Can you protect your citizens when they gather for a major event?

Establishing robust location-based analytics during "blue sky" days to prepare and respond to "grey sky" days such as incidents and disasters.

By Jon Pedder
Dec. 26, 2017

Jon Pedder, technical lead for Disaster Response Programme (DRP), Esri

Big sporting events, concerts, conventions, film screenings, and festivals are commonly held in large places where many people are allowed to enter, have fun, and socialise. However, problems can happen, since not all attending may have good intentions.

Countries such as Singapore have made stringent security measures for public events that draw crowds of more than 5,000 at any time. These measures include placing barricades, engaging security officers, and conducting bag checks on attendees in light of the heightened threat of terrorism. Organisers are usually more concerned about the weather conditions when they organise outdoor events than with securing a state of situational awareness and preparedness.

The twenty-first century is more complex, intricate, and reliant on technology than ever before.  Whether natural or otherwise, catastrophes test the resilience of any community. When incidents strike, critical information exchange across departmental, municipal, and jurisdictional lines expedites communication to at-risk populations and hastens their evacuation out of harm's way.

A safe community embraces methodologies and infrastructure where all sectors of the community work together collaboratively to safeguard citizens' well-being and property. Sharing information fosters partnerships that enhance safety, manage risk, and increase overall communal engagement. As governments work toward collective integration, their combined resources help anticipate crime and other outcomes before they occur. Let me share with you a case study about the Boston Marathon.


What runs behind the scenes of the Boston Marathon

Thinking back to the spring of 2013, during the 117th running of the Boston Marathon, two bombs exploded at the finish line killing three people and wounding 260. The Boston Marathon is held every April on the Massachusetts holiday Patriots' Day, which commemorates the start of the American Revolutionary War. It's a spirited race, attracting about 30,000 runners, half a million spectators, and international media coverage.

Amid all the excitement, lurk new safety concerns.

This year's event took place just seven days after the mass shooting in Las Vegas last October 2017. In addition, the bombing at the 2013 Boston Marathon is always in the back of every marathoner's mind. The Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency has since produced the Boston Marathon Dashboard in 2015, an online map (based on Esri's ArcGIS Online-- web application allowing sharing and search of geographic information) that tracks every aspect of the event as it happens.

Using the Operations Dashboard feature, the team was able to provide security personnel and emergency responders with a real-time view and common operating picture, complete with live data feeds and widgets for maps, charts, gauges, and histograms.

The Boston Marathon Dashboard was accessible on desktop computers, tablets, and smartphones. It featured dynamic web map layers, including live weather and traffic, real-time tracking of runners and emergency vehicles, and information about emergency operations. It hosted 20 static layers that could be turned on or off as needed to show helicopter landing pads, National Guard staging areas, or medical facilities. In case of an emergency, all responders involved could quickly zoom in to emergency shelters to see their status changes, capacities, key contacts, and phone numbers.

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