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C-C4ISR and Future Emergency Control Room Capabilities

By Peter Goulding, Global Public Safety Expert, Huawei Technologies Co, Ltd.

Huawei’s C-C4ISR Collaborative Public Safety Solutions are a suite of technology capabilities for public safety agencies. C-C4ISR stands for Collaborative & Command & Control, Communications, Cloud, Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance.

Command & Control are the means by which a public safety agency’s command structure directs and coordinates activity and interoperates with other agencies to resolve events or incidents.

Communications and Cloud computing are the two enabling technologies that underpin Command and Control.

Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance provide usable products that result from the collection, collation, analysis and interpretation of information gathered through Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) and the Internet of Things (IoT), which includes sensors, reports, public or private CCTV cameras, plus other sources.

The collaboration provided by C-C4ISR systems enables governments and their respective response agencies to:

• Respond to emergencies and disasters quickly and efficiently, with appropriate and fully informed resources

• Coordinate command and control responses from multiple agencies so they can deal with diverse emergencies and disasters

• Help responders and decision makers understand how the population might react to emergencies and disasters and provide suitable communications systems to keep citizens forewarned and informed

• Enable Huawei’s ‘Leading New ICT’ infrastructure resources to enhance response capabilities and improve the management of major events and incidents

• Improve knowledge and experience to enable governments and first responders to learn from past events and enhance their responses to future incidents they may need to confront

Governments and public safety agencies often come to the conclusion that developing a C-C4ISR capability ensures that an effective, centralized emergency response is available. Also, they believe that the solutions used should draw upon the latest and best technology and partners to build a world-class service capable of dealing with future challenges in public safety and public security. Increasingly, the C-C4ISR model is being adopted to make cities safe, secure and, subsequently, smart.

Prepare for emergencies

One of a government’s key responsibilities is to ensure its public safety agencies are prepared for emergencies.

One of the key features of any C-C4ISR command-center solution is giving the key decision makers the tools to do their jobs and to help them to be ready for whatever challenges they may face.


Prominent authors say emergency preparedness is:

• "Readiness of a political jurisdiction to react constructively to threats from the environment in a way that minimizes the negative consequences or impact for the health and safety of individuals and the integrity and functioning of physical structures and systems… …the fundamental, underpinning premise of effective emergency preparedness is that operational need drives decision making and activity." — Perry and Lindell (2003)

• …achieved through a process of planning, training, and exercising accompanied by the acquisition of equipment and apparatus to support emergency action.” — Gillespie and Collingnon

Achieving sound emergency preparedness may require changes of procedures and operational practices so the full capabilities of C-C4ISR can be utilized. This preparation, adoption, training and exercising of new modern operational capabilities, provided through new technology, can be effective for the everyday safety and security management of cities and communities while providing the means to manage and control events and incidents that escalate and need coordination between diverse agencies. This is often managed and controlled through the adoption of a written ‘Concept of Operations’ that outlines the roles and responsibilities of each agency and their key personnel. It may include what technology they may require.


"A documented Concept of Operations sets out the arrangements for responding to and recovering from emergencies, irrespective of cause or location and requiring co-ordinated action. It describes how the response will be organised, and the relationship between the emergency services, central, regional and local government as well as the relationship with other devolved administrations. It focuses primarily on the response to no-notice or short-notice emergencies requiring emergency services engagement, although the approach can be adapted to manage the response to other crises."

Source: Adapted from the U.K. Government Cabinet Office Paper 2010

Establishing an Effective Command Structure

An effective Concept of Operations protocol dictates that when significant events occur, the responsible local agencies activate a pre-agreed command structure. There are different models to choose from, but they all focus on an establishing a clear strategic leader. For example, ‘Gold-level’ leaders set the strategy for dealing with an incident or event, from initial response to resolving the issue and re-establishing normality. ‘Silver-level’ personnel have a command role with responsibility for coordinating the tactical responses needed to achieve the strategic aims set by Gold. A lower, but equally essential command structure is then established with ‘Bronze-level’ commanders, who have functional or geographical roles and responsibilities. Bronze commanders collectively act as a team to drive the tactical plan to resolve the incident or event.

