How security enhances metro emergency management
Editor / Provider: William Pao, a&s International | Updated: 10/6/2014 | Article type: Hot Topics
Taking public transportation has become a normal way of life for people constantly on the go. Yet despite various safety measures implemented by the operator, disasters, whether natural or caused by human, occur from time to time. Luckily, today's security technologies have evolved to enable better emergency management for operators, and passengers can travel with peace of mind.
Public transportation has become a common way for people to commute, travel, or get to wherever they want to go. According to figures provided by UITP in 2013, 148 cities in the world have a metro system, carrying a total of 150 million passengers everyday. As for buses, 32 billion passenger journeys are made in a year worldwide — that's roughly 56% of the 60 billion for the entire public transportation system.
But, while operators around the world work hard to make sure their public transportation systems are safe, major accidents still happen from time to time. Also, due to public transit's open nature and the fact security checks are less stringent than air travel, metros and buses are easy targets for terrorist attacks. The 2004 Madrid train bombings and the 2005 bombings on London's subway and bus systems are two horrific examples in recent times. Against this backdrop, security plays a major role in emergency management. Take the 2005 London bombings as an example. Immediately after the first bombings on July 7, law enforcement officials searched for suspects via videos taken by the roughly 6,000 cameras deployed throughout the London Underground. Four days later, the images were discovered, and the identities and backgrounds of the four suspects were found. They were arrested within a week.
For today's metro operators, they can be aided by the latest developments in security technologies, including PSIM, PA, intercom, and intelligent software such as VCA to deal with emergencies even more efficiently. With these technologies in place, operators can detect threats, act upon them, and respond to incidents quickly.
VCA : Detecting Threats Early
A major component for preventing disasters in public transit is early detection of threats. Unattended bags, individuals loitering on the platform, or unauthorized entry into tunnels may lead to disastrous consequences if not dealt with in time. In fact, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security allocates millions of dollars annually to support the deployment of tunnel intrusion detection.
An effective tool that can help operators detect threats early is video content analysis (VCA), also known as video analytics, which has become more advanced and intelligent. Among the things that VCA can do are passenger counting to avoid overload, facial recognition to identify potential terrorists, and detecting objects left behind to prevent bomb explosions. Today's VCA can be embedded directly into surveillance cameras. “This enables the cameras to automatically alert the security center in case of, for instance, unauthorized access at rail yards, bus depots, or tunnels. As a result, the transit authorities can get early warnings for potential incidents such as graffiti, metal theft, sabotage, or tunnel trespassing,” said Patrik Anderson, Director of Business Development for Transportation at Axis Communications.
While VCA is claimed to have various intelligent functions, overreliance should be avoided. “Analytics is in most cases not designed for 100% accuracy and cannot completely replace security staff,” Michael Port, Head of Technology at SeeTec, reminds.
PSI M: Responding to Incidents Faster
Physical Security Information Management, or PSIM, is an effective incident-response tool that has been deployed in numerous public transit systems around the world including those in Washington D.C., London, and Moscow.
PSIM's value is twofold. First, it allows the consolidation of disparate metro command and control subsystems, such as security, operation, emergency, and even maintenance into one centralized room. “This consolidation in which police, emergency forces, and metro operation team share the same room and use PSIM as the glue that provides common operating pictures has proven to have drastic effects on metro organizations' ability to respond quickly in a collaborative manner to unfolding situations,” said Udi Segall, Director of Business Development at NICE Systems.
Secondly, once a threat is detected or an accident has already happened, PSIM provides instructions on how to respond, based on pre-defined standard operating procedures. “It provides operators with step-by-step guidance on what to look for, who to contact, how to respond, and when to escalate an incident. It is also helping to create meaningful reports on long-term trends, so future investments can be targeted to risks,” said Adlan Hussain, VP of Marketing at CNL Software.
According to Hussain, deploying a PSIM platform across an enterprise is unlike any other physical security investment in that it reaches across more stakeholders within an organization. “Time and effort need to be given in order to create the processes for managing incidents. Some of these processes may cross departments, so it is important to work with all stakeholders on their expectation from the system,” he said.
Cameras and Storage
Surveillance cameras are now installed in trains and buses throughout global public transit systems to step up security. In particular, network or IP cameras can offer high-resolution images, some up to 6 megapixels, delivering crystal-clear videos that can help improve surveillance efficiency and enhance targeting of suspicious objects or individuals.
As video data generated by IP cams get bigger, network video recorders (NVRs) in trains or buses must have better storage management capabilities. With event recording, “users can first configure the event tags, such as motion detection in the form of line crossing or intrusion detection. When the event is triggered, the video recording is activated,” said Jianjun Pei, Director of Traffic Solutions at Hikvision.
