By Mike King, Director of Emergency Communications – Esri
In July of this year, public safety professionals from around the world descended on San Diego, California to attend Esri’s 4-day National Security and Public Safety Summit. Over 700 commanders and staff came together to share the challenges and successes they’ve had while protecting over the past year.
As the conference began, I stood in awe, hand over heart, as the flag of the United States was presented. I listened intently as our national anthem was powerfully sung. I felt a sense of gratitude at the reverence displayed by our many international colleagues and government leaders in attendance.
During a “moment of silence” for those who had lost their lives in the line of duty last year, my mind raced back to personal friends who died in the line of duty. Their deaths and the accompanying heartache felt by comrades and loved ones suddenly raced back and I found myself stirred with deep emotion. I could see the faces of many of the attendees, and they too seemed to be humbly honoring those great heroes from around the world.
Once the summit was underway, I saw police officers, firefighters and emergency managers sitting side-by-side, interacting with each other, both during and in-between sessions. Their common mission of public protection powerfully eliminated preconceived misconceptions and personal biases. Together, they were learning from each other, embracing commonalities and solving problems.
I marveled at the great work being done globally, like the work of the Lebanese Red Cross who adopted a new GIS strategy to improve ambulance response times. These efforts are now saving lives and our colleagues in Lebanon are leveraging that investment to improve their mobile web applications for improved data collection and information sharing.
The summit provided examples of real-world, national security and public safety challenges, like those shared by CEO Brian Fontes of NENA, the National Emergency Number Association. Fontes shared NENA’s newly created national PSAP Registry portal, designed to spatially show all public safety answering points (command & control centers). The Registry will support many of the next generation call-taking efforts.
Other presentations included how U.S. Customs and Border Protection is saving lives through the Missing Migrant Program. This program was designed to save lives along the 4,200 square miles of the Rio Grande Valley and evidence shows that it’s working.
Richard Reed of the FirstNet Authority shared how GIS is used in the rollout of the
first voice and data broadband network dedicated to first-responders and Colonel Volker Kozok showed how the German Armed Forces are using GIS to combat hybrid warfare.
At one point, I found myself smiling as I reflected on what I was witnessing. It was a true “coming together” of several life-saving disciplines and it included all of the fun-loving banter that exists between first-responders.
My personal example goes like this (and sounds like a broken record) as several old firefighter friends approached me with the same humor I’ve heard for 40 years, saying, “Hey King, if you could have scored two more points on your public safety exam, you could have been a fireman too!” Not to be outdone, and in true form to my law enforcement brotherhood, I simply responded with some of the many reasons why law enforcement is a more noble career, and why we always won the town celebration tug-o’-wars – not just by brawn… but also our brilliance!
The National Security and Public Safety Summit offered everyone in attendance with a unique balance between visionary leader keynotes, forward-thinking presentations and networking opportunities where attendees could learn about the rapid advances that are occurring globally, including how GIS is influencing and empowering first-responders. Let's continue the conversation in this GeoNet discussion, how will you work to build resilience and collaborate in the new normal?
We want to thank our generous sponsors of the summit which include our gold sponsors: GeoComm, Juvare, Microsoft, and RapidDeploy; and our silver sponsors: BCS, FirstNet, HERE Technologies, and IBM. If you missed this year’s summit, we will release the proceedings in the coming weeks. Please plan to join us next year at the National Security and Public Safety Summit on July 11-14, 2020 in San Diego. Those registered can also attend the first two days of the Esri International User Conference where more than 19,000 professionals from around the world come together.