Riots, demonstrations, major sporting events, terrorist attacks, multi-agency emergencies and fast-moving firearms incidents: police and security forces have their work cut out for them preparing response scenarios and resourcing for a wide range of major challenges. This is being done at the same time as budget cuts are forcing police forces to cut police numbers.

One response to this major challenge is to use proven new communications solutions such as mobile satellite broadband, wireless imagery from throughout incident grounds, camera systems that automatically climb up poles and lamp posts, and integrated multi-channel voice communications – these give commanders working in mobile command vehicles and in control rooms a clearer, real-time view of what is happening on the ground so that they can deploy their forces more efficiently.

A new generation of emergency command vehicles

In recent years the new generation of emergency command vehicles developed by Excelerate, the UK market leader, and introduced by UK emergency services has helped deliver huge improvements in the way services manage the different types of incidents they deal with – at all levels: gold, silver and bronze. It is this type of new, high tech approach that helped Gwent Police manage the 2010 Ryder Cup with widely acknowledged success, using only modest levels of staffing while managing tens of thousands of spectators and high profile VIPs. New, improved communications across incident grounds and back to headquarters, using mobile satellite broadband, internet, voice and live wireless video, can deliver high speed data flows, real time situational awareness and a Common Operational Picture – within services and between services – at levels never previously achieved. This is important, because it means services are now able to perform much more effectively (and some of the mistakes of the past, highlighted by major incidents where lives have been lost unnecessarily, are less likely to happen).

Supporting this pioneering collaborative work within the emergency sector Excelerate has helped drive the development of what are now considered to be some of the most advanced mobile emergency command vehicles in the world. This is generating strong interest from police and security forces around the world. The company’s unique expertise means it has the capability to support a huge variety of different requirements from emergency services.

With budgets tight, growing numbers of emergency services are now drawing on the company’s wide variety of skills – specification, design, prototyping, development of bespoke solutions, integration, training, support and consultancy – to implement new installations and retrofit communications solutions into existing vehicles.

Surrey Police use an Excelerate-supplied ANPR camera solution linked from a vehicle by satellite broadband to provide live, completely up-to-date traffic monitoring, thereby enabling the force to obtain improved performance and even greater value from its communications investments.

Excelerate has supported these initiatives by pioneering many of the new technologies and integrated solutions that emergency services are now adopting to support their plans and operations. Key among these technologies has been the use of mobile satellite broadband and wireless solutions to deliver data, voice, internet and video to commanders. Ten years ago the company was quick to see the potential of these emerging technologies and to adapt them for specific emergency service use.

Critical to the success of these developments has been the need to identify how emergency service communications requirements can be best supported by the use of new technologies, followed by prototyping, systems integration within compact and ergonomically suitable work spaces, displays and control panels, thereby creating easy-to-use solutions.

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This has been complemented with testing, training and exercising to deliver maximum operational benefits for the investments made.

These solutions are now being seen in increasing numbers of forward command vehicles and incident command units around the UK, vehicles which are changing command doctrine and the way emergency services work.

While there are variations in the different types of command suites and technologies used within the various emergency command vehicles supported by Excelerate Technology, there is generally a core set of common systems, features and functionality. Some of these solutions are unique to Excelerate, having been developed by the company’s research and development department.

To help services identify which solutions are likely to be of most use to them, Excelerate has compiled a straightforward User’s Guide to Mobile Emergency Command Solutions

Mobile satellite broadband communications

This is at the heart of Excelerate’s technology offering, providing commanders with a robust, easily-accessible and high capacity capability. Roof-mounted transportable satellite solutions provide resilient stand-alone broadband connections giving access to secure telephony, data, video, internet and email facilities.

Satellite broadband is highly robust, a key factor during major emergencies when other communications systems can be overloaded.

Satellite communications enable command and control vehicles to receive and transmit data from all responders and emergency teams and achieve a Common Operational Picture. Combined with wireless networks, personnel using PDAs, laptops, mobile phones and data terminals can access tactical plans, live video streaming or information from strategic emergency planning software. The range can be extended using self-powered, rapidly-deployable MESH wireless nodes. Optical and dual-thermal cameras can be mounted on self-powered tripods, the Sherpa climbing camera platform, extendable, pneumatic masts and aerial platforms to transmit live video by COFDM into ICUs and control rooms for viewing by command staff operating at the scene of an incident, and streamed via secure servers to higher level command for online access in realtime by authorised personnel. Body-worn cameras, such as those worn by Gwent Police mobile officers on bikes, can also be used to provide fast reaction video of incidents. In addition, Excelerate can install receivers to provide ‘heli-tele’ downlinks, allowing aerial images from police helicopters and UAVs to be viewed in the command vehicle.

Digital Dashboard Management Interface (DDMI)

DDMI is a highly innovative new solution which enhances system performance, reliability and communications interoperability.

The simple-to-use interface enables operators to monitor and control the systems and technologies on board command and control units effectively and efficiently, enabling them to focus primarily on their operational roles and to get the best out of their technology and training investment. The system also allows remote login for problem solving and support by Excelerate personnel.

Full voice interoperability between different communications systems – allowing users of a wide range of different systems such as TETRA, GSM, radio and landline to be patched together – can be achieved using the Communications Management Suite module, either on a standalone basis or within the Digital Dashboard Management Interface.

An Excelerate-developed product (UK Patent Application 1116053.8), the Digital Dashboard Management Interface solution has been designed by Excelerate Technology’s R&D department specifically for the emergency services market.

In dependent GSM networks RapidNet is a Private Mobile Network system that enables an independent GSM network to be generated at the scene of an incident if public GSM networks are overloaded or compromised during major incidents or because of other problems.

To support the new trend for using wireless cameras and ruggedised laptops across incident grounds, portable, battery-operated WiFi extension nodes can be used to create complete wireless MESH networks. Such nodes can be in the form of rapidly deployable tripods (with hot-swappable batteries), bodyworn nodes and vehicle-mounted nodes.