‘Silver Goddess’, ‘large’ and ‘shiny’ are just some of the comments when referring to the Joint Command Unit (JCU).  It is impressive to look at, and in some cases creates an interesting debate around command and control, especially when only taking a traditional view and categorising it as a command and control vehicle.

However beyond the tangible exterior is a command capability that Chief Fire Officer Darren Dovey says “Changed the way we approach collaboration, enhanced capability and effectiveness and changes the approach to command”.

The JCU is a project driven with the duty to collaborate in mind and to support an improved vision and capability.  Northamptonshire set out to understand the cultural barriers, put aside politics between different organisations, embraced a change programme and set up a joint operations team to deliver a solution capable of supporting multiple operational outcomes.

“With an Excelerate solution provided in every region throughout the UK, I have spent the last few years in discussions with emergency responder organisations discussing the very topic of collaboration.

Northamptonshire’s approach is refreshing- not driven by austerity, cost cutting or attempting to just simply share an asset to justify collaboration. It was an outcome driven solution designed to support the evolving needs of emergency preparedness, response and fundamentally for people to effectively work.

The technology nor the vehicle were important factors, they are just a by product to enable and support the operational outcome. On the other side of the scale the same capability can be deployed in a box”.

Nicola Savage, Excelerate’s M.D. and project lead for the Northamptonshire JCU.

The JCU took on an Integrated Solution approach and as a result combines capabilities to support various operational requirements, not to mentioned business continuity and resilience.

Capabilities include:

  • Monitoring of local data and video
  • Access to corporate networks, systems and applications
  • Resilient and real time situational awareness
  • A hub that provides an independent and resilient data network, enabling responders to connect from mobile devices
  • A command post to support single and multiagency briefing and operations
  • Ability for tactical advisors and other specialist teams to carry out critical functions. An example includes hostage negotiation
  • Conference and briefing room integrated with ambient record and listen
  • External briefing facilities with access to any application/information
  • Operational work stations
  • Live streaming of video links into the vehicle, across the incident ground and if required over a secure backhaul to remote sites
  • Interoperable Voice
  • User Interface providing simplicity and integration of different systems and applications into one place

Now in operation, it has been deployed at complex incidents, pre-planned & community events and also at major incidents.

  • Joint Command Unit

At The Emergency Services Show 2017, Darren Dovey provided an overview of some of the deployments.

One Major incident which included a fatality meant the Police and the HSE were able to run their investigation from the JCU, which provided an on-scene hub.  With the scene still unsafe, specialist responders wearing gas tight PPE were able to rapidly deploy remote cameras and provide real time situational awareness back to the on-scene Police and HSE operation.

The investigators feedback included:

“The early eyes on of the incident and seeing what had occurred within a building that otherwise couldn’t be accessed, was invaluable”.