The Bronze command teams activate and lead the response through the Silver-level command structure in each agency by using the C-C4ISR infrastructure and procedures. Therefore, each command team from the agencies involved need to have visibility of resources, equipment, demands, and tasks — so they can fully interoperate with other agencies and response organizations. This ensures effective coordinated responses to any emergency, including connected, coordinated, and evolving situational awareness as the incident or event evolves.


Emergencies are a fact of life throughout the world and can take many forms

The emergency services’ response teams routinely work with each other, usually based in their local control-room centers. The goal of C-C4ISR platforms is to enhance and improve primary responses and coordination. Each agency team could staff a desk in a single local center, thus allowing their on-duty staff to constantly liaise with other agency staff to manage each emergency according to that event’s needs. Emergency responses are still led by the appropriate agency; other agencies will assist and provide support as required, including municipal departments that do not have or use a control-room facility. C-C4ISR capabilities simply make this process of coordination easier.

Some agencies prefer to manage their responses and resources from their own dedicated control room, and, in those cases, do not or cannot provide dedicated resources to other agency control rooms. Historically, this has been the situation, especially if these agencies report to different government departments. As a result, control-room structures can and are organized into silos that have been known to impede coordination and joint decision making.

Advanced C-C4ISR technical capabilities are built to overcome these issues by ensuring that separate control rooms are fully connected through a single network and platform, so that every control room can share and exchange voice, data, video, intelligence, and decisions. With this technology, separate control rooms can start to act as a single virtual control room that provides efficiencies and operational coordination. Whether a centralized or de-centralized system of control is preferred, technology should enable, not constrain.

Nationwide Emergencies

When there is a nationwide or regional impact because of disaster, major event, or incident — whether pre-planned, or something that happened with little or no notice — a centralized coordinating center is needed to manage the wider strategic overview. When faced with major events, there may be the need to coordinate tasks, actions, and decisions at national and regional levels. Command positions for senior subject matter specialists are provided, when appropriate, to support the responses to these emergencies, while enabling local centers to focus on implementing the determined strategy.

National coordinating centers need to be able to oversee and coordinate issues that are required beyond a purely local response, such as for national emergencies. Because of the connectivity of the C-C4ISR solution from local to national levels, personnel in these centers can observe activity and make suggestions or interventions when the center can add value. It would be a truly coordinated, interoperable response to emergencies.

By adopting full C-C4ISR capabilities at the national and local levels, the emergency management apparatus can operate and interact with non-emergency local and national government departments and non-governmental organizations. This would include establishing interoperability with coterminous states or even international organizations.

Source: OFDA/CRED International Disaster Database; 2005 to 2017

Managing Events

At every level, C-C4ISR center staff can be aware of all response vehicles, aircraft, mobile, and fixed assets. Staff also can be aware of individual team members’ locations and status by looking at a situational awareness display or Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system. These essential displays can show a range of information including maps, video footage, location and status reports, trends, and analysis, as well as social and media streams that can be drawn from cloud-based centralized database solutions and third-party applications. Voice and live recordings can be played in the centers live or streamed onto displays or routed anywhere through video conferencing solutions.

Through this C-C4ISR-connected command structure, first responders can use local and national centers as a source of knowledge and experience, from which they can seek and receive guidance support for any activity on the ground. All forms of messages can sent[PG1]  and received, including video, photographs, maps, drawings, and the full range of data messages with updates that can be synchronized with the command centers using appropriate applications. Every agency can give and receive support quickly and everyone involved can be updated and have the full situational awareness of any event or incident.

Well-trained and tested control room staff can use information feeds from across the infrastructure to quickly assess and respond to emergencies and disasters before they become unmanageable.First responders can be directed to locations, and tasks or incidents prioritized by the center using an ‘all informed’ mission-critical communications network so all those in the proximity of an emergency understand what is happening and what roles and responsibilities will be assigned.

It does not matter which device or network a responder is using to maintain an all-informed communication network; an integrated solution ensures that voice, data and video can be received, heard, viewed and transmitted to and from whoever needs to hear, see or use the information. This is seamless connectivity.

First responder safety can be improved as information from event locations and various sources provides better advance warnings. Suitable applications can also provide immediate and timely advice to officers prior to their arrival, or while they continue to monitor earlier events or incidents. C-C4ISR capabilities can also provide essential staff with access to notes on processes, first steps at a scene, and other standard operating procedures on any incident type the agency wishes to maintain in their records. This critical information can be transmitted onto their hand-held communications devices to guide their actions at the scene.

