Every two years or so, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate conducts what it calls an Urban Operational Experimentation, or OpEx, in a major metropolitan area.
Each OpEx is designed to give first responders the opportunity “to experiment with new and emerging technologies in realistic urban settings.”
Haystax has participated in two OpEx events so far, one in the New York metropolitan area in January 2017 and the other in the Houston/Harris County region of Texas in December 2018.
DHS recently approved for public release the results of a user evaluation of the Haystax for Incident Management solution during the New York City OpEx.
The NYC OpEx scenario involved the visit by a fictional dignitary, who lands at La Guardia Airport and is transported to a hotel in midtown Manhattan for a scheduled event. A second unanticipated scenario was added in the form of a tornado touching down in Brooklyn just before the VIP’s motorcade heads back to the airport.
OpEx participants included the New York City police, fire and emergency management departments, as well as the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, Boston Fire Department and Emergency Medical Services and U.S. Customs and Border Protection.
Haystax for Incident Management catalogued critical assets along the motorcade route, plus the airport and the Manhattan venue, in the Assets app. Threat and hazard information from the Threat Streams and Incidents apps was combined with scheduled event information from the Events app, and overlaid on the Map and Timeline viewing environments for enhanced contextual awareness.
DHS’s evaluation of the Haystax system was based on user comments during the exercise, plus answers to a written survey questionnaire and oral debrief session conducted just after the conclusion of the experimentation.
In the survey, all eight of the responding users unanimously agreed/strongly agreed with the following statements:
- This technology increases my ability to communicate and disseminate information during an event or incident.
- This technology can improve my ability to review and report information back to my leadership.
- The [web] user interface was intuitive and easy to understand and engage with.
- The mobile device user interface was intuitive and easy to understand and engage with.
Seven of the eight users agreed/strongly agreed that “This technology can help me fulfill my missions” and that “This technology can improve my ability to communicate and coordinate with other agencies and groups.”
In addition, six of the eight agreed/strongly agreed that “This technology is an improvement on the technology currently used.” Not a single user disagreed or strongly disagreed with any of the seven survey statements.
Many users noted the ability of several Haystax for Incident Management apps to provide “additional situational awareness.”
Among other features that users found most beneficial were:
- The Assets app provides “real-time availability of information, as well as locations of activities,” “a quick way to see what assets in the area are available” and “access to actionable information (e.g., contact information).”
- The Assessments app has the ability to “prioritize assessments” and “include pre-planned information for fire services.”
- The Incidents app “provides current information” and “includes [the] ability to view photos uploaded by people on the scene.”
- The Map app “is simple to navigate,” “includes multiple layers” and “allows for scaling.”
- The Threat Streams app “provides threat ranking” capabilities.
- In the Timeline app, “events serve as hyperlinks to more information,” and the app “can be useful when later generating reports of events or incidents.”
Since the NYC OpEx, Haystax has implemented a number of new features and usability enhancements based on suggestions from users. For example:
- Many users wished for a more robust way to search for asset, incident or event information across all apps. In response, Haystax has deployed a new global Search app for locating any relevant detail regardless of which app it is part of.
- Users requested the ability to import even more critical information from existing databases. The Haystax platform can now ingest a variety of map layers (e.g., weather, traffic, live camera feeds, etc.), CAD feeds, news/RSS feeds and virtually any other kind of digital data, regardless of its source, thanks to the development of a new data connector framework.
- The desired ability to communicate directly with users from within the system has led to the launch of a notification feature embedded in the platform.
Participants agreed Haystax for Incident Management “would increase a first responder’s ability to communicate and share information… The common operating picture created by [the Haystax system] allowed participants to view all the information shared by other participants and to make decisions during the experimentation.”
The evaluation report concluded that the ability of users of Haystax for Incident Management “to view similar types of information in different contexts — such as spatially on a map, or temporally on a timeline — would increase their understanding of an event or incident and allow them to make more informed decisions.”
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Note: To learn more about individually configured Haystax security management solutions, please visit our Law Enforcement, Fire Safety, School Safety and Emergency Management solutions pages. We also deploy similar capabilities for Enterprise Security and Event Security.