State and local governments, law enforcement, and public safety professionals have had to adapt to ever-shifting priorities throughout 2021 to keep communities safe. As the world re-opened this year, some normalcy returned as well as, unfortunately, acts of violence in public spaces like schools, shopping centers, and workplaces. As we enter another year of uncertainty, how can everyone work to promote safety in their communities?
The lessons learned in 2021 have proven that the key will be a collaboration between citizens, elected officials, law enforcement, and professionals across many industries from healthcare to education. When every member of a community is working together, they can overcome public safety challenges to ensure emergencies are handled effectively. In 2022, we will see a renewed focus on collaboration, communication, and interoperability to achieve this goal.
Here are a few of the ways collaboration will be emphasized in the coming year.
Data Sharing Across Public Safety
Law enforcement professionals will need to increase their focus on interoperability across public health and safety agencies and regional jurisdictions to address emergencies more comprehensively. Technology plays a critical role in this goal to enable the sharing of data and resources. For instance, when an emergency occurs, first responder teams such as EMS, fire, police, and private organizations cannot waste time searching for the information they need to take action. Situational awareness is essential to resolving any emergency and mitigating damage, which is why we will see an increased focus on technological advancement to address public safety.
Successful interoperability will enhance emergency response and improve community safety. In 2022, communities that do this effectively will be examples of new best practices to embrace across the country. Government agencies will play a key role in advancing the adoption of technology that enables the authorized sharing of data, interoperability between CAD and third-party systems, and new best practices for using these resources effectively to improve outcomes.
Mental Health Emergency Response
Mental health will continue to be a priority for public safety initiatives in 2022. Addressing the mental health crisis has been an important conversation this past year, from properly training law enforcement for mental health crisis response to providing more preventative and follow-up care. For instance, more communities are investing in programs such as Denver STAR which sends mental health professionals to the scene of some emergencies. These types of programs require open lines of communication and collaboration between multiple community stakeholders.
Additionally, as of July 2022, Congress mandated the availability of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by dialing 988. All calls to the new number will be directed to a national network of local- and state-funded crisis centers. This resource will help people experiencing mental health, substance use or suicidal crises access the support and treatment services they need. These alternative approaches to the issue of mental health will challenge leaders to think creatively and find new ways to communicate with clinicians and other mental health specialists. For effective partnerships, governments, public safety professionals and social services agencies will have to bridge technology, communication, and collaboration gaps.
New Resources and Approaches to Public Safety
In 2022, we will see a continued dialogue around communities’ changing public safety needs and law enforcement’s set of responsibilities. Officials will need to respond to emergencies more comprehensively with collaboration between police, healthcare professionals, and other social services. Community health and safety is not the responsibility of any single team, and there will be new resources and innovative approaches to public safety as this conversation continues.
For instance, across the country, law enforcement agencies are partnering with community organizations to provide a tailored response to citizens experiencing a range of challenges from mental health to domestic violence. These new partnerships require improved communication and additional context so that responders arriving on the scene or providing continued care have the relevant information to properly address the situation. With American Rescue Plan (ARP) funding, local and state governments have a new opportunity to make these kinds of investments. This new approach to public safety is more holistic and has the potential to address all facets of community wellbeing, as long as the teams are working together effectively.
Safety is a Collective Effort
The past few years have demonstrated more than ever that safety is a collective effort. 2022 will bring this top of mind for governments, public safety professionals, and community leaders. Collaboration, communication, and data sharing across a growing set of emergency response stakeholders will be the key to evolving public safety into the next year and beyond.
The author, Todd Miller, is the SVP of Strategic Programs at Rave Mobile Safety.