I’m sorry, who is responsible for public safety?
In the era of big data, just like those of past technological advances, there are always those who jump into the fray hoping to make money off of yet-to-be-understood technological paradigms. Though commendable as it pertains to the entrepreneurial spirit, the outcome can have serious and even devastating effects that can directly impact people’s lives.
The industry surrounding onsite and building data, and the bigger picture of Smart City technology, is no stranger to questionable business models. After all, how many experts have even begun to scratch the surface of what Smart Cities can accomplish?
But the question becomes, how does the modern age of apps, mobile devices, and online social behaviors shape how emergency services, police, and military acclimate to this new era of shared information? More importantly, how does it shape their processes that ultimately come down to saving lives and keeping cities safe from harm?
Lately, there have been business models based on the world of mobile apps that seemingly leave the world of public safety in the hands of building owners—making them the source of all information that can potentially feed data to emergency service professionals on the internal and external workings of a building. However, is this the smartest way to create and share information? No, it isn’t.
Imagine a world where the information gathered is also controlled by those who reside outside the public safety spectrum—portals of information where emergency services need to ask, maybe even beg, for access to the building and onsite data. Who is to say which buildings are available in such a database? Who is the administrator who will grant access at 2:00 a.m. on New Year’s Eve? It’s this type of frightening scenario that can have dire consequences in a fast-paced emergency response situation: how can questionable data sources transform the Standard Operating Procedures of emergency agencies, and how can these sources be relied upon in emergencies when seconds count?
How do we combat the entrepreneurial spirit gone wrong? As in any industry or profession, there is usually one simple rule: let the experts do what they do best. The rule applies in this case, but the experts need to be publicly accountable for their actions. Now, please understand that I’m in no way trying to discount those who own or manage buildings; however, leaving it up to a third-party company in the business of capturing data to share with emergency services “a portal for free” is the equivalent of asking your accountant to perform major surgery.
Emergency service professionals have expertise, insight, and extensive education relating to incident response, and precise requirements pertaining to pre-plans, in-field training, and information dissemination—all of which work interdependently to ensure the safety of all involved. They must be able to rely on the information 100 percent of the time, and they must have it instantly at their fingertips—seconds are crucial during an emergency.
The job of first responders is one of such high regard, courage, and expertise that it is best to leave the world of public safety data to those who know it best. And though there is nothing wrong in a company creating their own detailed building records, when that data needs to be accessed and used, staying out of the way of the professionals is always the right course of action.