Is Laser Scan Data Part of Your Incident Training and Response?

An active shooter is inside a school building. Who is the most important person on scene? That’s the question posed to law enforcement officers at the 2014 New Jersey IAI Conference in October 2014. It was a blunt talk—but not too blunt for the crowd attending the “Using 3D Laser Scanning to Document Critical Infrastructure” session presented by Det. Dave DeLeeuw, of the Ocean County Sheriff’s Office CSI Division.

With the FBI reporting an average of 16.4 U.S. active-shooter incidents taking place annually over the last seven years, these officers know that a candid discussion like this could mean the difference between death and life.

In this active-shooter scenario, the most important person isn’t the first officer on the scene or the paramedic or another emergency responder—it’s the janitor. Janitors know the ins and outs of their buildings. They know where every doorway leads and which window looks out onto what courtyard. Janitors know all the hiding places. If you have a SWAT team going into a building trying to rescue hostages and secure the space, those are very important things to know.

Consider the same scenario, but this time the janitor is dead. Now what are you going to do? You would have nothing to go on other than your wits and your reflex. You’re entering an unfamiliar building, and you’re going to be looking around corners and opening doors with no idea where they lead.

Infrastructure Scanning Mitigates Risk and Loss of Life

In an effort to mitigate risk and loss of life, a number of public safety agencies are choosing to take a more proactive approach by documenting key buildings with high-definition 3D laser scanning. One such agency is the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. With eight Leica ScanStations, the scanner has become an essential documentation tool for the bureau—but not just for crime scenes. The GBI has been in the process of scanning Georgia’s educational facilities for years. If the building has been scanned, like the GBI is doing, you can take a look at that data before you send your team in there. You can sit down and show them a flythrough using Leica Cyclone software or walk the building using Leica TruView.

These powerful data-processing programs are the key to converting complex and comprehensive scan data into valuable resources. With state-of-the-art Leica Cyclone 3D point cloud processing software, tens of millions of highly accurate measurements, or data points, become an exact “virtual” 3D reproduction of the building. Cyclone’s powerful features allow responders to fly through a building or generate a line of sight from any position. By overlaying panoramic photography onto point cloud scan data, Leica TruView 3D visualization software creates vivid true-to-life imagery. This easy-to-use interactive software gives users the ability to not only explore the scene but also pan, zoom, measure, markup and hyperlink data. Once work products have been finalized, the data can be readily available on DVD or via the Web in incident command vehicles.

Scan Data Provides Site Familiarization to Responders and Command Staff

As a law enforcement officer, DeLeeuw says he wants to see more laser scan data utilized for training purposes before an actual event occurs. “Active-shooter scenarios are constantly rolled out in schools,” he says. “If you want to play out a potential scenario for an active shooter, there’s no better way than to scan a building, utilize the point cloud data through Cyclone or TruView, and show it to your response team.”

Comprehensive, highly accurate building documentation gives responders and command staff the critical data they need to make informed decisions in dangerous and unfamiliar surroundings. “I can take you through walls, doors or windows and up stairs,” DeLeeuw says. “I can tell you how many footsteps it is from the front of the door to the room 25 feet away. I can tell you how many inches off the ground and to the right a light switch is located. [By looking at hinges,] I can tell you which way the door swings open. I can take you and show you every square inch of that building in distances and angles right on-the-fly.

“By having all that, you’re able to give somebody actionable data and information on-the-fly. You provide them site familiarization. You can talk about observer positioning and staging for a counterassault. You can even go into pedestrian flow in evacuation planning. You have all these different scenarios that you can play out.”

Whether it happens in educational facilities, malls, theaters or other key buildings, the hard fact, according to the FBI, is that active-shooter incidents are the rise. “It only makes sense to have these public institutions mapped in 3D,” DeLeeuw says, “so that if that time comes, God forbid, you can have access to that scan data and know what you’re getting yourself into.”

For more information about high-definition 3D laser scanning solutions for law enforcement, please contact us.

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