Managing Fast Moving Events with Siemens PSIM

Institutions have a lot to gain from implementing a physical security information management solution— if it’s done correctly.

There’s no shortage of emergencies campus officials must be prepared to respond to today. These incidents range in complexity and can require very different types of responses.

Standalone security systems can provide a window into some of these events, serving a narrow function that then requires operators to fill in any remaining blanks. These systems, whether they be intrusion or fire alarm, video surveillance, access control or something else, have become commonplace on school and hospital campuses.

But relying on standalone systems alone may require emergency responders to manually gather information from other sources. After that, operators must find or remember the appropriate response procedures. This approach can be time consuming, require multiple people and lead to a less-informed response.

The fact that many campuses have these systems is a good thing: Each one presents a source of information for responders. But without any way to streamline that information, things can get overwhelming, particularly in a high pressure situation when time is of the essence and lives may be at stake. Consider a scenario where a door alarm is triggered. With standalone systems, a dispatcher may first need to determine the location of the door on campus, then open the video surveillance feed and find the corresponding camera to see what’s happening.

At what point does the operator contact officers on the ground, and what does he or she tell them? If the operator sees a person in the live video feed who may pose a threat, what is the process for initiating an emergency response?

The answers to these questions are dependent on the institution’s procedures and the operator’s familiarity with those procedures. Fortunately, there are solutions available to decrease the margin for error.

PSIM Makes Effective Emergency Response Easy

Physical security information management (PSIM) solutions provide a single platform for operators to manage myriad security applications.

Emergency response needs vary from institution to institution, but PSIM is ideal for some situations. Trond-Olav Dahl, the product manager of Siemens Siveillance Viewpoint PSIM solution, lists active shooters, chemical spills, protests and perimeter breaches as examples of incidents that PSIM solutions can address.

“PSIM typically has the biggest impact on response and recovery in situations where there is information coming from multiple sources and the situation is evolving over time,” he says.

Unfortunately, most campuses around the country have experience with fast-moving emergencies these days. Because of this new threat landscape, institutions have developed complex emergency response procedures for specific kinds of emergencies.

All of the time spent developing those procedures, however, goes to waste if operators aren’t able to follow them.

“There is information coming from numerous sources during these incidents,” Dahl says. “If [the responses] are not automated within a dynamic system, or if an operator does not have every step memorized, it is likely that a step could be missed, which could slow down the response and recovery.”

During emergencies, PSIM solutions like Siveillance Viewpoint pull up corresponding emergency procedures for operators to reference. This ensures that response procedures are in front of the people making decisions at the times when they need them most.

“[PSIM systems] give the operator the latest steps and the information they need,” Dahl says. “That’s the true value add of PSIM and where customers find the largest benefit.”

As the emergency changes and develops, so does the PSIM system’s reaction to the emergency.

“As information changes, the PSIM system is able to adapt and change as well,” Dahl says. “PSIM systems have the ability to take information from multiple sources and then guide an operator through an event — like a doorforced alarm — and then dynamically change to a break-in event on the fly.”

Additionally, solutions such as Siveillance Viewpoint can use the flow of sensor information and their understanding of different systems to predict the way a situation will develop.

The Mass Migration to PSIM on Campuses

More and more campuses are turning to integrated solutions like Siveillance Viewpoint as they realize their benefits. Dahl sees four primary reasons for this shift.

  1. Technological advances have allowed security systems to provide more information than ever before, so campus officials need a way to digitally analyze, structure and use this information to optimize responses. “PSIM solutions provide operators the right standard operating procedure at the right time,” he says. “Based on a status change or event, the system will guide operators to the correct procedure to follow and automatically execute steps that can be automated.”
  2. With the increasing frequency and complexity of threats, responses have become more intricate, requiring additional training and technology to respond efficiently. “PSIM solutions are constantly gathering information from numerous data sources, and they understand where those data sources are in the real world, so they’re able to constantly give an overview of the entire site at a glance,” Dahl explains. “Having PSIM in place drastically improves operator efficiency, which means they can do more with less.”
  3. Regulatory and compliance concerns have led universities, hospitals and school districts to solutions that can track each step of a response for later review. This review capability is not only invaluable for compliance purposes, but also for officials to find opportunities to improve emergency response procedures later on. “PSIM solutions gather information from the start to the finish of an emergency response, from both integrated sensors and subsystems, and also from operators as they interact with the solution,” Dahl says. “All the information is tracked in a detailed audit log that can be accessed manually or via customized reports… the complete history of the response is documented.”
  4. Budgetary concerns around officer training have made solutions that gather information into understandable, organized interfaces more appealing because they require less training.

“PSIM integrates multiple safety and security systems into a common user interface, which ensures common interaction for daily tasks across domains, so operators only need to be trained on one system rather than many,” Siemens Security Segment Head Jim Lantrip says. “In most environments without a PSIM system, you see people who are trained on the individual system they’re responsible for rather than a common system for all operators.”

How to Move to PSIM

Safety and security officials may feel the need for an integrated PSIM solution, and they may even understand the full range of its benefits, but migrating to a campus-wide solution that connects with so many campus subsystems can still be an intimidating undertaking.

“PSIM solutions are ‘living solutions’ that become embedded in daily operations, requiring a commitment from an organization to truly benefit from the technology,” Dahl says. “PSIM drives a new way of working, which often also leads to at least a partial rework of business processes.”

Dahl recommends officials talk with security colleagues at other institutions in their area who have PSIM experience before making any purchasing decisions.

“Hearing from [peers] about the benefits and challenges associated with PSIM in their environment allows the official to start to map these experiences to their environment,” he says.

From there, Dahl recommends officials reach out to PSIM industry experts. The experts should be familiar with the education or healthcare industry and, importantly, credible enough to trust for years to come.

“It’s important that officials choose a partner that will be around for a long time,” Dahl says. “PSIM solutions become so embedded in daily operations that it is a major risk to have a company or software provider that might not be around for the long term.”

Siemens Makes PSIM Easy

Siemens has taken a completely new approach to PSIM. Siveillance Viewpoint takes the complexity out of PSIM solutions and maximizes command and control functionality.

Customers purchasing Siemens solutions can use the security giant’s remote or onsite monitoring and maintenance services, and regular updates ensure the latest software enhancements are at the customer’s disposal.

“Siveillance Viewpoint was designed with the latest technologies in mind,” Lantrip says. “The true cost savings come after Siveillance is implemented because it optimizes operator utilization, protects brand reputation, ensures business continuity and provides vendor independence for integrated subsystems, giving customers the ability to migrate legacy solutions easily without impact to daily operations.”

What more could emergency managers ask for?

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