Lessons Learned from Global Attacks
Terrorism is a global problem and particularly here in Australia our terror incidents, present an enormous opportunity for our nations’ security and law enforcement agencies to learn how they might improve communication and information sharing in times of emergency.
The Australian Government, State and Territories have managed terrorist actions reasonable well to date and I’m sure they will learn more when data is available from inquests like the Linte Café Coronial findings which should be released early next year. Our Governments and First Responders would also be taking note of what has happened in other parts of the world like the USA, Europe and other terrorism hot spots.
When terrorist strike, an effective emergency response requires enormous cooperation and information sharing among law enforcement agencies at federal, state and local agencies level to eliminate the threat and minimise causalities.
The information gathered and lessons learned might start to drive our governments in developing and deploying a Public Safety Mobile Broadband (PSMB) network as soon as and as practicable in the future.
Even thirteen years after 9/11 terrorist attacks communication interoperability issues are still hindering large-scale emergency situations. During the 2012 Aurora, Colorado Theatre shooting, a breakdown in communications between police and fire commanders led to a failure to assess the level of risk in the theatre.
An after-action reported commissioned by the city of Aurora revealed that the lack of a unified, joint police-fire command during the first hour of the incident, and failure to effectively use available radio systems—whether from failure to do so or because they did not know how— led to difficulties in communication between the police and fire departments.
In many cases the major problem identified was overcrowded mobile networks. Both unplanned emergencies and mass gatherings, such as sporting events, can overload the mobile network infrastructure, leading to “poor data transmission, dropped and incomplete calls.”
Another example is communication issues significantly slowed down the response to the attacks in Brussels in March 2016. Police reportedly used the WhatsApp Messenger to communicate with one another after ASTRID, Belgium’s public-safety network provider, experienced “network saturation.”
As we know the USA’s FirstNet’s deployment of a dedicated high-speed broadband network is to overcome the issue of overcrowded mobile networks. Deployable networks using Cells on Wheels (COWs) and Systems on Wheels (SOWs) are currently being tested for situations requiring additional bandwidth, such as for video sharing. By deployed COWs and SOWs this will build a highly resilient network and provide access the network through satellite and/or microwave, even when mobile tower infrastructure is damaged. COWs and SOWs addresses the needs of rural areas, as well as natural disaster situations or terrorist infrastructure attacks.
One of the most awaited capabilities of a PSMB is the ability to video conference and share video feeds within and between disparate agencies.
The ability to share real-time video can make or break an investigation into a terrorist attack or other emergency situation, something that radio networks alone can’t provide. In another report it was noted that video imagery taken from a person near the scene of the attack on the Charlie Hebdo headquarters in Paris ended up being one of the most crucial pieces of evidence.
Another major issue that must be solved is silos, described as “any system that is unable to work with any other system”.
Silos may help maintain agency sovereignty over their assets and resources, nevertheless can also be a major interference to inter agency cooperation.
By selectively bridging silos so that first responders have access to critical information whilst enabling security and sovereignty for all parties must be achieved through access control and encryption.
As we in Australia move closer to nationwide PSMB network implementation, let’s not waste the opportunity to learn from the tragedies here and overseas as the safety and security of Australia is at stake, and we have the power the tools and technologies to make this work.
To understand how some of these issues need to be addressed down load the White Paper:
Lessons Learned from Global Attacks an incisive look at How FirstNet Can Better Prepare the U.S. for Crisis Response