Kopis Mobile Supports USBTA Exercise

USBTA Logo

The United States Bomb Technician Association (USBTA) was formed by current and former Public Safety and Military Bomb Technicians who strongly believe that training with and learning from each other is vital in today’s world where the use of Improvised Explosive Devices are being used to cause harm and destroy property.

The primary focus is to give manufacturers the opportunity, in a training environment, to display/demo current and future technologies in  task oriented exercises for Public Safety and Military Bomb Technicians.

Improvised Explosive Devices in the U.S. are more prevalent than one may think. According to a 2016 report from the U.S. Bomb Data Center, from January 1, 2016, through December 31, 2016, the Bomb Arson Tracking System (BATS) captured a total of 15,943 explosives related incidents. Of the reported incidents, there were 699 explosions of which 439 were bombings, with California and Florida having the highest numbers. There were a total of 6,879 recoveries reported in 2016, with the majority being explosives (non-improvised explosive devices (IEDs)). There were a total of 6,061 suspicious/unattended package incidents, which is up by 27 percent.

Following previous years’ reporting, there has continued to be a slight decrease in the overall numbers of bomb threats reported. There were 1,693 bomb threats reported in 2014, 1,670 in 2015, and 1,537 in 2016. Education and office/business properties remain the most commonly reported targets of bomb threats; however, the overall numbers of bomb threats to both have decreased since 2015.

As you can guess, bomb technicians are pretty important folks. Two weeks ago, Kopis Mobile supported the USBTA’s Operation Inland Empire in Temecula, CA.

This was far better than most trade shows we have attended in the past because it wasn’t in a typical trade show environment. There was no standing inside of a convention center all day, eating crappy convention center food, talking to people who really don’t care about your products. All they really want is whatever you are handing out for free. It doesn’t matter if it is candy, pens, stickers or 50 cent key chain flash lights, if it is free, they will take it.

First of all, the entire event was outside and the weather was perfect. Second, the attending bomb technicians were divided into groups then rotated through stations. Each station had a different vendor’s equipment for the techs to try in a semi-realistic scenario.

USBTA NTtv Support

We had several NTtv systems set up around the area to provide real time video of the equipment being used. The techs could also try out robots, drones, bomb suits, and different x-ray devices. One of the interesting things we discovered, NTtv was not effected by the radios that were associated with the robots.

Without getting too technical, the radios were pumping out 15 watts of power. That was enough to disrupt the communications of every other product anywhere near the robot’s antennae except for ours. This was a great data point for us and proved the reliability of the system in that type of radio environment.

All in all, the USBTA coordinators put on a great event. This was only the second time they have done something like it. The next one will be in Orlando this coming December. Kopis will be there to support those that keep us safe!

Video Does Not Lie But It Does Improve Performance

SHOT Show 2018
SHOT Show – New Product Section

We recently wrapped up the 40th anniversary of the SHOT Show in Las Vegas. It was probably won of our best trade shows to date since we have been in business. Our focus product for the show was NTtv and how video greatly improves performance.

I spoke to many people during the week who either conduct training or own a firearms facility of some type. I was blown away by the fact almost none of them utilize video as a way to improve the performance of their students. Let’s dig into this training subject a little deeper.

Subjective: “reality as perceived – rather than as independent of mind.”

What does this really mean? When something like an observation of an event is viewed in a subjective way, it is based inside of an individual’s brain.  Things like life experiences, memories, personal biases and prejudices all command the subjective view.

To get even more crazy scientific on you, when a person looks at something in a subjective way, they see it as perceived reality instead of reality itself. The bottom line is a subjective observation can change wildly from person to person.

Now, let’s look at the opposite of subjective.

Objective: “the realm of sensible experience independent of individual thought and perceptible by all observers.”

The real meaning of this is pretty simple. This type of observation starts and happens outside the mind of any specific person. In this instance, the action is observable by any other individual looking at the same situation. In order for this to happen, all subjective biases have to be removed.

I am sure you are wondering what point I am trying to make. If you are reading this blog, you have probably done some type of structure clearance. It could have been a few rooms, a small house or an entire abandoned mental hospital (they are pretty creepy, by the way).

I am willing to bet many of you have had a lane grader, training cell or whatever your particular service calls them, tell you at the end of the run, “You went left instead of right in that room, on the fourth floor, at the end of the hallway, two rooms deep with the chair in it.”

Oh, and you aren’t the only one they have comments about. It makes you think there is no way in Hell they know what every single person in the stack did on a ten-minute run.

