Cape Town's new technology-based public safety programme could be an EPIC first
When facing the challenge of mass urbanisation, cities need to quickly and effectively respond to emergencies and incidents. At the same time, cities need to do more with fewer resources. Metros and municipalities are constantly driving towards becoming "smarter", however, before they can be smart, they need to be safe.
The City of Cape Town is well on its way to becoming the safest in the country. When Cape Town's EPIC (Emergency Policing and Incident Command) programme goes live, it will be the first of its kind in South Africa, providing an integrated public safety initiative that facilitates co-ordinated multi-disciplinary preparation, mitigation, response, and successful timeous resolution of all public safety incidents in the City.
The programme, an initiative in partnership with the City of Cape Town's Safety and Security Directorate, has been developed over the past two years using the expertise of leading technology solution provider EOH.
EPIC uses SAP technology and spatial real-time mapping to integrate the Directorate's six emergency and policing services onto one common platform, facilitating collaboration and co-ordination across the multiple agencies. Emma Stavrakis, EOH's Head of Public Safety and Security, says that while many cities have focused on becoming smart, few have drawn the balance between safe cities and smart cities.
Incorporating six primary public safety and security service providers across disaster management, fire and rescue, as well as policing, onto one single integrated technology platform, this programme will revolutionise and dramatically improve the delivery of services in Cape Town's public safety environment, according to Stavrakis.
"In today's challenging public safety environment, the ability to understand and respond to the needs of the public is essential. Greater preparedness, improved awareness and effective resource utilisation all lead to enhanced resilience. This is the core of a strategy that will transition the city towards providing an environment that is safer and healthier for everyone," she explains.
According to Cape Town's Mayoral Committee Member for Safety and Security, JP Smith, the programme will provide City response teams with an integrated and immediate multi-disciplinary response with accurate, up-to-the-minute situational awareness possible across all the city's public safety services. These include fire and rescue, traffic, metro police, law enforcement, disaster risk management and the special investigative unit.
"For the public this means quick and efficient response to any emergency they report, efficient dispatching of the resources to the event and proper command and control for the heads of these services. It also means better public relations, increased trust and better oversight and business intelligence to allow services to be improved and streamlined," Smith says.
He adds that a unified safety and security system is good news for the City of Cape Town's vast metropolitan area, which is responsible for a resident population of over 3.8 million people, an annual tourist count of 4.2 million and 60 000-plus businesses. Smith explains that previously, various departments operated as separate entities, making effective responses difficult, especially in large-scale disaster incidents like the devastating widespread fires experienced in 2012.
Technology is now helping the city work smarter, and stay safer. "Now, field officers closest to the incident will always have the correct information and be able to respond efficiently within a few minutes while having access to any information they need," says Smith.
"One of EPIC's many operational benefits is that it will enable the best possible use of Cape Town's manpower and scarce resources, ensuring that the City is able to make optimal use of its scarce resources and focus these resources on those areas most in need."
Taking EPIC Steps
With extensive expertise in leveraging technology to create smart cities and enhance public safety, EOH enables faster responses, improved operational efficiency and reduced costs. By combining scalable solutions that address the need for cities to become smarter as well as safety and security challenges, EOH keeps citizens, communities and public spaces safe and secure.
Former paramedic and fire fighter Andrew Mortimer, EOH's Public Safety Specialist, explains that the EPIC programme is based on the EOH Emergency Suite. This is a single integrated public safety solution that enables all the city emergency and policing departments to register and manage their activities.
From the emergency responder to the dispatcher, EPIC assists the department to ensure the most appropriate response is provided to the citizen, while mobile field enablement provides officers in the field with the necessary technology to be effective and remain safe.
Mobility also ensures that officers are able to work smarter, reducing the amount of time in the office. The workforce management module helps the departments optimise their resources based on activity demand. Enhanced business intelligence is provided by the reporting solution, improving decision-making and strategy execution in real-time. Investigative case management provides a solution to bring all of the data together and improve accountability in all areas.
Thanks to EPIC, an emergency responder in a centralised call centre can answer emergency calls from citizens dialling 107 from a landline or (021) 480 7700 from a cellphone. In addition, the City's various safety and security departments and agencies can also log incidents directly on the EPIC system from their automated systems such as CCTVs. The call taker assesses the incident based on type, priority level and location, and information is relayed electronically within seconds via a SAP-enabled computer terminal to one or more of the five emergency command centres.
The Command Centre then dispatches field officers via a customised mobile app to a mobile phone device that is installed in City safety and security vehicles. Once field officers have dealt with the incident, the status and an incident update are logged on site via the mobile device. This includes uploading photo and video information, updating the system in the command centres. Here, all incident details are recorded in the EPIC Database for further analysis.
EPIC is designed to continue operating even in the event of a major, multi-disciplinary disaster. According to Mortimer, the city has taken careful measures to ensure continued functionality and high availability by implementing standard disaster continuity principles and being able to revert to an extensive back-up radio network.
By consolidating emergency and policing incident management and resource planning onto a single integrated platform, numerous operational and efficiency benefits have been achieved. The ability to manage a multi-disciplinary response in real time, with accurate situational awareness, ensures that the best possible use is made of scarce resources. Real time distribution of data to all involved parties via mobile technology means that everyone always has the correct information and can make informed decisions. Accurate reports and statistics are available instantly and are fully auditable, ensuring compliance with legislative and operational requirements.
"As cities around the world increase in size and complexity, technology is the enabler that is allowing them to become smarter and run more efficiently. All elements of a smart city are equally important - from infrastructure management to the provision of services, but especially safety. A city can't be considered smart unless it is intelligently managing its public safety agencies. By investing in EPIC, the City of Cape Town has taken the step to becoming one of the smartest, and safest, cities in South Africa," concludes Ebrahim Laher, MD at EOH SAP.