May 22, 2012 // By: Jennifer Lankheim
True story: On a summer day in 2009, a railway company identified a section of train track washed away by a flash flood near Rockford, Illinois, in the Midwestern United States. A train carrying highly-flammable liquid ethanol sped toward the washout.
The railroad had an emergency process in place, and it would be nearly an hour before the train reached the affected area. Disaster averted, right?
Communications and other protocols failed, and the message of danger got to the train operators too late. The train hit the washout, derailing 19 cars at a highway crossing. Thirteen of the derailed tank cars were breached, or leaked their contents and caught fire. The fire spread to several cars stopped at the crossing waiting for the train to pass. A passenger in one of those cars burned to death. Another, pregnant, was also seriously injured and lost her baby. In total, one person was killed and seven were injured in the accident.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) blamed the railway, saying the company was too slow to communicate the danger to its train crew. In a settlement, the company paid victims and their families nearly US$70 million in damages. “There were multiple points where this catastrophe could have been averted, but it was not,” according to NTSB Chairman Deborah A.P. Hersman.
Saving lives by hastening emergency response is the aim of a new solution from SAP released in May 2012. SAP Situational Awareness for the public sector is a new SAP Rapid Deployment Solution that harnesses the capabilities of three powerful SAP solutions – SAP HANA, the Sybase Unwired Platform, and SAP Event Insight – to help public safety and security organizations better anticipate, assess, and act on emergency situations.
The offering is part of SAP’s Urban Matters Initiative, an effort to build solutions that improve the lives of urban dwellers. “Fifty percent of the world’s population is concentrated in mega-cities, cities and urban corridors,” says Sean Patrick O’Brien, global VP for Urban Management & Public Security at SAP. “Eighty percent of the world’s GDP passes through these regions each day. So it’s quite obvious that SAP’s goal of making the world ‘run like never before’ includes addressing the urban context.”