Technology as our defence against terror
National security services are on constant alert globally. The reality is that terror and crisis situations have become the norm and national infrastructures need to be prepared. Using an imaginary incident in London as an example, Frequentis’ David Knight explains how its Shared Situational Awareness Framework delivers a common operational picture by merging multiple domains into one easy-to-use system.
There are a multitude of command and control systems (C2) in use today with varying levels of functionality. Often these systems cannot interact with each other, and when they do, they can only do so on a very basic level. This challenge is faced today by both Defence and locally-funded emergency services who procure their own independent systems.
A common operational picture is fundamental to allowing real-time intelligence and tactical decision-making and in turn support the sharing of resources.
The Frequentis framework is a group of shared situational awareness solutions that can be tailored to meet customer needs in a scalable and evolving system. When integrated with the Frequentis state-of-the-art communication systems, it provides a unique cross-domain command and control tool. This is not just a concept, but a solution in use today. The National Air Policing Centre (NAPC) currently operational in Germany fuses numerous data sources from widely disparate military and civilian systems into a single, easy to use HMI that is coupled with a fully integrated red/black communication system. This gives unheralded access to red/black landline and radio communications together with ‘click-to-dial’ functionality.
In addition to customisation, the solution is layered on top of existing systems. It provides operators with real-time access to a wide range of data sources, providing intuitive interfaces and instantly accessible functions.
So how does it work?
Imagine this scenario. An aircraft is departing from London City Airport – a busy transport hub in the Royal Docks, just six nautical miles to the centre of London. Just after departure, the aircraft suffers a catastrophic bird strike. The captain declares a mayday and turns back toward the airfield for an emergency landing. Unfortunately, he doesn’t have the height or power to make the airfield and is forced to make the decision to ditch in the Thames (just like the Hudson River Incident).
Whenever an Air Emergency is declared in the UK, the Air Defence system is notified. In this example scenario, the Air Defence system would immediately liaise with civilian Air Traffic Control (ATC) counterparts to assess any potential threat and once evaluated, stand ready to provide support.
All of this activity could be managed within the Frequentis Shared Situational Awareness Framework. The company has supported UK Air Defence for over twenty years, providing voice communications systems (VCS) for their static and mobile command and control systems. As the key supplier of VCS for the Ministry of Defence (MoD) Marshall programme, replacing analogue systems at 39 UK and three overseas locations with digital IP-based VCS. Advanced routing principles, dynamically adapted to the location and availability of roles in the networked system facilitate the transition from today’s platform and system-centric implementations toward a future network-centric concept with a focus on information sharing, common situational awareness and interoperability. Legacy interfaces are also included in this concept.
Expanding the response
With the incident occurring in the Thames, the Port of London Authority would activate its emergency protocols and begin directing vessels to the scene to commence the rescue operation. Frequentis also provides VCS support to nine Royal Navy locations – a 15-year contract that began in 2006 and since 2017 forms part of the Marshall project.
With the potential for casualties, the fire and ambulance control centres will also activate their emergency protocols and start directing assets to the river, while the Metropolitan Police Control Centre initiates its emergency procedures and contingency plans. Furthermore, the railway system may be suspended, timetables altered or used to transport emergency services rapidly to and from the incident.
The best way to manage any emergency is for all contributing emergency response services to work together to improve response times and coordinate resource allocation. By sharing information across the entire national network, linking assets and communicating in real time, the Frequentis solution ensures that the seamless coordination of emergency services is possible. Operators can share elements of their picture with decision makers not collocated in the operations centre via the Frequentis Mobile Client. This unique capability allows secure transfer of real-time information to dedicated tablets or laptops that have the mobile client app installed. All of this information is supported by online or stored databases, standard or bespoke workflows and a fully integrated state-of-the-art communications system with ‘click-to-dial’ functionality that can access all radios, landlines and mobiles. Importantly, everything is supported by legally-accredited recording that supports post-event analysis and training.
Air policing, Joint Operations, Search and Rescue, Drone Detection and Cyber Defence are just some of the typical use cases which benefit.