Information Management Bolsters Transit Safety & Security

Posted on June 15, 2012 by Udi Segall

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Over the past decade, public transit has readily embraced technology aimed at making operations safer and secure, and with good reason. The responsibility of making sure people get from point A to point B safely, securely and on time is fundamental. But, it’s also no easy feat. Toward that end, transit operations have invested in a variety of technologies — video surveillance, fire systems, access control, communications systems, intercoms, radar, GPS, LPR, CAD, perimeter protection and video analytics, to name a few. The problem — for transit command centers, the flood of data can obscure the big picture.

With information bombarding them from all directions, and so much at stake, how can security operators discern what’s relevant and decide what actions to take when situations happen?
These are precisely the problems PSIM addresses.

What is PSIM?
The term “PSIM” stands for “Physical Security Information Management.” Essentially, PSIM is a software platform that provides an integrated “cockpit” view of different security, safety and operational systems. By analyzing and correlating information across these different sub-systems in real-time, and presenting it in the right context, PSIM helps operators see the bigger picture so they’re able to act effectively to resolve security, safety and operational issues.

The term is somewhat misleading because it implies PSIM is only about “managing information.” In reality, it’s just as much about “managing incidents.” PSIM allows transit command centers to leverage people, technology and processes to the fullest to manage incidents better.

Manual observation is replaced by automatic correlation; manual logging of incidents by automatic tracking. Instructions in manuals give way to adaptive response plans embedded in the PSIM solution. These guide the operator through what to do next. Integrated GIS allows operators to see exactly what’s happening where on a multi-layered display.

To illustrate how it all works, imagine it’s rush hour on a busy rail platform. In the command center miles away, a security operator receives an on-screen sensor alert from a remote smoke detector situated on that very same rail platform. A map immediately pops up on the operator’s display showing the exact location of the alert and the nearby video camera. The system automatically pushes live video of the scene to the operator. The camera view allows the operator to verify that it’s not a false alarm. He confirms the incident in the PSIM system and is prompted to click a button that immediately notifies transit patrol officers, sending a message to their mobile devices. At the same time, the PSIM system automatically alerts the fire department and provides the security operator with additional procedures to safely evacuate passengers from the platform.

The fire department arrives in speedy fashion to extinguish the fire while the operation control center (OCC) is automatically notified of the incident as well. The OCC promptly broadcasts a platform change over the public address system while redirecting the incoming train to a different platform. The redirected train arrives on schedule, and service continues without disruption.

The above illustrates a best-case scenario. With the aid of PSIM, the security operator was able to handle the incident with minimal risk to people, property and operations. Most of the passengers will go on with their day having little or no knowledge that an incident ever took place.
Any number of variables could have influenced a different outcome to our hypothetical situation. What if there was no PSIM solution in place, and the security operator on duty that day was inexperienced or not properly trained? What if the fire department hadn’t been notified right away, or sent to the right location? What if the passengers hadn’t been evacuated from the platform in time? Or, if the operator hadn’t noticed the alert in the first place? Every incident has variables that can influence their outcome. PSIM neutralizes the potential negative impact of these variables by enhancing situational awareness and situation management.
By integrating and correlating different systems, PSIM can help connect the dots to provide clarity on exactly what’s happening where and how best to respond.

“Most major transit systems have intercoms strategically placed on platforms so passengers can summon help if they need it,” explains Tom LaBarbera, regional VP, transportation sector, at NICE Security Americas. “Many have expressed an interest in using PSIM to tie that into a common operating picture with video, so if somebody calls from an intercom, operators in the control room are not only able to hear the caller, they can see what camera they’re near. If someone’s being attacked or reporting an incident, you want your operator to see where on the map that intercom is. You also want to see if there’s a camera nearby, so you not only have the audio, but also a visual of what’s taking place as well. With PSIM, these elements can all be part of a fully integrated, seamless security system.”

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