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For a growing number of public safety agencies from around the world, making communities and neighborhoods safer is all about the data. More agencies are gathering and analyzing data – ingested from new technology tools such as mobile devices or body-worn cameras, as well as from siloed databases – and using it to solve critical problems.

As I wrote about recently, fire department incident commanders are taking real-time mobile feeds of fires and using the data to predict which direction a fire might head within a building. And law enforcement officers are analyzing data from traffic cameras with the aim of finding the causes of accidents.

Breaking down barriers

Today’s neighborhood management challenges cannot be solved by data analysis alone, of course. In many cases, jurisdictions still struggle with the silos of information in their environments, with disparate databases and systems often making it difficult to effectively manage public safety. To break down those barriers, cities are joining together and reaching across jurisdictional boundaries and departmental lines, using cloud applications to increase safety and gain new efficiencies.

An excellent example of this kind of collaboration and communication can be found in the German state of Baden-Württemberg, where the municipal governments of the villages of Beuren, Bühlertal, and Steinenbronn worked together to deploy a new fire department solution. The solution, called fireplan, is a Microsoft Azure–based cloud platform developed by Microsoft CityNext partner CODE3. Using the solution, the three municipality fire departments can collectively manage accounting, administration, reporting, and alerting tasks. As a result, the departments can increase safety because of integrated alarm functionality and text notifications sent to firefighters. In addition, fireplan saves firefighters up to 30 minutes when completing their reports following a drill or mission.

Getting safer through social media

Another increasingly popular—and powerful—way in which cities are improving public safety is by using social media to directly involve citizens. Through interactive social media platforms, police and fire departments are able to have a dialogue with city residents. The result? Better crime fighting and proactive fire prevention.

We saw this recently in Miami-Dade County, Florida, which collaborated with the local police department and mobile app developer Zco to design and deploy the Community on Patrol Application (COPA), which is based on the Microsoft Government Cloud. The 2 million-plus citizens of the county can use their mobile phones to anonymously report tips or upload photos or video of crimes to COPA. Armed with these capabilities, community residents can be on patrol and work closely with law enforcement to make their neighborhoods safer.

With effective partnerships between citizens, public safety agencies, and city leaders—like we’re seeing in Germany and Florida—local governments are able to create more citizen awareness and engagement through mobile apps and the cloud. As a result, communities will ultimately be safer places to live.

To learn more about how Microsoft is helping create safer cities and communities, visit CityNext’s website and read Government’s Creating safer communities with Windows 10 blog post.