Soft Power: VMS
Video management software nowadays can automatically detect and configure cameras, analyze and process videos generated by hundreds if not thousands of cameras deployed throughout a metro system, provide centralized control of these videos, and give operators greater situational awareness.
VMS products are also highly integrative and can combine with access control, fire detection, and other building automation technologies. “This way, situational awareness is dramatically improved for safety staff. They will be able to assess a situation much more effectively using live video feeds from the area where alarms are triggered,” said Jens Johansson, Transportation and City Surveillance Sales Manager at Milestone Systems. Despite the advances in network technologies, there is a sense of reluctance for some metro operators to migrate their legacy systems to IP. “It may be a challenge for transit authorities to make sound investment cycles towards the new level of public transport security offered by open network video technology. However, as major cities around the world have begun their journey towards a better way to manage incidents, transit authorities can turn to their fellow peers in other cities to learn,” Anderson said.
Breaking the Sound Barriers
Besides visuals, sounds, such as gunshots, glass breaking, or even passengers gasping in horror, can also indicate something is going wrong.
Consider a recent and less devastating example of how operators can be alerted through sound. On August 26, a woman taking the Taipei metro alleged a male college student of “touching” her. A passenger who saw this pressed the emergency call button and notified the operations command center (OCC) of the incident. When the train rolled into the next stop, police went into the car and took the suspect away.
Today's intercom and public address (PA) systems have become more network-centric and can help enhance incident management for metro operators. According to Simen Kjellberg, Commercial Product Manager for Rail and Metro at Zenitel Group, modern intercoms or emergency call points (ECPs) have become more complex yet powerful. Supported with audio analytics, they can detect gunshots, glass breaks, and various forms of aggression, and then trigger cameras and send the feeds back to the command central. Active voice cancelling filters out background noises, which can be louder than people talking. “This way, the elderly with weak voices can be heard even if a train is passing,” Kjellberg said.
With open duplex conversations, both sides can communicate simultaneously rather than one person speaking over a uni-direction link. Automatic gain control automatically adjusts the volume level of people's voice even if they are up to five meters away. “In case of a conflict, with people being pushed away from the ECP or injured people lying on the ground, they can still be heard,” Kjellberg said. As for PA, one of the most important breakthroughs is its integration with radios carried by field personnel, who can listen to PA broadcasts through their devices or better, make announcements through their radios that can be used like a microphone.
Wireless technologies have advanced significantly and can allow transmission of huge amounts of video data to the OCC seamlessly, even from moving trains. Charlie Chen, Sales Engineer at Oring Industrial Networking, said for ground rail systems, wireless transmission is easier to implement. “Access points can be put in the train and every 300 meters along the track to make sure that transmission is smooth and uninterrupted,” he said.
Yet concerns have been raised over connection dropouts in tunnels, especially at sharp turns. Cosimo Malesci, VP of Sales and Marketing at Fluidmesh Networks, said this is a non-issue, as long as the implementation is done correctly. “We have done a lot of tests in tunnels on moving metro vehicles, and it works properly. Of course, the number of radio in curvatures should be higher than in straight lines,” he said.
Sit Back and Relax
Security technologies nowadays are evolving to help prevent and respond to emergencies. While they are not 100% effective, and while challenges still remain, they are being deployed in a growing number of metro systems and have proven effective in helping operators gain situational awareness and protect passengers' lives and assets. To make sure passengers can sit back and relax on metros and buses, investment in security overhaul and upgrades is justified.
Tips on Surveillance Deployment on Trains or Buses
The most ideal spots to install cameras are entrances and exits of buses and trains, since “every suspect has to enter or leave the vehicle,” said Michael Port, Head of Technology at SeeTec, adding cameras should also be distributed equally along the vehicle axis. In general, four to six cameras are the ideal number for installation on each bus or metro car.
When purchasing cameras, the user should identify their overall objective. “Should a particular camera make it possible to identify individuals? Or recognize? These two use cases result in different requirements on the camera in terms of resolution and low-light characteristics,” said Jens Johansson, Transportation and City Surveillance Sales Manager at Milestone Systems.
“The selection of lenses and field of view of each camera should be considered so that one can clearly identify the person. Several lenses may be needed in various locations in the vehicle,” said Patrik Anderson, Director of Business Development for Transportation at Axis Communications.
Panoramic cameras are ideal, as they are able to cover a wider range of a given area. As an example, Dallmeier's panoramic solution was deployed by South Africa's metro system, which faced the problem of vandalism and theft on trains parked at the rail yard at night. With the solution, which uses several lenses with different focal distances, more areas can be monitored and suspects identified, resulting in a reduction in crime.