One important aspect of being prepared is practice and system testing, so that any potential problems and procedures to improve are addressed before any critical situation materializes.
The Port of Helsinki organized an extensive safety exercise in late October 2022. The exercise imitated a situation in which an imaginary threat would disrupt operations in the port. Although the threat was imagined, they tried to make the scenario as realistic as possible and to practice how to act under the circumstances.
Certain actors are prescribed by law to exercise processes regularly, and this was the case with the Port of Helsinki. Sometimes the exercise can be a virtual one, but at certain intervals situations must be simulated as realistically as possible, explains Eero Laaksonen, Security Manager at the Port of Helsinki.
The better the processes, the better we can prepare for actual situations.
The Port of Helsinki started using Secapp in spring 2022, and in this exercise also Secapp played a key role as a system for critical communication.
“We were able to test the role of communication to a greater extent: how to reach stakeholders and observe how easy or difficult communication was during the exercise,” says Laaksonen.
The exercise scenario involved an imaginary event: a threatening person seen in the greater Helsinki area had been reported to be heading towards the port in order to leave the country.
Information was received, among others, from the authorities, and the information went through Secapp to the operating personnel in the port. A “target person” had been assigned to move in the port area, and one part of the exercise was to test how quickly the person was detected.
The exercise began with an alarm through Secapp. During the exercise, also Eero Laaksonen simulated the situation as much as possible in his role as Security Manager.
When the alarm arrived, he took control of the situation with the Secapp mobile app, because he wanted to test the very likely scenario that in a real situation he might be on the move, and not at his computer.
A laptop or working at a desktop computer are obviously common ways of using Secapp, but what if nobody was at their computer? In addition to practicing using Secapp to get a good overall picture of events, one goal was to see how far you can get with the mobile app and at which point you have to make a phone call.
“The goals for the exercise were met. In just a few minutes, two thirds of the persons in the message chain acknowledged the Secapp message with ‘OK’.”
“The goals for the exercise were met. In just a few minutes, two thirds of the persons in the message chain acknowledged the Secapp message with ‘OK’,” says Eero Laaksonen.
“Once the initial messages had been sent, it was easy to make a call and give more detailed information and instructions to those who needed them. Secapp was a good management support tool, and we were able to determine that we can reach a large number of people, and also see how they have reacted to messages.
“Secapp was a good management support tool, and we were able to determine that we can reach a large number of people, and also see how they have reacted to messages.“
All’s well that ends well – the imaginary threatening person was caught and the messages were sent and received well. There were aspects that needed developing, and processes to polish. All communication with just a smartphone is slower, especially if you have to type in messages in different conversations on a rather small screen, with the same phone ringing at the same time.
So good preparation is indeed half the job. The planning of various message templates in Secapp was one thing that needed improving. With basic templates incorporated into the Secapp system, various messages and operating procedures can be quickly sent to various user groups.
Another observation concerned user groups, which should be built – and named – carefully in advance, and delete any unnecessary or overlapping groups. This way users will know who will be getting each message, and information flow is on a better foundation.
Planning communication processes with various stakeholders is an important part of being prepared. Eero Laaksonen says that Secapp is currently used at the Port of Helsinki for anything out of the ordinary.
This includes power cuts, matters affecting traffic or port operations or anything exceptional. Users love the intuitive interface, and they will remain familiar with the system at least with the various exercises.
“The great thing about Secapp is that a message can be targeted to the entire port or only the area where something of interest is taking place.”
“The great thing about Secapp is that a message can be targeted to the entire port or only the area where something of interest is taking place.” Laaksonen says that Secapp is great in that you can quickly see who has acknowledged the message, and if a person in a critical role has not reacted in time, you know that you have to call them.
“Secapp is a definite improvement on previous communication,” says Laaksonen. “Although you still have to make phone calls, Secapp saves time as the alarm procedure can be simplified, managing the situation among a specific group.”