Edward McGovern knows a thing or two about public safety.
He spent 22 years on the front lines as a policeman, retiring from the Hallandale Beach Police Department in 2020 as a Major. Over the course of his career, McGovern held a variety of roles, including SWAT sniper and tactical commander.
Unfortunately, in his tenure as a South Florida cop McGovern also bore witness to some of the most tragic events in recent US history.
“I responded to two mass shootings within a little over a year: 2017 at Fort Lauderdale Airport and 2018 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School,” McGovern told Refresh Miami.
Through those experiences, McGovern realized that first responders’ tools were woefully outdated. “At Fort Lauderdale Airport, the entire incident was being managed with a dry erase marker on the side of a truck.
“There were dozens of pieces of actionable intelligence that we never got,” McGovern explained. “More people could have been saved had we been able to move faster.”
Developing tech to save lives
After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas mass shooting, McGovern began to think of ways to leverage technology to better respond to similar events. In 2019, he built a proof of concept that would eventually grow into CERA, a digital management system for active threats.
The main goal of CERA’s platform? To eliminate the chaos and confusion that inevitably stems from a crucial event. In the first five minutes of an event response, officials can contain, neutralize, and treat/evacuate a scene. That stands in stark contrast to the two mass shootings that McGovern witnessed. In the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School case, for example, first responders were not able to pull out any casualties until 19 minutes after the event.
The CERA system is composed of four parts. CERA Mobile is designed to help teachers and students report locations and details of suspects and injured persons in real time. CERA OpsCenter is an app that provides police, fire, and EMS with real-time situational info to help them take control of a critical event. CERA Web helps schools, police departments, and EMS work together to more quickly and effectively respond to critical events. And CERA OpenPlatform enables third-party apps to integrate into CERA’s platform.
From Davie to the world
Since October 2021, CERA has been a member of the Levan Center, a Davie-based innovation hub built as a public-private partnership between Nova Southeastern University and Broward County. McGovern called joining the Levan Center “the best thing that ever happened” to CERA.
“I don’t know what I would have done had I not become a member of the Levan Center,” he said. “I certainly wouldn’t be where I am now.”
“The resources here are amazing,” asserted McGovern, underscoring that the Levan Center has catalyzed CERA’s growth. “It’s great to talk to and collaborate with the other innovative companies that are members of the Levan Center.”
Recently, the Town of Davie became CERA’s first major client. “They’re going to test our platform and tell us what works well and what doesn’t,” said McGovern. The connection with NSU also made sense because educational institutions form a key target market for CERA.
After this test period with the Town of Davie, it’s off to the races, according to McGovern: “We have lots of departments that are waiting for us to get through this [pilot] stage so that they can come on board.”
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