I actually knew some guys in training cell that could remember just about every single thing a guy did on a run, but I can guarantee you that it isn’t the norm.

The reason I bring all of this up is to prove the point that subjective evaluation lends itself to rely on memory and what an individual thought they saw. Objective evaluation is concrete, unbiased, and based on what really happened. The best example of an objective review tool is video. We all know pictures and video don’t lie.

Video review is a very useful tool. If it is used in a targeted manner at the right times, it allows a person to build a mental model of the correct skill. Watching video is a proven way to enhance the skill learning process.

Unfortunately, the video analysis of a training event doesn’t happen until the end of the day or even the following day. Immediate review can provide a person with the opportunity to improve a skill or technique by the very next training iteration – in a matter of minutes.

Video is saved for anytime use or evaluation to review the progress of individual skills. Video recordings reveal improvements or losses in one’s performance over time. It also is an invaluable tool in the diagnosis of a unit’s overall training program. Finally, it  shows new members of a unit the performance of veteran, top performers by providing them a solid baseline in which to begin training.

Sports coaches are utilizing immediate video evaluation more and more to critique the performance of athletes at every level. Traditionally, the feedback process has been based upon a coach’s subjective observation of performance, which can be influenced by bias, emotion and previous experiences (Hughes and Bartlett, 2008).

For example, a football coach’s subjective observation process is known to be unreliable and inaccurate, since even experienced coaches have been shown to be able to recall just 59.2% of the critical events occurring during 45 minutes of football performance (Laird and Waters, 2008).

This lack of accurate recall ability can lead to ‘highlighting’, where a coach’s perception of performance becomes distorted by those events that they can remember (Hughes and Bartlett, 2008). Ultimately, this results in inaccurate coaching feedback and decision-making, which can be improved with the use of objective, unbiased and comprehensive information performance analysis that video is capable of providing (James, 2006; Hughes and Bartlett, 2008).

A few years ago, we participated in a military exercise and had the opportunity to interview some special operators. They told our engineers they were using action cameras on operations and had no way of sharing what they were seeing with other squad members. The operators already had the cameras and were issued some type of smart device, but they couldn’t understand why there wasn’t an easy way for the two talk to each other.

We iterated extensively with these and other operators to develop a solution to greatly improve overall situational awareness. This solution is called Networked Tactical Television or NTtv.

Networked Tactical Television or NTtv
NTtv System

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The system provides the on scene commander real time video of operations. This results in far better situation awareness than just describing what is going on over a radio. NTtv is an invaluable training tool that allows trainers to set the system up in any location to capture the actions of trainees.

NTtv now also includes a multiple video DVR (mvDVR) feature that adds the ability to instantly review multiple synchronized camera views of the same action without having to go through hours of recorded video to find what you are really looking for. This vastly speeds up the after-action review process and provides immediate feedback using video angles that matter for each training evolution.

mvDVR
mvDVR

There is a very good reason why video is used to improve performance. That’s because it works and it is almost immediate. You can’t correct what you can’t see.

Situational Awareness..Just How Aware Are We??

Stock Photo Situational Awareness
Situational Awareness-Stock Photo

Situational awareness, the buzz phrase that took 2017 by storm. But what does it really mean? Simply, it means be aware of your surroundings. We learned this fundamental rule when we were children.

Walking, riding a bike or rollerskating in the street, our parents told us to watch out for cars. Walking in the woods or by a body of water, we were always told to watch out for snakes. Check under your bed for scary clowns like Pennywise from IT. 

Later on, they told us to park in well lit parking lots, carry the  keys a certain way, and stay out of certain areas. One of the biggest rules, know your exits out of a building in case of an emergency. The biggest threat back then was probably fire, but now it is likely an active shooter.

An active shooter situation is likely the most terrifying thing most of us may encounter in our life time. Nothing can stop us in our tracks faster and make our blood run colder, than hearing of an active shooter.

https://www.cnn.com/2017/06/14/us/san-francisco-shooting/index.html?no-st=1512586290
CNN File San Francisco UPS

How would you react? Even more so, how do you survive? Well it all comes back to situational awareness. You HAVE to be aware of your surroundings and always prepare for the worst. Having a “This won’t happen to me” mentality may just make you a statistic unless you have your *hit together. Just like walking through the woods and encountering that Cottonmouth, you have to know what to do, how to get away or how to treat a bite if bitten.

How do you do that? Do your homework. The Department of Homeland Security has a whole webpage dedicated to Active Shooter Preparedness.  Although it has been critiqued, the Run.Hide.Fight video has some very enlightening ideas.

