Situation management software allows control room personnel to streamline responses to events and provides a significant level of accountability to staff.


An alarm occurs at a power plant — a fence sensor has been activated on the perimeter. In the control room, a geographic map pops up and a relevant intrusion procedure follows.

The software interface puts a plan into action, commanding a nearby camera to point at the potential area of threat and popping the video up in the control room.

The software then locates the nearest dispatch-ready employee to be deployed to the event location and prompts the security officer with a pre-determined action plan, including questions, such as, “Is there evidence of tampering?”

If the answer is no, the process will take the security officer through one procedure; if the answer is yes, the software will prompt an entirely different and more appropriate action plan.

The above is a simplified example of situation management systems, also referred to as situational awareness or physical security information management systems.

Situation management is a broad term for some version or type of software that takes data from a number of sources and combines the data in a useful way onto a single platform, says Bob Sommerfeld, president of Adesta LLC, an Omaha-Neb.-based integrator.

In the case of physical security, “sources” can refer to sensors, cameras and readers, for example. The data is programmed to create highly detailed, highly intuitive action plans or alerts for a security manager based on the individual customer’s needs.

The situation management systems that large integrators are offering to their customers are very involved and can require a large amount of customization on both the integrator and software provider’s parts.

“Very clear, precise procedures help minimize variation and increase accountability in response,” says John Fenske, senior marketing manager for fire and security at Johnson Controls, a Milwaukee-based integrator that offers situation management to its customers.

In this article, SDM attempts to answer some basic questions about turnkey situation management and how integrators can, and are, offering these types of software in today’s market.

WHAT DOES SITUATION MANAGEMENT ENTAIL?

Situation management can be an appropriate answer for a customer that has a large number of security devices from different manufacturers with different technologies.

“The cost of technology is going down, and there is some standardization going on on a smaller scale; however, there are a tremendous amount of customers with a lot of disparate technologies that are looking for ways to pull them together,” Fenske says. “The focus previously has been technologies and not necessarily the operational efficiencies of those technologies. Situation management represents the turning of the table, if you will, on really understanding what and how users can use their technologies in an efficient manner.”

“The industry is adding more devices to provide the operator with, and this causes a problem of data overload,” says Rafi Bhonker, vice president of marketing and sales for Orsus, New York, N.Y., a situation management software provider that partners with integrators. “As technology advances, there is more technology to alert security personnel, and there are so many systems — typically disparate systems.”

Customers are looking for a common operating view and a specific way to respond and manage those systems, he explains, and that is what situation management helps accomplish.

But it’s not always easy, and because creating a total solution with situation management can mean a high amount of customization and working with different technologies, Bhonker refers to his product as an IT product.

“It’s difficult to find the right partners in this market. The product requires integrators to have good IT knowledge themselves,” Bhonker says.

Integrators work with their customers to design a situation management system tailored to their specific needs and intentions for the system. The integrator also works with a software provider to ensure that the customer’s solution meets the customer’s requirements.

“We develop the system and customer requirements, and then work between the customer and the software developer to establish the rules of the system. It’s an intensely complicated and involved process,” explains Sommerfeld. Adesta has been offering situation management to its customers for about 18 months.

Bhonker of Orsus explains the role of the integrator: “Our partners [integrators] get involved in the pre-planning and initial development, and also help the customer maintain their response plans in the system as they move along.”

Pulling together multiple technologies or systems from multiple vendors is only one piece of the situation management pie. The benefit of doing so allows for the “management” aspect of such systems to come into play.

“It allows you to create efficient and effective responses to alarms and all types of situations,” Fenske explains. Software is only a part of it, he says.

By creating a tailored platform, integrators then can help customers understand what policies and procedures need to be in place and help them develop those with technology and response plans.

“It’s about very clear, precise procedures so that you minimize variation in response,” Fenske says.

This helps ensure that security personnel are following the same procedures regardless of who is on the shift. “You have the ability to come in the day after an event and produce a report on everything — who was there, what the videos were, who responded, the response time,” Fenske says.

Situation management can be a central place for customers to see all of their security-related devices and systems through one graphical interface.

CUSTOMER PROFILE

“In a way, a lot of access control or video management systems have a workable situational awareness system, so many times that is perfectly sufficient,” Sommerfeld says. “But when larger and more complex subsystems and system devices get installed, this requires more customization.” Sommerfeld says that many of his company’s situation management customers are existing customers.

“As previous and current installations grow, the customer comes to realize that they are getting so much data that it is unmanageable or that there are so many subsystems that they can’t be integrated properly without some type of situational awareness system,” he explains. “That’s when we have the opportunity to work with the software providers to get that customization.”

Aside from large organizations with multiple technologies and devices, Bhonker says that there is another qualifier to determine customers that can benefit from these turnkey solutions.

“The other criterion is where the response becomes complex. They are looking for more than just alarm monitoring, and they need to have certain plans or procedures developed,” he says. Often these plans or procedures are required by law depending on the customer’s market, Bhonker adds.

Situation management software can be programmed to evolve based on changes or reactions to an existing event, he continues. For example, if someone presses a duress button while an existing action plan is in place, it can be programmed to change the response plan.

Typical customers of these turnkey solutions include ports, energy companies, critical infrastructure, power companies, transportation, chemical and pharmaceutical companies, large enterprise customers and federal and state markets.

“Anybody that has a lot of changing, dynamic policies and procedures, as well as multi-vendor technologies, is prime for this type of solution,” Fenske says. Another advantage to these types of systems is what Fenske calls the “third step” in his three-step process.

He says step one is the software pulling everything together, and the second step is developing the policies and procedures to create action plans.

But the third step (or benefit) of situation management is that it helps organizations analyze, improve and evaluate their responses to specific situations and then allow for modification of those plans when necessary. Such information can prove invaluable for an organization with a lot to protect.