Operation Convergent Response 2019: Real-World Scenarios Help Train First Responders on Latest Public Safety Technology (Sponsored)
By Maggie Hallbach
Tuesday, December 10, 2019 | Comments

The areas of emergency planning, preparation and prevention are key for first responders and public safety officials. Training and education play a crucial role in providing first responders with the latest skills and techniques to respond to the many risks they face. With more technology at their disposal than ever before, it’s important to help first responders become familiar with the latest technologies at their disposal, like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR), as well as how best to integrate them into their planning as they work to keep themselves and the public safe.

Verizon is committed to supporting first responders and government officials in their emergency planning and preparation. Last month, Verizon and Nokia hosted the third annual Operation Convergent Response (OCR), a three-day live demonstration and networking event at the Guardian Centers in Perry, Georgia. Designed to help our public safety partners be prepared and on top of public safety technology trends through immersive experience with cutting-edge public safety technologies in real world scenarios, OCR brought together over 100 of our technology partners with hundreds of attendees from the public safety community. This included first responders and public safety officials ranging from police officers, special operations chiefs, firefighters and 911 dispatchers to military personnel, aviation experts and hospital administrators. All were there for the same reason: to learn firsthand how new technologies can help them save lives in the event of a crisis.

OCR’s simulated crisis scenarios featured a wildfire, cyberattack on a critical infrastructure, tunnel emergency, complex terror attack, airport in crisis, and a gas pipeline leak and explosion. Being immersed in these lifelike simulations, first responders and public safety officials were able to witness the latest emergency response technologies in action in a controlled environment.

Technology plays a critical role in preparing for an emergency, but it also plays an important role during and after an emergency. Advanced public safety technologies are becoming increasingly central to today’s emergency operation centers, providing a coordinated lifeline to first responders participating in rescue efforts, as well as to local, state and federal government agencies who want to communicate lifesaving information to their citizens. Emergency management technology can also help communities and businesses recover more quickly so they can begin to rebuild following a catastrophic event.

Every OCR scenario featured technology specifically designed to address the particular needs associated with a complex, multifaceted crisis. This included tech to help predict, prevent or mitigate the effects of a crisis prior to impact, tech used to direct lifesaving efforts during a crisis, tech used to recover services like power, water and communications, and tech used to rebuild and better prepare and protect the community in the event of other similar disasters.

Each scenario featured multiple technologies working together to support a multifaceted crisis response, demonstrating the need for a common operating picture and enhanced situational awareness for all involved — the first responder community, supporting agencies and every individual participating in the response effort. For example, during the tunnel emergency scenario attendees inside a massive warehouse transformed into a highway tunnel could see for themselves how deployable sensors, critical temperature monitoring technology and indoor drones could work together to help them more quickly and safely reach victims stranded after an underground chemical explosion.

Similarly, attendees at the wildfire scenario experienced how a combination of technologies enabled entirely new ways to deliver critical communications across multiple media to bridge technical, environmental and organizational challenges in a very short period of time. This included in-field devices to provide firefighters on the ground with the latest life-saving information, video data being relayed back to an emergency operations center for supporting personnel across law enforcement and multiple other government agencies, and unmanned aerial vehicles that can carry tools and equipment as well as provide a platform for airborne cellular radio network coverage.

With all these technologies in play, interoperability is key and OCR provided a rare but important opportunity for first responders and public safety officials to experience the transformative potential of emerging technologies working together to drive new approaches to emergency response. With highly experiential activities, including tactical drills that incorporated virtual and augmented reality and the next generation of 5G network-connected command centers and communication devices, attendees left with a much deeper understanding of the latest technology best practices for emergency responses – something which will be critical to future emergency response planning and prep.

Verizon is proud to once again be partnering with the public safety community to demonstrate how we can better prepare for the worst and use the latest cutting-edge technologies to help provide a swifter, safer response to any crisis. New technology belongs in the hands of first responders long before they need to deploy in a real emergency, and the benefits of an intensive, crisis-specific training event like OCR for public safety professionals are invaluable.

Maggie Hallbach is vice president of state, local, and education markets for Verizon. In this role, she manages a nationwide team responsible for developing solutions to address the increasingly complex requirements of state government, local government, and education clients. Maggie and her team focus on using Verizon’s industry-leading portfolio of advanced communications and IT solutions, including cloud, security, networking and Response Solutions, to meet the needs of public sector customers and the citizens they serve. With more than 20 years with Verizon, Maggie has held a variety of roles where she has responsibility for delivering customer experience enhancements and increasing shareholder value.

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