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Sending Your Scene Size Up with Live Video Streaming?

Most people are all too familiar today with live video streaming, whether it’s Facebook Live, or YouTube, or webcasting meetings from apps on your phone, and through independent platforms such as Skype and Facetime for video phone calls. But what if you were capable of sending “size up” and ongoing response information back to dispatch, mutual aid agencies responding, and leadership SECURELY, without expensive equipment, in near real-time?

Yes, we all know about the cell phone ninjas who are videoing stuff and putting their videos out on social media. I am talking about using near-real time streaming as a tool to assist with scenes when information needs to be shared to help free up on the scene responders to do what they have to do. There are several applications in the field where near real time video of a working scene may be invaluable. A few thoughts; directing mutual aid to a location, communicating areas clear for EMS to triage, coordinating “next level” agency assistance, communicating with leadership enroute to the scene.

Secure viewing of shared video is possible today through streaming to password protected servers, also available with many cloud based providers 1 . Many of these providers are already widely available commercially, marketed for live events such as concerts, or to subscription based webcasts 2 . Many capabilities are enabled for BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) viewing so login from a responder’s mobile phone, tablet, or computer is possible in many video receiver formats 3 .

A rough diagram of how cloud-based live streaming shares video and audio, without a host company name. Many services are available today.

I already hear a few of you worried about people “tapping the feed” and lookie looing on social media during the critical stages of a response. We know the media has scanners, and are on scene in a matter of minutes after a call. I hear you, and all you need is another crowd of “interested” people, who saw the video on YouTube, getting the way. I got it. However, today we already see closed loop systems for recording and storage of videos by Law Enforcement Agencies, in both “dashcam” and body worn video cameras. These encounter videos are secured, and not generally “readily releasable” to the public 4.

In rural areas, a mutual aid response time may be many minutes, the responding agency would have the capability to see the scene, on a device already available to the agency, even a mobile phone. Voice recording on the video can also provide a record of orders given. With dispatch having access to the feed via a software application, recording the response as a video file, as well as through radio traffic, would be available. Capturing size up and response in NRT video could also enable After Action Reviews (AAR’s) and Post Response Assessments (PRA’s) for training purposes as well.

I do understand that there are real issues regarding security and potential liability based on any video recorded by an agency. The mere thought of a citizen being able to bring a lawsuit based on an agency response could be a barrier to implementing this capability. We have already seen high profile suits with Law Enforcement. These can be addressed through the use of password protected secured servers, restricting access to authorized viewers only, and local policies on retention and releasability of any video footage.

Today the availability of streaming is becoming more affordable, and with the proliferation of BYOD viewing capability, your agency would not need to provide “a viewer” to every member of the department. Do you need to send or see video of every response? Probably not. However, large scale responses, requiring immediate mutual aid beyond organic capabilities, could likely benefit from your ability to send video of what you are working with out there.

For more information, take a look at an article from 2013, on “How Live Streaming Works.”


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