The solution also streamlines incident handling, which is welcome news considering Lyon’s team handled more than 19,000 incidents requiring dispatch of life safety or security personnel in 2010 alone.
“Before, we had islands of information — so one dispatcher would be monitoring the CCTV and another would be responsible for access control, and so on,” Lyon explains. “They would have to manually piece this information together through verbal communication to get situational awareness and make decisions, which obviously took time. Now, all of the pieces of information are already assembled together so they get a much clearer picture immediately. And that’s for everything they do — not just for security, but for life safety as well.”
Lyon says that the ability to view everything in a geographic context further streamlines incident handling. “To be able to see a map of the facility, to see where something is happening, and then drill down into the layers and devices around that, is very empowering. Everything is right there on the map. If I want to direct a firefighter or someone from security, I can look at them on the video, and say, ‘you need to take the next door to the right,’ because I’m also looking at the building plan. I didn’t have that capability before. It’s very easy to get that big picture and then take appropriate actions when it is right in front of you.”
Lyon says it is not enough to know what’s happening — dispatchers need clear procedures to follow too. Using Situator, the airport was able to create and input dynamic pre-defined response plans that are immediately accessible to dispatchers for specific scenarios.
“We took every single form we had previously — more than 90 forms in total for all types of security, fire, and EMS incidents — and we analyzed the business processes behind them,” said Lyon. “We have been able to implement all of those processes in the Situator system.”
Previously, the airport relied on a basic data management program to catalog electronic forms, but the forms were ‘flat’ — essentially just cues for handling different types of incidents, but they were not interactive. Processes implemented through the PSIM system, on the other hand, are interactive and adaptive, with the ability to integrate automated or operator-initiated actions, and dynamically proceed down different paths of a response plan based on pre-defined conditions.
“For example, how you would respond to a fuel spill could be dictated by the magnitude, size and type of spill,” Lyon says. “With Situator, the process can be much more dynamic and detailed and change as conditions warrant. We also know that the job’s going to get done because we have escalation built into our forms where if something doesn’t get done in a pre-set amount of time, we can immediately escalate it to the next level.”
In addition, the system automatically tracks every action taken by the dispatcher during an incident. The ability to embed adaptive response plans, escalate when necessary, and record actions to see if procedures were followed is a very powerful quality assurance tool and helps the airport remain compliant with TSA regulations.
“When we have an error, we are able to correct it on the spot and later use it for training and quality control, or look at why the error happened,” Lyon says. “We are able to walk through what the dispatcher did. Before, I would have to dig through logs and video...now, everything is right in front of me and I can pull it up in one fell swoop.”
The Benefits of Adaptability
No one knows better than Lyon that situations — especially those involving weather — can change on a dime, and you better be prepared. Lyon, a 20-year aviation/airport expert, is regarded as somewhat of a disaster professional, having weathered Hurricane Katrina. Lyon found himself in the thick of it when Katrina stuck in 2005, flooding and damaging large parts of the airport, compromising communications, and creating a logistical nightmare for Lyon and the multitude of agencies on-site.No one would ever hope there’s a ‘next time,’ but should another hurricane strike, this time the airport will be even better prepared. “Obviously, we want to be able to leverage our technology in such a situation,” Lyon says. “Situator can help us extend all of our technology into the emergency operations center so it can be used by airport managers, as well as outside agencies.”