Crucial to any emerging incident or disaster are quick and effective warnings and deployment of personnel, including the use of specialist resources — whether people or assets. The key to C-C4ISR is ensuring the visibility of these resources and mechanisms to deploy quickly to minimize delays or inefficiencies. This is assisted by using real time information from resources that are identified by type and location, including access to useful information like traffic congestion that may impact deployment choices. Information needed by decision makers and commanders is efficiently managed, coordinated and focused to the need.

All events or incidents evolve and the responses and demands change as it unfolds. Resources on the ground need to feed back information to the command centers to update situational awareness and assessments. This can improve information already being streamed from sensors, IoT devices, cameras, and other sources, including the media and the public. The center staff is engaged in the proactive management of information collection, analysis, and demands to organize effective responses as events change and develop to assist the command team to maintaining total control of the each event or incident.

Managing Multiple Events

The C-C4ISR facilities must also ensure that while major events or incidents are being managed, other emergencies can also be effectively controlled. Therefore, the control room design, technology, and support capabilities need to ensure routine services will still be delivered while a major event or incident is in progress. Additionally, multiple major events or incidents also need to be handled simultaneously. Multiple simultaneous events are among the largest challenges that control room environments will face.

The Concept of Operations needs to clarify how the command structure is organized to manage multiple events or incidents — whether the events are linked, or are independent but concurrent. In reality, different command teams may have to operate simultaneously on different events or incidents without knowing if there is a connection. Being able to process and share key information from multiple sources or intelligence is critical to making timely assessments and decisions. However, sometimes such events must be treated independently, with separate command teams, because no connection or causation is immediately evident.

Another increasing trend is the risk of terrorism and predicting the methods that may be used by an attacker or attackers. The standard procedure is now to treat many routine events as a potential terrorist attack, thus requiring the full activation of protocols. Events are downgraded if and when no link to terrorism can be established.

The C-C4ISR system needs to fully support complex multiple events from the response stage and through the following stages of incident management and longer-term investigation and analysis.

Closing Stages

As an event or incident is contained, the command team will move into a consolidation stage that works toward the return to normal; whereas resources are quickly reallocated, command teams stood down, and all impacted agencies returned to their standard routines. Because every event or incident will generate large amounts of data, all voice recordings of transmissions, decision logs, threat and risk assessment records, video recordings, social media data, and system logs must be safeguarded, retained, and made accessible for analysis, reports, and evidence for later prosecutions or court inquiries. Owing to the sensitive nature of these types of events and incidents, access to the data acquired throughout each operation will be strictly controlled and managed, and original data preserved in accordance with local and national regulations or guidance.

An essential stage following these types of operations is a formal, structured de-briefing process to ensure all information is assessed, including negative or critical views related to operations or outcomes, so appropriate follow-up action or remediation is taken. This enables a cycle of continuous learning and adoption of lessons learned from complex events in order that protocols, procedures, and systems can be improved.

Establishing a formal de-briefing process is especially important if the jurisdiction has legal rules on disclosure or if the event may be subject to a judicial inquiry. Advice from an organization’s legal department is always recommended to ensure the de-briefing process achieves its main purpose of learning lessons and that information collected is managed to ensure compliance with jurisdictional requirements.


Emergency preparedness requires that an effective command structure is established to enable strategic and tactical decision making for all stages of events or incidents. In particular, the technology capabilities provided by C-C4ISR solutions are designed to help local, regional and national agencies respond effectively to fast-moving public safety situations.

From natural disasters to terrorism, now is a good time for all public safety agencies to develop clear and concise Concept of Operations practices that are topical and well rehearsed to ensure they are ready to manage any and all challenges.

In addition to a high-level clarification of procedures, structured de-briefings are also a good time to conduct technical reviews of control rooms and command centers; for which the goal is to not only remain fit and ready for current purposes but to also prepare for the increasing and varied challenges for emergency communications in our modern world. The technology capabilities provided through C-C4ISR-type of solutions can provide the tools and means to respond more effectively to the changing threats we face.

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