Take a seminar. Many police agencies are offering half day seminars on what to do in an active shooter situation. I’ve taken one and it was not only informative but entertaining enough to keep everyone’s attention.

The most important thing you can do is to put that cell phone down, look around and use common sense. As you walk into a building, search out the exits. For example, when you walk into a restaurant, look for the kitchen.  When was the last time you were eating and saw someone take the trash out through the front door.

Be prepared and aware. It empowers you. Learn what you can learn, use common sense and constantly practice situational awareness.

 

National Guard Steps Forward In A Time Of Need

In A Time Of Need
National Guard Steps Up

It has taken a hurricane of biblical proportions to bring our country together and no one comes together like the citizens of Texas. Although people are obviously suffering, it restores one’s hope to see how our country has responded.

More than 30,000 National Guard and active duty troops were on standby Tuesday to assist overwhelmed Texas authorities in coping with the “historic” national disaster caused by Hurricane Harvey and the torrential rains and flooding that came in its wake.

At least 10 persons are believed to have died in Harvey’s aftermath, and Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo announced Tuesday the first death of an officer assigned to disaster relief. Acevedo said Officer Steve Perez, a 34-year veteran, drowned in a flooded-out underpass as he tried to reach his duty station.

Acevedo said Perez’ wife told him that she pleaded with her husband not to go, but he told her

“We’ve got work to do” in rescuing thousands of city residents stranded by the floods and getting them to shelter.

Harvey, now downgraded from a Category 4 Hurricane to a tropical storm with sustained winds of 45 mph, was meandering off the Gulf Coast and was expected to take aim at southwest Louisiana as it came back ashore on a path to the vicinity of Shreveport, Louisiana, according to the National Weather Service.

On Monday, President Donald Trump issued a federal emergency declaration for five parishes in southwest Louisiana: Beauregard, Calcasieu, Cameron, Jefferson Davis and Vermillion.

The Weather Service warned of another storm surge along the coast, with “a possibility of life-threatening inundation from rising water moving inland.”

Hard rains were still falling and rivers were still rising across wide swaths of Texas, and a broken levee and controlled releases from overflowing dams added to the flooding that has made escape routes impassable.

Gov. Greg Abbott, R-Texas, called Harvey and its aftermath “one of the largest disasters America has ever faced.”

Abbott was on hand under clear skies in Corpus Christi, Texas, on the Gulf Coast Tuesday morning to meet President Donald Trump, who arrived on Air Force One with First Lady Melania Trump to survey the damage and show support for first responders.

At the Annaville Fire Department, Trump heard reports from Coast Guardofficers and Federal Emergency Management Administrator Brock Long. “All eyes are on Houston, and so are mine,” Long said. “We’ve got a long time to go. We’re still in a life-saving, life-sustaining mission.”

Trump said the storms and flooding were “of epic proportion. No one has ever seen anything like this.” He told Abbott: “You have been terrific and you have been effective.”

Trump, wearing a windbreaker and a white “USA” ballcap, later stopped to address a crowd of several hundred supporters who had gathered nearby chanting “U.S.A! U.S.A.!” He said “This is epic, but you know what, this is Texas and Texas can handle anything.”

“I love you, you are special. We’re here to take care of you. It’s going well,” Trump said. “What a crowd, what a turnout,” he said. “We are going to get you back and operating immediately.”

Trump later went to Austin for more briefings on the response and the recovery efforts once the skies clear. He also made a reference to the long-term costs. “There’s probably never been anything so expensive in our country’s history,” he said.

Trump arrived in Texas on the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, which devastated New Orleans and led to widespread criticism of then-President George W. Bush over the federal response. For Katrina, 50,000 National Guard and 20,000 active-duty forces were mobilized.

Abbott called up about 900 from the Texas Army and Air National Guard before Harvey hit on Friday, and on Sunday he said about 3,000 had been mobilized. On Monday, Abbott said that all 12,000 in the Texas National Guard had been activated.

At the Pentagon Tuesday, Maj. Gen. James Witham, the National Guard Bureau’s Director of Domestic Operations, said there were actually 19,000 members of the Texas Guard, but 12,000 were currently available. He said the rest were either activated or other duties, were in training, or were unavailable.

Witham said that on Tuesday about 3,000 members of the Texas Guard were actively involved in rescue and recovery and he expected that number to grow to 4,000.

The Texas Guard had 200 high-ride vehicles in operation, with another 200 in reserve, Witham said. About 30 Texas Guard helicopters were active, and 24 more have been requested, Witham said. “We could grow up to 100 helicopters” before the storms subside, he said.

