By Paul Bender, Global Public Sector Marketing
As I hinted at in my March 17 blog, the Department of Defense (DoD) certainly recognizes the barriers to developing effective incident response: budget and resource constraints, outmoded IT infrastructures, unchecked technology evolution and the growing need for inter-service collaboration. These are all potential stumbling blocks and present a real challenge.
Ultimately, the DoD has a historical problem. The dispatch environment on DoD posts, camps and stations were simply not built for the digital world in which they must now operate. The lack of scalability and flexibility in these aged Emergency Operation Center (EOC) infrastructures is now hampering efforts to modernize and improve response. Add poor communications functionality and bandwidth limitations into the mix and the scale of the legacy problem becomes clear.
Of course, the EOC has changed over time too. We have seen various efforts to centralize on-base command and control/emergency response into a single facility. Success, it must be said, has been limited. Yet the ability to deliver a truly coordinated response certainly exists, and with today’s secure and virtualized technologies personnel don’t have to be in the same location to respond effectively.
A future vision, available today
Extensive though these challenge may be, they are not insurmountable with the right communications tools and approaches. For example, today’s modern dispatch systems are able to integrate all those multiple communications channels and devices – offering bridging solutions between radio, IP and satellite channels – without the need to invest in entirely new on-post infrastructures. And, of course, by bringing together the various modes of conversation quickly and easily, complex operations run in stressful emergency situations can be seamlessly and smoothly managed.
Operators can leverage technologies like SIP and WebRTC to bring communications together on a single touchscreen console or mobile device. They can push a button to talk on the radio; push another to talk on the phone; and easily add other buttons for specific operational requirements, such as to start an emergency conference call that dials out to critical personnel, asks them for a PIN and drops them into a conference.
Operators can, from a single console, easily join phone conversations with radio talk groups or push another button for intercom capabilities, whether it’s point to point or a broadcast announcement to everyone in the command center. In the case of a major event, these consoles can be programmed with a button that when pressed will dial every phone in building, base or municipality to play a message. The bottom line is that a single communications console eliminates the need for operators to struggle between multiple devices.
Emergency Command Center anywhere
IP communications also provide opportunities to instantly build an EOC at any location connected to the internet – simply by running the communication and dispatch console on a laptop or mobile device. In an emergency, users can even dispatch or control operations from home or another office. Removing physical limitations and barriers from command center operations through all-IP technology can drastically improve response time and operational flexibility.
Extending response capabilities
EOC operators have access to video from mobile units as well as presence information, screen sharing and texting on their single console. For example, in an active shooter scenario mobile security personnel with iPhones or Android devices can stream their video to the command center, giving command personnel live video from multiple angles.
To aid in evacuation or management, EOC personnel can screen share to the mobile devices to display building maps, exit routes or emergency protocols. Real-time unified communications are a must for situations such as these, and operators are now more strongly positioned to manage and respond to a wide range of threats and mission-critical events.
Now, let’s take a look at how federal priorities align with DoD emergency response modernization initiatives. Stay tuned for the next blog!