Integrated command & control in public safety

Lim Boon Cheong
Motorola Solutions

Hours of routine can sometimes be punctuated by moments of intense action. That’s often what it’s like on the street. It’s often what it’s like in the communications center, too. With no advance notice, both first responders and communications center staff must respond to an almost infinite variety of difficult and dangerous situations.  Natural disasters and threats to national security mean people and property in peril.  First responders must respond correctly, safely and in a matter of seconds.

Two of the most important weapons in public safety operations are information and communications. In the communications center, incident information flows quickly. This includes emergency calls, text messages, streaming video from multiple cameras, street maps, Global positioning system (GPS) coordinates tracking resources, information from the agency, local, provincial and state and other government databases.

Dispatchers must process, prioritize and coordinate everything in seconds, then communicate only the most relevant information to first responders. It’s a tough job. As the communications center is the first responder’s primary lifeline, the dispatcher has a tremendous responsibility.

Seconds saved can mean lives saved. It is crucial that up-to-the-minute information be provided to the right resources at the right time. Both in the communications center and in the field, the enemy is wasted time. Seconds are wasted when dispatchers have to work between multiple consoles or screens to collect and coordinate information from disparate sources. Time is also lost when critical information is hard to find, when historical information is not easily accessed, and when systems are not integrated, limiting inter-agency and multi-jurisdictional information sharing.

The Communications Center is the first responders’ most critical lifeline. Their well-being depends on being able to communicate with dispatchers to get the information they need, exactly when and where they need it.  But out on the street, too much information can be just as problematic as not enough. Information overload can overwhelm and inhibit public safety professionals working in stressful situations. Fire fighters, police officers and other field personnel don’t need all available information; they only need the most relevant information.

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