The Texas Guard alone thus far has rescued about 3,500 people stranded by the storms and flooding, including about 300 by helicopter hoist, Witham said.

The U.S. Coast Guard, which operates under Department of Homeland Security, had at least 20 helicopters operating Tuesday in the Houston area and reported that air and ground teams had rescued more than 1,450 people.

The National Guard was preparing to deploy 20,000-30,000 more troops to Texas in anticipation that Abbott makes a formal request for them, Witham said.

“I would like to emphasize that our response to this hurricane has been different to anything we’ve experienced before and we expect it to be much longer in terms of the response phase in terms of what we could normally see with a hurricane,” Witham said.

In addition to the Guard troops, active-duty air, ground and naval assets were on standby to respond in Texas but were also awaiting Abbott’s request, Witham said at a Pentagon briefing. “It depends on the governor and the state to ask for assistance,” he said. “Texas just hasn’t asked for them yet” but “we are leaning as far forward as we possibly can.”

When asked if Abbott had been too slow to ask for additional Guard and active-duty help, Witham said “Well, that’s debatable.”

“In many cases, the request for assistance not only for the National Guard but federal forces may not have been anticipated quick enough but we are providing everything we can as quickly as the state asks for it,” he said.

However, Witham said, “There are federal forces involved in the response now,” possibly under the dual-status command for Guard and Reserve, and active-duty that can be designated by Defense Secretary James Mattis with a governor’s permission.

Witham said that Abbott on Sunday signed a memo agreeing to have a dual status commander take charge of the Guard and active duty response. Mattis immediately named Brig. Gen. Patrick Hamilton of the Texas Army National Guard to be the dual-status commander, Witham said.

As the apparent result, Marine Corps Amphibious Assault Vehicles began appearing in Galveston, Texas, on Tuesday.

2nd Lt. Stephanie Leguizamon, a spokeswoman for Marine Forces Reserve, said 56 Marines and sailors from Charlie Company, Assault Amphibian Battalion, were currently assisting the Galveston, Texas, Fire Department with search-and-rescue missions.

The amphibious assault ship Kearsarge also reportedly was preparing to leave Norfolk, Virginia, with more Navy and Marine assets to aid in the Harvey recovery.

At a briefing Monday, Army Col. Robert Manning, a Pentagon spokesman, said that Randolph-Seguin auxiliary airfield at Joint Base San Antonio has been designated as a forward staging area for the distribution of supplies and equipment in anticipation that active-duty troops would be headed to Texas.

The Pentagon also sent to Joint Reserve Base Fort Worth a search-and-rescue unit with nine rotary-wing aircraft, two fixed-wing aircraft, para-rescue teams and planners, Manning said.

The Defense Department was also pre-positioning troops, search and rescue units, aircraft, vehicles, equipment and supplies to staging areas near the worst of the flooding to await Abbott’s request for assistance, Manning said.

“As of now, all Guard personnel providing assistance are on Title 32, or state orders. Active-duty units are enroute to the staging area in anticipation of a possible request,” Manning said, but “here has been no formal tasking of Title 10 DoD units,” meaning active-duty forces.

Late Friday, U.S. Northern Command said several actions underway in Texas at the request of Abbott for specific units and in support of FEMA.

In a statement, NorthCom said nine helicopters and two fixed-wing aircraft, along with pararescue teams and associated command and control elements, were operating out of Joint Reserve Base, Fort Worth, Texas.

NorthCom said those Navy and Air Force search-and-rescue (SAR) assets were flying missions that resulted in more than 225 rescues. In addition, five Zodiak rescue boat crews were assisting with rescues.

NorthCom also said that about 100 light and medium tactical vehicles were on the move from the Army post at Fort Hood, Texas, to Katy, Texas, to support the Red Cross in moving patients and residents out of flooded areas in Houston.

Richard Sisk for Military.com

From us at Kopis Mobile, our thoughts and prayers are with everyone. Given most of our employees lived through Hurricane Katrina, we know the long road those folks have ahead of them. They will endure and will rebuild.

Emergency Medical Tech (EMT) For Over Thirty Years

Howard Elkins 30 years of service

In the current age of fake news, negative news, and bad news, Kopis Mobile would like to post something positive. Doing anything for 30 years is tough, being an EMT for 30 years is even tougher. One can only imagine what Howard Elkins has witnessed over his long years of service.

In First Responders we meet Metro Ambulance paramedic and crew chief Howard Elkins. Elkins has been involved in helping others for nearly thirty years.

“I like taking care of people who truly need it. It makes the job fun and exciting,” Elkins says.

