Needs of Emergency Management Weighed Against Price of New EOCs

MULTIPLE CITIES-- As police departments across the country move to update their emergency operations centers, some are being overwhelmed with the sticker shock that comes with building centralized 24/7 command centers equipped with massive video walls, communications links and Internet news feeds.

But not every jurisdiction has to plunk down $107 million as the Los Angeles Police Department did to build its Real-Time Analysis and Critical Response Emergency Operations Center. The solution is “scalability,” said John Bilar, vice president of technology for Spectrum Integrated Technology Consulting Group.

Spectrum, which is located in Oceanside, Calif., was responsible for design, engineering and implementation oversight of the RACR facility’s integrated technology. It is now working with the city of Indio, Calif., to upgrade its 50-year-old EOC. Indio wants to open a temporary EOC while it considers plans for a permanent center upgrade, and has the goal of moving from its current basement headquarters into an existing building by the end of 2013.

However, using an existing structure presents challenges for Indio officials. In order to accommodate the video walls, the L.A. EOC ceilings are 28 feet tall. None of Indio’s existing city-owned buildings are tall enough to house a high-tech video wall, according to Bilar. So for an existing structure to be used, Indio officials would have to agree to raise the roof of a facility by several feet to accommodate the proposed video wall, he said.

Convincing officials to fund a roof-raising is a challenge, but “sticker shock is scalable,” Bilar said. The final cost of Indio’s EOC is expected to be a fraction of the cost of the L.A. facility, and what a new EOC offers will help Indio’s emergency managers accomplish their mission, he said.

“Money is important, but phasing is also important,” he said. “Many departments can’t do it all up front. We help them plan to get the most bang for the buck they have. We put them into an operable condition, and two years down the road, it’s not a disaster when they are ready to incorporate additional capabilities.”


NEC Display Solutions’ X551UN Monitor At the center of most EOCs is the video wall. The L.A. video wall is massive, 8 feet high by 24 feet wide. It is made up of 28 NEC ultra-narrow liquid crystal display monitors in a 4x7 configuration that displays 29 million pixels. NEC Display Solutions’ monitors are built with video wall applications in mind, said Keith Yanke, NEC’s director of product marketing for large-screen displays and projectors.

The X551UN monitor delivers improved uniformity, reduced power consumption and mercuryfree components. They boast a 5.5 mm distance between active screen areas of two neighboring displays, Yanke said.

“These video wall displays for command and control applications benefit from new [monitor] capabilities over previous generations,” Yanke said. “Among them are LED backlighting and full HD resolution, while maintaining color calibration and ease of use.” The monitors also incorporate Intel’s Open Pluggable Specification, an industrywide standardization in option slots to simplify digital signage.


Activu Corp.’s visualization and collaboration solution is part of the Bergen County (N.J.) Police Department’s Emergency Management Center.

Cross-jurisdictional communications is a trend sweeping through EOCs these days, as departments want to link their EOC centers for better response and support.

Activu Corp.’s network-based visualization and collaboration solution enables that, said Hesha Patel, its director of marketing.

Activu recently supplied four New Jersey law enforcement and emergency management agencies. The Bergen County Police Department, the Morris County Office of Emergency Management, the Newark Police Department and the Jersey City Emergency Operations Center were equipped with a platform that enables them to collaborate like never before, Patel said.

Micah Hassinger, director of information technology for the Bergen County Department of Public Safety, said the new technology allows for remote or distributed decision-making. With the system, disaster or crime information is sent from the county’s EOC to relevant police and county officials. “They are able to see what’s going on and make the right decision at the right time,” Hassinger said. “It provides that true real-time interface.”

The system also has a mobility option that works with mobile phone video feeds thereby transmitting images from officers’ cell phones to the EOC. That enables commanders to view incidents in real time, Hassinger said.


RGB Spectrum’s MultiPoint Control Room Management System

RGB Spectrum recently debuted a new videographic processing technology that helps manage the immense amount of data that can flood into an EOC during critical incidents.

The MultiPoint Control Room Management System significantly improves the ability of control room personnel to display, manipulate and act on data in information-rich environments, said Arndt Schrader, RGB Spectrum product marketing manager.

The MCMS offers HD resolution at full frame rates, making it ideal for mission-critical, real-time display processing, intuitive system navigation and compelling security features, said Schrader. It provides a single control interface for each operator, allowing applications running on different computers to be easily accessed and displayed, Schrader said. For example, a security operations center’s video management system, entry control, elevator control and office applications—which are usually distributed across various computers—can be displayed on a single monitor, he said.

“You can think of this as a multi-computer expanded desktop on steroids,” Schrader said. “This beats the alternative of integrating various software applications at the software level, which can be very expensive, if possible at all, and difficult to keep up to date.”


HDT Global’s Interactive Command Table

Based in Virginia, HDT Global takes the concept of EOC displays from the wall to the table—specifically, a new command table designed for on-site first responder applications, said Jeff Pufahl, the company’s C2 product manager.

The company created the Interactive Command Table (iCT) after a customer asked for an application that would allow first responders to gather and collaborate, Pufahl said. Video walls are great applications, but the iCT drives a more equal and robust exchange of information," he said, adding, “It's a consensus builder.”

The table is built around a rugged NEC projector, which displays images onto a 60-inch diagonal shatterproof acrylic top. The top is touch-screen enabled, and pens that transmit an ultrasound signal are used to write on it, Pufahl said. The sound wave transmissions dissipate after just a few feet thereby improving the table’s security. In addition, integrated collaboration tools enable the user to capture the content digitally from the tabletop to the computer, while built-in tools capture and save data and images, he said.

The response has been immense, Pufahl said. "In addition, the company received a favorable review from former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani. The table was on display at a recent trade show and when Giuliani saw it he was so impressed “he just couldn’t walk away from it,” Pufahl said.