By deploying a bespoke geographical information system (GIS), the LRF has enabled all its members and other multi-agency responders to access and share sensitive and critical data. This dynamic platform enhances the ability for the LRF to respond to incidents in a timelier manner and offers a central point of reference for decision-makers at all response levels that use the COP as the interface briefing tool.
In March 2011, the LRF played a key role in Exercise Watermark, Britain’s biggest ever civil emergency exercise, designed to test the country’s response to large-scale flooding.
A review of the LRF’s involvement in the exercise highlighted a few key learning outcomes and areas for improvement:
- The creation of a single point of access for all data collection and communication.
- Improve the data-sharing protocols of all LRF members and multi-agency responders.
- Establish service level agreements (SLAs) for good working practice.
- More effective utilisation of existing IT infrastructure and software.
- Reduce reliance on paper-based mapping for briefing purposes.
Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue Service and the Lincolnshire County Council Joint Emergency Management Service have played a key role in facilitating the sharing of information between multi-agency emergency responders and LRF members by agreeing and embedding multiple SLAs. Whilst an excellent step forward, the practical implementation and use of this data for information-sharing and pre-planning prior to an event was hindered by the fact that the capabilities of the existing GIS platform were limited. A new LRF-agreed solution was required to allow local partners to spatially view all this information in a time-critical multi-agency operational environment.
Having agreed to share a number of key datasets, the first step in creating the COP that the LRF could operate from was to create a central data repository to store all conceivable pre-planned multi-agency data and Ordnance Survey data.
This central repository, now commonly referred to within Lincolnshire County Council as the ‘Geostore’, has various permissions and access levels that safeguards sensitive information, such as the location of vulnerable people and critical infrastructure, and can only be accessed by key individuals within the organisation.
With all agencies providing data on a regular basis, the LRF is hopeful that policies and procedures can be developed to mitigate and hopefully eradicate the use of duplicated data, legacy data and data stored in silos that can be difficult to use when only one person has access to critical data.
Key contributors for data include Lincolnshire County Council, Joint Emergency Management Service, Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue, Environment Agency™, National Health Service®, Highways Agency, Anglian Water®, Internal Drainage Boards, Yorkshire Electricity®, Lincolnshire Police, East Midlands Ambulance Service and the voluntary sector.
Once collected and stored centrally, the multi-agency data and related spatial datasets are layered onto various Ordnance Survey mapping products for further analysis. This can be achieved using most GIS platforms – Lincolnshire County Council’s corporate GIS is currently Pitney Bowes® MapInfo Professional®.
When there is an emergency exercise or incident, such as a fire or flooding event, the COP can be displayed throughout the County Emergency Centre. The potential to stream to other strategic, tactical and operational locations in the county using existing IT infrastructure, is currently being developed.
When this is achieved the COP will be accessible to all members of the LRF regardless of locality.
Ordnance Survey data has played a fundamental role in underpinning this work by providing a tried and trusted common geographic framework from which to work from.
- Single platform brings together multiple sources of location-based incident and emergency responder information; this forms the foundations of the COP and makes it a one-stop- shop for key partners in a multi-agency event to update and utilise.
- All members of the Tactical Coordination Group and the Strategic Coordination Group can base critical decisions on the most current and accurate data using Ordnance Survey mapping products.
- The latest versions of all multi-agency plans and multi-agency data can be preloaded into the COP to enable point data links to all relevant information. This enables instant access to information and reduces the time required for executive decision-making.
- As a core government activity, data available under the Public Sector Mapping Agreement (PSMA) can be accessed by all category 1 and 2 responders, including non-government organisations.