Howard Elkins has been with Metro for 13 years. He started his career in public service as a volunteer firefighter in Scott County.

“I was an EMT with the fire department and some of my friends, Teddy Derrick being one of them, were going to paramedic school and gave me a call to do it. Now, here we are,” Elkins says.

Elkins says there are many downsides to the job. They include working on children and seeing them injured.

“Over the years I’ve worked several of those who have been seriously injured. Some of them fatally injured. It’s just hard when you have kinds of your own to deal with that. To continue going through the process, even though you’re looking at this child thinking it could be yours,” Elkins says.

Elkins says the rewarding moments of being a paramedic come when he sees someone he has helped in the past.

“Week or a month later you see them out at Walmart or somewhere else. They walk up to you and say, ‘Hey, you were that guy that pulled me out of that car that night.’ Or, ‘got me out of the house when I had that stroke and I’m doing great!’ Stuff like that makes it worth it,” Elkins says.

Elkins has four daughters. He says they all have some interest in helping others.

“I have a pharmacist, a nurse, one planning to become a doctor and another one in middle school,” Elkins says.

Elkins says he plans on continuing a career as a paramedic for as long as he can.

“We try to treat people with respect and dignity. A lot of times we don’t get that in return. We strive really hard to do the best we can,” Elkins says.

Please keep this article in mind when you see an EMT or law enforcement officer during the course of your busy day. Take a few seconds to say “Thank you” or buy them a cup of coffee. I guarantee, they will appreciate the effort.

Opioids, The New Hazardous Material

Opioids are everywhere

In our continuing effort to post information about what are first responders are doing and what they have to face, I wanted put this out about opioids. This is an ever growing problem in this country.

It is amazing how bad the abuse of opioids have become. They are to easily prescribed and to accessible.

The following is an article from the Eagle-Tribune:

LAWRENCE, Mass. —The discovery of three men who overdosed on illicit drugs in a Garden Street home earlier this month triggered an intense response from firefighters specially trained in handling hazardous-material incidents.

Backed by local police, firefighters and paramedics, the investigation exceeded six hours and carried an estimated price tag of $75,000. Testing revealed the three men had overdosed, two of them fatally, on a mixture of cocaine and fentanyl, a man-made opioid 50 times stronger than morphine.

In the wake of the overdoses, and the public response that followed, Fire Chief Brian Moriarty is asking for some guidance at the state level.

Going forward, Moriarty said he thinks firefighters need standards and protocols to follow when they handle overdoses that may involve highly toxic substances. The fear on Garden Street that morning was the men had overdosed on either fentanyl or carfentanil, an even stronger man-made opioid that can be toxic to someone merely in its presence.

“I definitely think this needs to be reviewed… It’s always safer to have an abundance of caution than to ignore it. But we need to work on the future of how we are going to handle this,” Moriarty said.

He explained that for years firefighters have used universal precautions—gloves, masks and eye goggles—when they respond to medical aid calls, including reports of overdoses.

Now, when are those universal precautions sufficient? he asked.

“We need more education and training,” said Moriarty, who contacted the state’s Division of Fire Services and the state fire marshal. He said state officials were receptive to his request and planned to discuss the matter further.

Current policy calls for police and fire chiefs to weigh the necessity of a heightened overdose response and then notify the state if specialized services, such as a hazmat team or bomb squad, are needed, according to James DeSimone, spokesman for the state’s Division of Fire Services.

“Basically, it’s case by case on the local level. They made the decision if they feel they need our services… We are not responding to every overdose,” DeSimone said.

At 6 a.m., Monday, July 17, rescuers responded to a two-family home at 194 Garden St. after the homeowner called police to report cocaine he ingested may have been laced with “carfentanil,” Fitzpatrick said.

Officers arrived to find two men dead and the survivor, Jorge Contreras, 33, in need of immediate medical treatment.

Fitzpatrick said Contreras told police he “thought it was straight cocaine.”

“He said, ‘I took it and I knew something was wrong because I was getting all groggy,'” Fitzpatrick said. “He said, ‘I snorted it and all of a sudden my body starting shutting down.'”

Contreras remained hospitalized this week and may have suffered some nerve damage due to the overdose, Fitzpatrick said.

Similarly to firefighters, Fitzpatrick said police officers will “glove up” and wear protective masks when responding to overdoses or other drug calls. At times, officers encounter what appears to be a narcotics “mill operation or packaging area” and have contacted hazardous materials experts.

