"Real world." That two-word phrase is one of the last instructions we receive as the bus pulls into the training village for the active shooter scenario. If we experience medical distress or injury during the scenario, we're supposed to say, "Real world."
The reason we've been given this directive is that the scenario involves dozens of role players all portraying either dead, wounded, or panicked active shooter victims. Part of their performance is to scream for help, so anyone needing real assistance needs to say, "Real world," not "Help."
The active shooter response scenario is just part of the multi-day public safety training exercise and technology demonstration known as Operation Convergent Response (OCR), which was held early last month. Sponsored by Verizon and Nokia and held in the training village of the Guardian Centers in Perry, GA, OCR consists of seven scenarios: Active Shooter, Earthquake, Helicopter Crash, Hurricane, Interstate Pile-Up, Subway Terror Attack, and Nuclear Detonation.
The Concert Attack
OCR's active shooter scenario was quite a production. The setting was an outdoor concert. During the scenario a bomb detonated under the stage, "killing" an emcee. The report of the explosion was still in our ears when a rifle-wielding gunman opened up on the crowd from the third story of a training building across the street and role players started to fall. Two SWAT teams from local Georgia agencies responded to the attack. They breached into the building, and we watched on a large screen video display as the teams cleared the building floor by floor and neutralized the shooter.
The scenario was over. But the presentation continued.
OCR is not a typical law enforcement training exercise. It's not really about the training and the tactics; it's about demonstrating the technology of Verizon, Nokia, and dozens of partner companies.
After the demonstration ended at the active shooter scenario, the audience of public safety professionals and representatives from potential future partners of Verizon were given briefings on the tools used in the scenario. The scenario involved ShotSpotter technology to speed law enforcement response, aerial drones, robots, telemedicine solutions, lots of high-tech communications gear, facial recognition kiosks, a throwable video camera, and Verizon's new Real-Time Response Center.
The throwable tactical video camera from Bounce Imaging (www.bounceimaging.com) was one of the most interesting tools used by the scenario's law enforcement teams to locate, neutralize, and apprehend the gunman. The ball-shaped camera can be mounted on a pole or thrown into position. It was deployed in both ways during the scenario. Tactical officers used the pole camera to detect the location of the gunman and then threw the camera up to the third floor to track the gunman's movements as they ascended the stairs to engage him. Bounce Imaging says the camera has survived drops from high-flying drones onto concrete, so it's plenty tough to survive a throw. Regardless of how it lands after being thrown the device can capture video in any direction, as it features six cameras. The cameras can send video by 4G LTE to a dedicated device or to a smartphone or tablet.
Verizon's Real-Time Response Center was running on the video display that showed the officers in action within the gunman's building. The system integrates multiple data sources such as 911 dispatch calls, crime databases, applicable video, and gunshot detection and displays it in one place to give incident commanders greater situational awareness so they can make better decisions.
In addition to the Real-Time Response Center, Verizon demonstrated its Digital Evidence Management system, which allows the public to share video and images with law enforcement through a Web-based upload system.
Another Verizon tool demonstrated during the active shooter scenario was the company's new gunshot detection product, which was produced in partnership with ShotSpotter (www.shotspotter.com).
One of the more timely and topical scenarios at this year's OCR was the hurricane. This was conducted in an area of the Guardian Centers' training village where buildings are actually submerged in a manmade pond to simulate post-storm flooding in a neighborhood.
During the hurricane scenario public safety personnel and Cajun Navy volunteers used boats to rescue people off of the roofs of the flooded "homes." The first responders also cut into those roofs with chain saws, axes, and other tools to pull trapped role players out of the attics.
Technology demonstrated during the scenario included a variety of wireless communication tools, numerous aerial assets such as drones and balloons, a floating sonar drone, and an innovative amphibious rescue vehicle.
The Hydronalix EMILY (Emergency Integrated Lifesaving LanYard) is an aquatic drone capable of a variety of functions. It can speed out into swift water or an ocean riptide at 30 mph to rescue drowning people and, fitted with side scan sonar, it can locate sunken vehicles, bodies, or evidence. At OCR, the drone was used to locate people (dummies) trapped in submerged vehicles. Divers used the data provided by EMILY's sonar to go down and bring up the victims. The sonar interface for the
EMILY is a simple Hummingbird system very similar to a fish finder. Hydronalix (www.emilyrobot.com) says it integrates the simple sonar system with EMILY so that users do not need sophisticated skills to interpret information from the drone.
There were numerous unmanned drones in the air and the water during the hurricane scenario but the tool that stole the show was a manned rescue vehicle called the SHERP. The SHERP is an amphibious ATV that was designed and developed in Russia and is sold in the U.S. by SHERP of New England (www.sherpne.com). It can carry multiple people, overcome obstacles up to 27 inches high, climb a 35-degree slope, and run through deep mud or snow. Oh, it can also drive on water and ice. The unique and massive tires of the SHERP prevent the vehicle from sinking as it moves across even deep water at speeds up to 3 mph. Top speed on dry land is 25 mph. SHERPs have been used to rescue people who have fallen into frozen lakes, for search and rescue in the harshest terrain, and in wildland fire fighting. During OCR's hurricane scenario, a SHERP drove out of the woods, across a creek, and into the pond where the training was occurring.
Seeing It Work
One of the aspects of OCR that sets it apart from many other law enforcement training exercises is that it is a combined training exercise, technology demonstration, and trade show.
After each scenario the attendees were taken to an exhibition hall where Verizon and Nokia partners showed the tech that was demonstrated during the scenarios. This was very different than most trade shows in that it was organized by scenario.
The technology on display at the trade show and demonstrated in the training village scenarios is extensively vetted to make sure it can do the job, according to Verizon. "We've seen it all work," says Nick Nilan, director of public sector product development at Verizon Enterprise Solutions.
Brett Railey, former chief of police for Winter Park, FL, says one of the great benefits of OCR for law enforcement is that officers can see that the technology works before they buy it or even test it in house. "In the real world, we have to be careful about spending money. Operation Convergent Response is an interactive and immersive trade show where you get to see the technology work before you acquire it," Railey says.
The dates for next year's Operation Convergent Response have not been set. But Nilan says the company plans to continue the event, and it hopes attendance by law enforcement will grow.
"The goal here is to show first responders tools that can improve their missions," Nilan says. "OCR is open to anybody and everybody in public safety whether they are federal, state, or local. We want everybody to be able to see this."