Planning: Situational Awareness & The Common Operating Picture

Public safety professionals are often called on to make rapid decisions in critical circumstances based on the best available information at the time. This usually requires the synthesis of data from many different sources. A crime unit in a police department might need to fuse multiple sources of data to determine the incident history of a location where an incident has been reported. Knowing who lives there, whether there are open warrants at that location, whether repeat offenses have occurred there, etc., can be critically important information for officers responding to a call.

Prince George’s County in central Maryland has implemented a standards-based, interoperable GIS platform to resolve the challenge of fusing multiple disparate data sources. Within the county, there are five separate police dispatch systems and one county fire dispatch center. Geospatial technology has proved to be the tool that has aided in creating a multijurisdictional common operational picture from these different systems run and maintained by different jurisdictions.

The City of Laurel began by collaborating with the IT department of the Prince George’s County Government to coordinate the relationship needed to share data services. Utilizing the Esri GIS technology and Adobe Flex framework, a platform was created that displayed live 911 dispatch incident data which was overlaid on local base maps. With advances in GIS technology, no data is interchanged between jurisdictions; rather, secure data feeds and services are consumed in the Web-based application. Additionally, regional and national data enhances the operational picture with information that includes spatial data feeds on open warrant, parole, sex offender, new county jail releases, real-time weather and traffic information.

The program also includes a mobile component for sharing data from the field personnel back to operators using the common operating picture application. Data exchange occurs seamlessly among users in the field, the dispatch center, and the operations center.

Benefits of thesituational awareness common operating picture for public safety agencies include:

  • Communication via Web application real-time 911 dispatch incident information to bordering jurisdictions that are mutual aid partners
  • Consuming sensitive data services that go beyond jurisdictional boundaries
  • Operating off the same picture of the incident at all jurisdictional levels (The application provides a common picture of the incident for quicker action from other local or state level responders if warranted.)
  • Otherwise unrelated data integrated to deliver actionable information to responders from all agencies participating in the incident
Job Task Guide for Common Operating Picture

Find out what data, skills, software, and procedures are needed to build a common operating picture [PDF].


Next: Preparedness