Fitzpatrick said Lawrence detectives in the Street Narcotics Enforcement Unit have worked with Drug Enforcement Administration agents who have training in hazardous materials response.

The overdoses at 194 Garden St. remain under investigation as detectives try to ascertain where and from whom the men obtained the cocaine-laced with fentanyl.

No similar overdoses were reported in Lawrence during the past two weeks.

With the exception of the Garden Street overdoses, Fitzpatrick said the department has not encountered many cases where cocaine was combined with fentanyl.

In June, however, the New York City Health Department issued a warning to cocaine users, “even occasional users,” that fentanyl had been implicated in a growing number of cocaine-involved deaths.

“In the past, fentanyl has been commonly present in heroin-involved deaths but fentanyl is increasingly being identified in other overdose deaths involving other drugs,” according to the alert.

In Lawrence, while Jorge Contreras, 33, survived the overdose, his brother who shared the same name, Jorge Contreras, 31, died. Joel Rodriguez, 26, also died.

The second floor of 194 Garden St., where the overdoses occurred, were sanitized by a professional cleaning company before the building could be inhabited again.

The federal Drug Enforcement Administration, in recent alerts, warned that carfentanil and other fentanyl-related compounds are a serious danger to public safety workers, including first-responders, medical and laboratory personnel, and others.

“These substances can come in several forms, including powder, blotter paper, tablets, and spray—they can be absorbed through the skin or accidental inhalation of airborne powder,” the DEA warned.

Signs of carfentanil and fentanyl exposure include respiratory depression or arrest, drowsiness, disorientation, sedation, pinpoint pupils, and clammy skin. The onset of these symptoms usually occurs within minutes of exposure.

The antidote for opioid overdose is Naloxone, also known as Narcan, which is administered through nasal canisters.

Illegal doses of heroin have been combined with both fentanyl and carfentanil, triggering overdoses.

The New York City Health Department also issued a warning in June to cocaine users warning them fentanyl has been implicated in a growing number of overdose deaths, as was the case in three overdoses—two of which were fatal—in Lawrence on July 17, 2017.

Virtual Training Prepares First Responders For An Active Shooter

Active Shooter Drills

We like to spread the word about things that assist our first responders to be better trained and prepared for bad situations. An active shooter scenario can be very chaotic and dynamic situation. The following article was put out by DHS last month.

Amidst the chaos of an active shooter event, preparedness is key to a seamless, swift and effective response—and a new video game funded by the DHS S&T and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory just might do the trick. Enhanced Dynamic Geo-Social Environment, or EDGE, is a virtual training platform, available now to all response agencies nationwide. Built on the Unreal Engine, it allows responders of all disciplines to assume discipline-based avatars and simultaneously role-play complex response scenarios.

Amidst the chaos of an active shooter event, preparedness is key to a seamless, swift and effective response—and a new video game funded by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) and the U.S. Army Research Laboratory just might do the trick.

S&T says that Enhanced Dynamic Geo-Social Environment, orEDGE, is a virtual training platform, available now to all response agencies nationwide. Built on the Unreal Engine, it allows responders of all disciplines to assume discipline-based avatars and simultaneously role-play complex response scenarios. The first scenario, an incident at a local hotel, brings law enforcement, fire, emergency medical services, dispatch, and unified command together to combat an active shooter also armed with fiery Molotov cocktails.

“We developed the EDGE virtual environment to be completely true-to-life,” explained Milt Nenneman, Program Manager in S&T’s First Responders Group. “Everything from the hotel lobby to the elevators to the boiler rooms to the bedspreads in the guest quarters, was built completely to scale.” The scenario is based on a real hotel in Sacramento, where the program was piloted with local response agencies.

EDGE also features authentic response vehicles, tools, and personal protective equipment. The training is not pre-scripted; most EDGEavatars—including the actual shooter—are controlled by the responders themselves using agency-standard operating procedures to guide all training outcomes. Responders navigate their avatars as they would act in a real emergency, responding to threats according to their department’s policies.”

The beauty of EDGE is it was designed to allow a single agency to train its staff or multiple agencies can train together across disciplines and jurisdictions for a more synchronized response. And, unlike real-world training exercises, EDGE doesn’t cost money for agencies to travel to a single location—they can conduct the training from their own home stations. The goal: improve coordination and communication before an active shooter or other catastrophic event happens in order to mitigate injuries and loss of lives during a live response. 

All actions are determined by first responders’ own decisions in the environment, which means the game can play out differently depending on the specific training exercise and first responders’ actions. Because of the open sandbox, a department’s instructors can create any event or scenario to reinforce their training curriculum.

