our what we are doing to secure LMR systems and how we can work with your team to patch and protect your mission critical systems, visit www.motorolasolutions.com.
Mick Palmer is the Global Cybersecurity Services Manager at Motorola Solutions
How to prepare for Text to 9-1-1
Last Tuesday, I presented to an audience at the National Emergency Numbers Association 2015 Conference and Expo. I spoke about Text to 9-1-1 considerations, challenges, and some lessons that have been learned in the year since the FCC’s mandate requiring carriers to deliver text messages to Public Safety Answering Points (PSAP’s) that request delivery and are technically ready and approved to receive them. For those people who could not attend, I’ve compiled the key takeaways and what we know one year later.
THE TEXT-TO-9-1-1 SPACE IS RAPIDLY ACCELERATING
Above and beyond the instrumental carrier agreement achieved in 2012 to support text message delivery to PSAP’s, regulatory action has been significant and has increased in recent years as a force in progressing Text-to-9-1-1. From 2012-2015 the FCC has taken further actions in the form of Further Notices of Proposed Rule Making, Report and Orders, Policy Statements and Updates to the Text-To-9-1-1 Readiness and Certification Registry—all in support of moving text forward in its adoption and use.
With the FCC and Carrier actions paving the way for supporting text message delivery, PSAP’s have also started to adopt and deploy the use of text in serving their communities. To provide you with a couple of data points for you to determine and form your own opinion of the progress and uptake on Text-to-9-1-1, I offer you an FCC view and a vendor view of where Text-to-9-1-1 currently stands. The FCC’s May 2015 data shows 344 of the estimated 5906 PSAPs can/are ready to receive text in one of the three formats supported as part of ATIS/TIA J-STD-110. Other reports from the two TCC providers, Intrado and TCS, estimate over 800 deployments/contracts as of May. In fact, as of May 2015, due to the aggressive enablement of PSAPs, TCS reported the percent of delivered texts to 911 has increased by 70% over 2014 rates, which in turn was 35% higher than 2013 delivery rates. Bottom Line: If one considers the FCC and vendor views for Text-To-9-1-1 deployments through May of 2015, the range of PSAP deployments/contracts to be deployed is in the range of 5-15%.
TEXT CAN SAVE LIVES
Over the past couple of years, many people have weighed in on the use of text and its merit in emergency situations. There have been a number of reported successes associated with Text-To-9-1-1 since. A very early example of using text for help, and achieving a successful outcome, can be found in Black Hawk County where text was used to successfully resolve a Hostage situation. From the case study:
"In one instance, a woman had locked herself in the bedroom because her ex-boyfriend broke into her home. Scared, she texted 9-1-1. 'Law enforcement responded to the call and officers were able to make an arrest,' Flores says. 'Had the woman called instead of texting, the ex-boyfriend would have heard her calling for help.'”
A more recent example of a successful use of text, as reported in USA Today, was in Avon Park, Florida just south of Tampa. It was another hostage situation, but the use of text was a little different. Instead of Texting to 9-1-1, the endangered person sent a text message as part of an online pizza order to Pizza Hut. The merchant store manager realized the call for help and proceeded to contact 9-1-1 on behalf of the endangered person.
TEXT-TO-9-1-1 BRINGS SOME CHALLENGES
Talking to, and reviewing documentation of PSAPs who have already deployed, there are some consistent challenges they’ve faced that one must think about in the planning and preparation for deployment of Text-to-9-1-1 solutions. A few questions to ask before deploying include:
LEARNINGS FROM EARLY ADOPTERS YOU CAN INCORPORATE IN YOUR DEPLOYMENT ACTIVITIES
Clearly understand the responsibilities for the end-to-end solution: It’s important to establish upfront the responsibilities of the text service provider, your PSAP, and any other involved parties that may be necessary to enable a fully functional solution. Public advocacy is critical. Ask yourself: what type of at advocacy program will be necessary for your community, and how will you communicate the appropriate use of Text to 9-1-1 and set proper expectations? Simple but powerful, reminders like the slogan used in Vermont’s campaign “9-1-1: Call if You can, text if you can’t” are important. Some operational learnings:
Learn more about Next Generation Public Safety, or explore Motorola’s solutions for Integrated Command and Control. To see if your county has enabled Text to 9-1-1 click here, and watch here to see how it has been adopted in Kershaw County, South Carolina.
Dan Sawicki is the Director of Product Management for Motorola’s E9-1-1 and NG9-1-1 Solutions. He represents Motorola on the board of the Industry Council for Emergency Response Technologies (iCERT).
Read more blogs by Dan here.
During tactical operations, every SWAT team member has a specialized role within the unit, and each position experiences distinct communications challenges. Someone carrying a shield in one hand and a weapon in the other cannot easily access a Push-To-Talk (PTT) button. A sniper must keep both hands steadily on their rifle, even when needing to access their radio to message a teammate. During SWAT operations, every second matters, and seamless communication can mean the success of the operation, and the life or death of the professionals and civilians involved.
Each SWAT member has gear customized for his or her role, and each uniform has specialized communication needs. SWAT officers can customize their solution and communicate more effectively with a Tactical Kit that can be configured with up to four unique audio accessories and three PTT options. Each situation is different, and SWAT teams need to be prepared for every possible scenario.
Imagine that a criminal is barricaded in a building and the SWAT team is called in. The shield operator is the first one to enter the building. He leads the rest of the team, holding the shield in one hand and the gun in the other. To provide critical updates on the changing situation, he needs to press the radio PTT button in order to communicate. A Ring PTT can be attached in a variety of ways so the officer can easily PTT without taking his finger off his weapon’s trigger.
The SWAT team needs to be ready and listening for further direction while also being aware of their surrounding environment. They need to protect their hearing in order to set off a stun grenade, also known as a flash bang, to disrupt hearing and balance, prior to entering a building. A bone conduction device called Temple Transducer allows officers to receive the radio communication via bone vibration to the inner ear canal. At the same time, this headset enables the team to wear critical hearing protection during the flash bang. It also leaves the ears open to hear critical noise in their surrounding environment after the bang. Being able to comfortably wear the Temple Transducers under helmets and protective masks makes this bone conduction device a perfect fit for Special Forces.
At times, SWAT members need to transmit through the radio very discreetly, speaking softly so that a suspect cannot hear the conversation. The Throat Microphone is so sensitive that it allows whispering to be transmitted quickly and clearly. This device, which uses advanced microphone technology, picks up the vibrations from the users throat so there is no noise interference when transmitting through the radio. SWAT officers feel confident in using a Throat Microphone to communicate, and can comfortably wear any protective head gear without the audio accessory getting in the way.
These solutions and other tactical devices easily attach to one interface and allow SWAT officers to change the devices they are using based on the operations they face.
Motorola Solutions continues to develop solutions that help officers communicate seamlessly in critical situations so that they can focus on preventing disasters.
To learn more about adaptable PTT accessories and solutions, please visit motorolasolutions.com.
Claudia Capparelli is the Accessories and Energy Portfolio Manager at Motorola Solutions