On March 11, 2004, Madrid suffered a major terror attack when several commuter trains were bombed. As with the 9/11 attacks in the United States, this tragic incident highlighted the need for greater coordination among first responders.
“The different emergency entities — the police, the fire department, the ambulance service and the mobile police — intervened independently, and all of them had disparate communication systems and technologies,” says Fernando Garcia Ruiz, head of innovation and development, Department of Security for the City of Madrid. There was no way to organize a unified response to incidents, and there was a lack of centralized command and control.
A key lesson was that more than one major incident can happen simultaneously, and emergency assets may be needed in more than one place. Different incidents may be related, or have nothing to do with one another – without a clear overall picture, it may be impossible to tell if there is an important pattern emerging. This potential for complexity poses a significant challenge for emergency managers. They not only need to coordinate activity, but also require a thorough understanding of everything happening in the metropolitan area so as to properly allocate limited resources to provide the best response to each incident. In addition, proactive measures such as limiting access to impacted areas, or crowd and traffic control for public events, has to be included in the mix.
The need, therefore, was not only for top-down coordination, but also for the ability to capture and integrate information to give managers the understanding and insight required to quickly make the right decisions.
In the aftermath of the bombings, the Madrid City Council took action to better protect the public by commissioning an advanced emergency command center for the city—the Centro Integrado de Seguridad y Emergencias de Madrid, or CISEM.
The mission was ambitious: reduce emergency response time, integrate information, standardize procedures and protocols, provide seamless coordination and planning, enable shared use of resources, optimize information management and promote prevention through better planning.
Indra, a regional systems integrator specializing in the public sector, teamed with Council member IBM to provide the integrated, service-oriented IT infrastructure that would make CISEM a reality, along with needed business process transformation to enable coordination among all of the stakeholders.
Now the combination of forward-looking system design and end-to-end integration gives emergency managers in Madrid the tools needed to not only deal with today’s threats, but also handle rapidly evolving situations and technologies as they emerge. Any sensor input — video, data or voice — from any source can be readily incorporated into the data stream and accessed by anyone who needs it.
Situational awareness is now at an unprecedented level. The single, unified view of status and events reduces confusion and enables far faster and more effective decision making. Managers are now better able to deploy the right assets the first time, reducing response time by 25%.