“These days, it is essential that responders have every tool at their disposal to prepare for and respond to critical incidents,” Nenneman added. “Those first at the scene must make decisions in a flash, and in those initial moments every bit of training helps to save civilian and responder lives.”

S&T and the Army plan to release a second EDGE active shooter training scenario using a school as the backdrop later this year. Like the hotel scenario, the school shooting environment will be available for free to all first responder agencies and personnel charged with school (and student) protection.

“These types of incidents are now an unfortunate reality, and when schools come under fire everybody becomes a first responder,” Nenneman said. “This EDGE scenario was created to train staff on the critical steps to take, whether corralling students for a quick exit to a safe location or barricading classrooms before responders arrive on the scene.”

The EDGE school environment will be released in fall 2017.

Not All First Responders Have Two Legs

World Trade Center Search

When most of us think of first responders, we often think of a firefighter or police officer. The four legged variety isn’t usually what comes to mind. However, mention September 11, 2001 and almost everyone can remember watching dogs on television searching for survivors in the rubble.

Reports vary wildly regarding how many dogs actually participated in the search operations. Depending on what you read, upwards of 900 dogs were involved in the rescue mission. Some reports say 300. Some say 100. I don’t think it really matters how many were ultimately there. They all played a vital role.

The dogs and their handlers worked an average of 10 days for 12 to 16 hours at a time. Not all of them were searching for survivors or remains. Many were present just to comfort their two legged counterparts.

The canines of Pennsylvania Task Force One at Ground Zero

Last Summer, the final 9-11 rescue dog was laid to rest. Bretagne made it to almost 17yrs old. This is pretty amazing considering what these rescue dogs went through. Many suffered physical injuries from traversing the multiple piles of rubble. One of the most interesting things I found about the dogs was they actually helped prevent human first responders from getting PTSD.

First responders from all over the world use dogs for post natural disaster operations. They have been used in the aftermath of tornados, hurricanes, earthquakes, tsunamis, and floods. Furthermore, dogs are used in war torn countries to search for victims of bombings.

It is important to support first responders for all of the tough work they do. In addition, don’t forget to remember the four-legged responders as well. Dogs are pretty amazing creatures. Studies have recently discovered how similar their brains are to our own.

They help us find survivors, provide comfort to the elderly, keep us safe and serve as our companions. Kopis Mobile supports all first responders regardless of how many legs they have.

Seeing Is Believing – Subjective vs Objective Observation

Room Entry

This week, I am going to talk about Subjective vs Objective Observation and how video can significantly improve training.

Subjective: “reality as perceived – rather than as independent of mind.”

What does this really mean? When something like an observation of an event is viewed in a subjective way, it is based inside of an individual’s brain. Things like life experiences, memories, personal biases and prejudices all command the subjective view. To get even more crazy scientific on you. When a person looks at something in a subjective way, they see it as perceived reality instead of reality itself. The bottom line is a Subjective Observation can change wildly from person to person.

Now, let’s look at the opposite of subjective.

Objective: “the realm of sensible experience independent of individual thought and perceptible by all observers.”

The real meaning of this is pretty simple. This type of observation starts and happens outside the mind of any specific person. In this instance, the action is observable by any other individual looking at the same situation. In order for this to happen, all subjective biases have to be removed.

If you are reading this article, you have probably done some type of structure clearance. It could have been a few rooms, a small house or an entire abandoned mental hospital. They are pretty creepy, by the way.

I am willing to bet many of you dealt with a lane grader or training cell. At the end of the run, they tell you, “You went left instead of right in that room, on the fourth floor, at the end of the hallway, two rooms deep with the chair in it.”

Oh, and you aren’t the only one they have comments about. It makes you think there is no way in Hell they know what every single person in the stack did on a ten-minute run.

I actually knew some guys in training cell that could remember just about every single thing a guy did on a run, but I can guarantee you that it isn’t the norm.

The reason I bring all of this up is to prove the point that subjective evaluation lends itself to rely on memory and what an individual thought they saw. Objective evaluation is concrete, unbiased, and based on what really happened. The best example of an objective review tool is video. We all know pictures and video don’t lie. Unless your best friend does an edit job so it looks like you are making out with your mother. That is a subject for a different time.

Video review is a very useful tool. If is used in a targeted manner at the right times, video allows a person to build a mental model of the correct skill. Watching video is a proven way to enhance the skill learning process.

Unfortunately, the video analysis of a training event doesn’t happen until the end of the day or even the following day. Immediate review can provide a person with the opportunity to improve a skill or technique by the very next training iteration – in a matter of minutes.

