Zehavi notes that if a facility doesn't have sufficient coverage, the gaps would show at this stage, which is an added value of SimGuard. Zehavi explains that although people are acquiring more cameras, they are often located in really random, less-than-optimal places. For example, positioning cameras based on where the power outlets are does not necessarily provide the best coverage.
"We take [into condsideration] the various threats jail security is most concerned about and for each one of these, we say, 'OK, if this scenario happens, let's see what this will look like and what we have to do,' and so on," says Zehavi. "Once we are happy with all the scenarios and contingency plans, we load them into the system, where they can be used for realistic training scenarios and also in real time if they occur."
SimGuard superimposes the scenarios over the facility's 3D geospatial representation, identifying and numbering each. In the case of an actual event, the system will pull up the appropriate plan and then direct the response. This is particularly valuable during high-stress events, when alarms are ringing and people are shouting, all of which rattles the nerves of the most seasoned operator or responder, says Zehavi. Through real-time sensors, operators are kept abreast of any changes, which will allow them to stay up to date if, for example, there is a number of people gathered in one area or access is altered. Operators can then respond accordingly.Merging info and geography
The system is unique because it merges real-world information and real-time geography into a 3D virtual realistic world, Zehavi, says. The extended module allows for the setting of up to 50 parameters, including different kinds of environmental conditions such as smoke, fire, bombing, gas leak or power failure, which could damage potential escape routes, enabling operators to identify alternate ones. Operators can run combinations of factors to obtain the most accurate prediction of crowd behavior at any time, identify and preplan the most effective evacuation strategy and route for a given situation, and anticipate what could go wrong.
For example, it can show a virtual crowd of people running around, confused and going to the wrong place. Operators can vary the level of panic and manipulate the demographics of the virtual mass, such as age, ethnicity and gender. Thus, in a jail, plans would likely vary depending upon whether it was a women's or a men's facility, and also by the average age.
Zehavi says the company's first sale was in 2005 to Barclay's headquarters in London, in the Canary Warf area, where most of the international banks are located. The company has done smaller installations in Israel and currently has a large project underway in Europe (they're putting this system into 42 sites belonging to one corporation). It is just now making inroads into the United States, doing a "very big job" at an undisclosed West Coast airport. Zehavi thinks the law enforcement and first responder markets hold lots of potential for SimGuard.
"All law enforcement officials have one thing in common," Zehavi says. "They face multiple-discipline incidents. And no matter what happens, whether the incident involves a city, several cities, one jail or 15, using this system, you can monitor everything from one site and gather and distribute this information in a common language to whoever needs it, whether police, fire, sheriff, whomever, and unify the response. There is no limit as to how many sites can be monitored from one location; the customer only has to decide how many incidents they want to handle."
The company is developing new modules on a continuous basis, says Zehavi. One currently in the works is designed to assist in preplanning responses to natural disasters.
Pamela Mills-Senn is a freelance writer based in Long Beach, California.