Putting Out Wildfires with Smarter City Services
In the emergency control center of the City of Cape Town, Karen Titus sits in front of a bank of computer screens. Titus, an Assistant Emergency Communications Officer for the city, is prepared for a busy afternoon.
It’s summertime in South Africa and that means an increased risk of wildfires in the dry vegetation that surrounds this dynamic city of some 3.7 million people.
Then, as if on cue, the displays begin to light up as the center receives incoming calls. Titus is soon facing more than half a dozen flashing red icons.
A Calm Response to a Stressful Situation
“It’s all in a day’s work,” says Titus matter-of-factly, and methodically she goes about the critical task of dispatching and tracking the necessary emergency resources.
In spite of Titus’s calm demeanor, working the emergency center of any major city can be a stressful experience – every call has the potential of being a matter of life and death. But in Cape Town, emergency management has changed dramatically since the city implemented an integrated public safety initiative known as EPIC.
EPIC, which stands for the Emergency Policing and Incident Command program, provides a single control platform that city employees use to provide a coordinated response from six public safety services within the city.
The technology is based on SAP CRM powered by SAP HANA and the SAP Investigation Management for Public Sector package, and EPIC is making a big difference in how effectively the city can respond to emergency situations.
At the heart of the EPIC system are interactive map displays that give the control center’s workers a “big picture” view of the city and its environs. Color-coded symbols pinpoint wildfires and other emergency incidents as they are reported, while different icons identify the location and changing status of emergency personnel and vehicles in the field.
“I can now see fire, police, ambulance, and other emergency services all in one place,” says Titus, “and with the click of a button, I can contact any one of them.” Titus and her colleagues can now track responding resources and more accurately access on-going developments. And the system is even designed to allow dispatchers to deploy and redirect resources by dragging and dropping icons on the displays.
Meanwhile, field personnel are equipped with geo-enabled mobile devices that not only keep them constantly connected, but that also give them access to critical information – like the availability of local water hydrants.
“We just didn’t have this kind of connection in the past,” says Titus. “It’s a really good feeling to know you can do your job better and faster,” she adds, “because regardless of the technology, at the end of the day, we’re here to help people.”
Part of a Smart City Strategy
The EPIC program is actually just one component of an award-winning smart city strategy that uses technology to improve the quality of life and to help make Cape Town a more efficient city. (In fact, Cape Town was recognized at the Gold level in two different categories in the 2016 SAP Quality Awards.)
“Cape Town has been relentlessly automating its business processes for over a decade,” says Mehboob Foflonker, head of Enterprise Architecture for the City of Cape Town. “These days, we wouldn’t think about running a city in the 21st century without technology.”
Foflonker should know. His job is finding the right solutions to meet the business requirements for more than 50 different departments within the city.
And as a born-and-raised Capetonian, Foflonker recognizes that smarter city services are having a tremendous impact on people’s lives.
“When you use technology, you democratize service delivery,” says Foflonker. “You can help ensure that every citizen has access to the same services at the same quality level.”
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You might also like:
To hear more from Karen Titus and Mehboob Foflonker in this SAP video
To read this blog by SAP’s Rob Enslin: Smart Investments to Create Smart Cities