Video is saved for anytime use or evaluation to review the progress of individual skills. Video recordings can reveal improvements or losses in one’s performance over time. It also is an invaluable tool in the diagnosis of a unit’s overall training program. Finally, it can be used to show new members of a unit the performance of veteran, top performers by providing them a solid baseline in which to begin training.

Video Improves Swing

Sports coaches are utilizing immediate video evaluation more and more to critique the performance of athletes at every level. Traditionally, the feedback process has been based upon a coach’s subjective observation of performance, which can be influenced by bias, emotion and previous experiences (Hughes and Bartlett, 2008).

For example, a football coach’s subjective observation process is known to be unreliable and inaccurate, since even experienced coaches have been shown to be able to recall just 59.2% of the critical events occurring during 45 minutes of football performance (Laird and Waters, 2008).

This lack of accurate recall ability can lead to ‘highlighting’, where a coach’s perception of performance becomes distorted by those events that they can remember (Hughes and Bartlett, 2008).

Ultimately, this results in inaccurate coaching feedback and decision-making. This is improved with the use of objective, unbiased and comprehensive information performance analysis that video is capable of providing (James, 2006; Hughes and Bartlett, 2008).

A few years ago, we participated in a military exercise and had the opportunity to interview some special operators. They told our engineers they were using action cameras on operations and had no way of sharing what they were seeing. The operators already had the cameras. They were also issued some type of smart device. However, they couldn’t understand why the two wouldn’t talk to each other.

We iterated extensively with these and other operators to develop a solution to greatly improve overall situational awareness. This solution is called Networked Tactical Television or NTtv.

NTtv is a first person video sharing system that allows you to view different video streams in real time. The system also allows for recordings up to 30 hours for use in after action reviews. It is compatible with a wide variety of cameras to include action cameras, thermal, IR and the MOHOC® wireless tactical camera.

The video encoders are actually small computers that include Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and GPS. The encoders mesh with one another providing up to half-mile line of sight connection between each encoder.

They also have a small server that feeds the video recordings to a site we have established. They can be sent to your own site that you control, if you choose. If there is no other backhaul communication support, the encoders speak to each other, providing you a video sharing capability. Finally, they can communicate over existing cellular networks and over certain data capable tactical radios.

The system can be used to provide the on scene commander real time video of operations. This results in far better situation awareness than just describing what is going on over a radio. NTtv is an invaluable training tool that allows trainers to set the system up in any location to capture the actions of trainees.

NTtv now also includes a multiple video DVR (mvDVR) feature that adds the ability to instantly review multiple synchronized camera views of the same action without having to go through hours of recorded video to find what you are really looking for. This vastly speeds up the after-action review process. Additionally, it provides immediate feedback using video angles that matter for each training evolution.

The bottom line; Subjective Observation and Objective Observation have their respective places in this world. Subjective is perfect if you are viewing the Mona Lisa and coming to your own conclusion as to why she is really smiling. But, it has no value and can arguably, be detrimental when it comes to training our warriors and first-responders.

 

USER INTERFACE: CONTINUED & SIMPLIFIED

Joe launched a Tomahawk missile into all of our brains last week. So, I thought I would bring things down a few notches. After he finished explaining the Theory of Relativity (of course I am kidding), he wrote about why we (Kopis Mobile) incorporate a simple User Interface with our products.

What you don’t want to have is something that looks like this:

Confusing Interface

Simple is always best. I am sure you can imagine all of the things a soldier or First Responder have going on during a real world situation. The last thing they need to navigate is something like the picture above, especially under fire.

What you really want to see is a clean, easy to use and uncomplicated screen. Apple hired over 800 engineers just to work on the iPhone camera. How many do you think they have working on what everything looks like on the screen? That is why iPhone looks the way it does. Clean and simple to use.

iPhone Home Screen

In the course of participating in many different exercises, we have come across a number of government designed mobile applications. As with many things the government does, they completely overburden the User Interface with too much information. When you try to make one app do more than it can handle, it ultimately fails to work properly.

I have already referred to Einstein, but he knew the importance of the KISS Principle (Keep It Simple Stupid). He said, “Everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler.” This means that one should simplify the design of a product and success is achieved when a design is at its maximum simplicity.

Every product we make is purposely designed to learn how to use in less than 10 minutes. All of our products come with a manual. There are more pictures than words because, who reads manuals anyway?

We pride ourselves on our simplicity. If you can’t put it together in the dark or figure out how to use without getting an engineering degree, it is worthless to those folks keeping us safe everyday.