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B-APCO EU projects update – an introduction to the team.
‘Research in action’ encapsulates what British APCO’s project team does.
As part of a consortium we bid to EU funding bodies for research projects relevant to British APCO members. Our contribution is generally twofold: capturing user requirements and demonstrating the final outcome or product to our user base.
In the next issue of B-APCO Journal you’ll find out a bit more about what we do, including an in-depth article about one such project – project Freesic – but here is a taster…
Interop - Freesic on the case
EU research involving the British APCO project team is confirming many responders’ beliefs about the barriers to truly effective interoperable working. Emerging findings from the Freesic project indicate they are not simply technical but comprise a range of factors including cultural and process inhibitors too. This is not a British phenomenon however: across Europe a similar story is being revealed.
Interoperability has been a buzzword in emergency responder circles for some years now. It has been the subject of several government-sponsored projects and programmes, not least the recently launched Joint Emergency Services Interoperability Programme. Of course working together with other partners has been around for a lot longer, but a succession of high-profile incidents in the UK and elsewhere has intensified the focus on interoperability in concept and in practice.
In October British APCO hosted one of a series of European workshops focusing on solutions to interoperability challenges identified in multi-agency responses to major crisis incidents. Project manager Shaun O’Neill led a group of end users from the three blue lights, the Home Office and Swedish police, in a day-long roundtable debate.
There’s no single obstacle to effective interoperability but understanding the problem has to be the key to the solution. That message from the UK event is repeated throughout the research, with Freesic’s emerging findings identifying a range of issues in as many as five separate categories: process, culture and practical, finance and commercial, legal, security and technical.
The aim of EU research is frequently to provide pointers towards solutions and Freesic is no exception. Out of the fog of discussion the UK workshop homed in on an array of ideas needing to be addressed by those charged with achieving full operational effectiveness at major incidents and disaster scenarios. The broad scope of proposals endorsed the realisation at practitioner and government level that there’s no lightbulb moment here – a lot of hard work and inter-agency understanding is going to be required. This will need to underpinned by agreements and standards at regional, national and international level. Practical planning on the ground relies on technical compatibility and common standards; understanding of benefits at all levels is essential to ensure that infrastructure meets responders’ needs. The following are illustrative of the wide range of proposals emerging to date:
· Benefits of interoperability to be articulated in a clear manner to agency senior managers and thus influence organisational objectives and planning
· Joint agency procurements - not only offering economies of scale but stronger consideration of requirements for enabling ICT to more easily enhance interagency process and procedural integration
· Development of inter-agency communication talk-group plans prior to operational deployment – to include non-core (Cat 2) and voluntary agencies
· Development of agreed security procedures with flexibility to accommodate changing circumstances
· The need for agreed data standards to facilitate more effective information exchange.
The UK workshop outputs are being refined and combined with proposed solutions from similar workshops planned in Czech Republic, Luxembourg, Poland, Slovakia and Spain. In early 2013 findings from all the national workshops will be collated in one format to be presented to an international validation user team during B-APCO 2013 in Manchester. Following this validation exercise, system and technical development work will progress towards a full proof of concept trial.
Meet the team, left to right: Jim Strother, Paul Hirst, Shaun O'Neill, Tony Antoniou (British APCO Executive Director, responsible for managing the Project Team).