US national security technology expert Down Under

Oct 03, 2014

Australian national security experts are set for an exclusive demonstration of cutting-edge technology that could be used to manage threats at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.

One of the men behind the world’s largest preparatory earthquake exercises – CAPSTONE-14 – has been invited to Adelaide to showcase the pivotal role of Geographic Information System (GIS) technology in managing major international events and disaster situations.

Chris McIntosh – public safety and large scale emergency response specialist with GIS technology giant Esri – will today address the National Security Session at the country’s biggest spatial industry event, Ozri 2014.

Mr McIntosh said the strength of the technology is its ability to facilitate collaboration between stakeholders – such as national security, emergency response and local, state and federal agencies – during large scale events.

“Organisations – such as the Department of Defence or police – may use different applications and interfaces, but with GIS technology they can immediately share crucial information,” Mr McIntosh said.

“For example, CAPSTONE-14 involved more than 450 counties in the United States – sharing more than 13,000 essential elements of information, including road and water status, emergency operation centres, evacuations and communications.

“GIS technology provided the backbone across which the information was shared and visualised, which meant decision-makers could immediately identify patterns and manage resources collaboratively and efficiently.”

Mr McIntosh said Commonwealth Games organisers could also use the technology to manage a range of challenges – from crowd control to security and emergency response.

“GIS technology enables organisers to model and analyse external and internal factors and test their security and mitigation measures,” Mr McIntosh said.

“It also helps ensure crowd and facility management because security and public information are all controlled from the same playbook.

“For instance, event security officers use tools within the ArcGIS platform to monitor what people at venues are posting to Facebook and Twitter, turning social media into a sensor that identifies problems instantly.

“We also use social media to push urgent information out to the public if we have to declare an emergency situation or evacuate an area.”

Mr McIntosh will speak to some of the country’s senior national security officials in partnership with local geospatial expert Simon Hill – National Security Manager at Esri Australia.

Mr Hill said in addition to planning for many of Australia’s large scale events – such as the Commonwealth Games and G20 – the technology also plays a vital role in responding to unforeseen emergencies.

“It’s important to ensure first responders, and personnel on the ground, are empowered with an accurate real-time view of a situation,” Mr Hill said.

“During a disaster, GIS technology can put large volumes of key information at their fingertips, so users can quickly create maps, analyse the situation and make timely decisions.

“In a crisis situation, it is important organisations don’t have blinkers on and are exploiting all sources of information available to them and GIS is the only tool that can effectively bring those disparate sources of date together.”