The City of Baton Rouge conducted the trial run of Virtual Command Technology at the A.Z. Young office building in downtown Baton Rouge. Thanks to the VCT system, first responders rushed to the scene knowing full well what to expect, including location/number of perpetrators, and soon after, they arrested the mock perpetrator and extinguished the fire he started.

There is a new ability to provide virtual visual validation to security, police and fire departments within seconds of a developing emergency. Time is crucial in a fire or security incident, but aided by a new technology, fire and police responders will reach the emergency with incident planning and preparation well in progress.

The City of Baton Rouge, along with cooperation from the State of Louisiana and Net Talon, Inc., conducted a demonstration of its police and fire departments using Virtual Command Technology. Two weeks of vigorous testing have been witnessed by the State of Louisiana and the City of Baton Rouge including the chief of police, the fire chief, the attorney general’s office, the insurance commissioner, the state facilities department and other state and local officials.

The live security and fire demonstration was conducted at the A.Z. Young office building in downtown Baton Rouge. The Baton Rouge Special Response Team and the Baton Rouge B Shift Baton Rouge Fire Department took part in live emergency response exercises, and attendees viewed the operations in real-time from the Baton Rouge Welcome Center.

Fire Department Chief Ed Smith said, “This new system will revolutionize the tactics of first response.” Police Chief Jeff LeDuff said, “If law enforcement officials in Pennsylvania had this technology the first shot in, Lancaster would never have occurred.”

Two of the participants in the mock run of the VCT system review the progress of the exercise. They can communicate with responders to better prepare them for what to expect once arriving to the scene.

Providing a Virtual Presence

The demonstration showed how the system gives firefighters and police officers a virtual presence in an affected building. Within seconds of the alert, officials can understand a developing emergency and react to it, as opposed to conventional response technology where many minutes may pass and the responders still have no real information to go on.

In this new concept of emergency management, a facility equipped with NetTalon sensors is networked directly to police and fire department dispatch and operations centers. Every responding entity receives notification at once, eliminating time-consuming rerouting.

Emergency notification reaches the fire or police responders directly, and in seconds they can view the inside of the building, virtually “looking at” the emergency. The alarm control panel in the building has a database containing all floor plans with icons representing sensors. In an emergency, sensor conditions are updated every second by changing their color, from “not in alarm” green to “early warning” orange and “alarm” red. The change of color shows the observer the nature of the developing emergency.

Because it is critical to identify an intruder or validate the presence of a victim in a refuge room, video is integrated into the system. This video integration helps save lives and spare surprise situations.

The inbound fire apparatus and police cruisers access the same information en route, so they can see the incident and complete preliminary incident planning as they drive to the building. By the time they arrive to the scene, everyone has an assignment and incident mitigation begins immediately.

Firefighters were notified of a fire the mock perpetrator started and responded to the scene. The VCT system set off the fire alarm and the B Shift Baton Rouge Fire Department reacted, extinguishing the fire immediately.

Virtual Command for firefighters

Presently, the fire department knows little before it gets to the building. The incident commander has to go to the alarm panel to determine the issue. A reconnaissance crew is sent in – essentially blind – and comes back to report, and that is when the commander works out an attack and rescue plan. Much vital time is lost before the responders even start fighting the fire.

With the virtual notification system, the alarm panel is in the apparatus allowing the first fire captain and incident commander to conduct an assessment. Just as the first engine leaves the firehouse, the system has the answers, allowing the crew to fine-tune their attack plans while on the way to the fireground.

In a real emergency, a number of people typically get out safely because of their location in an uninvolved part of the building. In this demonstration, people in the involved part of the building who are unable to get out go to designated refuge rooms on each floor and alert their presence. Refuge rooms are fitted with cameras for verification by the fireground commander, allowing informed rescue procedures to begin immediately.

Smoke detectors and digital temperature sensors throughout the building enable the commander to prioritize rescue operations according to where the fire and smoke is closest to the refuge rooms.

Participants in the trial run of the VCT system convene after a successful response from both police and firefighters.

Chain reaction

The virtual notification system allows for firefighter teams to be virtually aware, which creates a chain-reaction of positive and helpful information:
  • The fire service has time advantages.
  • The fire dispatch can validate a working fire.
  • Working fire verification allows fireground commander to request additional resources.
  • Wireless connectivity enables each captain to locate and monitor the fire’s behavior, location and spread as well as identify refuge rooms.
  • False alarms are easily identified.
  • Firefighter safety and awareness is enhanced.

Chief Efferson along with other participants in the test run of the new VCT system is debriefed on the status of the trial run

Virtual incident for police

Ninety-eight percent of today’s security alarms are false, according to some sources. Today’s police departments know little of the incident prior to arrival to the scene. Police respond to an electronic alarm incident by dispatching an officer to investigate the situation. Only after the discovery of forced entry are units dispatched to an actual incident. Those officers must then enter the crime scene not knowing if perpetrators are present, how many may be present and if they are armed with weapons. They are forced to make a room-by-room, floor-by-floor search.

With virtual notification, an actual incident is verified within seconds and responding officers can determine the point of entry, locate and track the intruders using wireless notebooks. Enterprise or office security video cameras can be used to obtain physical descriptions of perpetrators.

Virtual Incident Command Lessons Learned

  • False alarms are eliminated.
  • Actual incidents are verified.
  • Adequate resources are dispatched to scene.
  • Mitigation planning takes place en route.
  • Knowledge of present perpetrators allows units to secure all egress points.
  • Continuous ability to track perpetrators allows incident commander to obtain tactical control of the building.

SiDEBAR: A REAL LIFE Demonstration

The City of Baton Rouge, along with cooperation from the State of Louisiana and Net Talon, Inc., conducted a demonstration of its police and fire departments.

Attendees observed a security incident that involved a simulated nighttime break-in by an individual planning to set the scene on fire. The Baton Rouge Special Response Team responded to the incident. Responding units tracked the perpetrator from the cruisers using VCT and a tactical backup from police department operations as well as police dispatch. Attendees monitored the tactical radio net during the incident and watched the police make the arrest.

While in the building, the perpetrator lit a fire that was slow to start. Without knowledge, the police left the scene with the perpetrator in custody. The building went into fire alarm with B Shift Baton Rouge Fire Department responding to the developing fire. B Shift was dispatched to the developing fire, observing the fire location and behavior from their wireless notebooks. People working late in the building unaware of the incident were trapped by the fire and found safety in a refuge room. From their cell phones they notified the department of their presence. The attendees monitored the tactical net during the operations.