Legend

Action

Process dealing with a situation or a request.

Actor

Any organisation or body able to implement an Action

Aligned Operations

Moving to the overall coordination of teams during a disaster management, priorities in implementing specific operations (e.g. search and rescue, evacuation…) should be agreed in advance, so that teams can easily understand each other about priorities and resources needed. The modules of the European Community Mechanism for Civil Protection are an example of this.

Aligned Procedures

This layer covers the set of procedures that different teams, organisations or systems are requested to put in practice during an emergency. The more such procedures are aligned, the more the shared knowledge can be of help and the more the actions started are harmonized and effective.

Authority

Public organisation responsible for Public Protection and Disaster Relief, usually implemented by running Emergency Services

Citizen

Individual members of State (and, by extension, of a Community of States like the European Union)

Cycle

Part of the flow of communication between Citizens and Authorities

Data Object/Model Interoperability

Stepping up, we have now devices and protocols working well in harmony. How can we ensure that the content of a call or the mechanisms needed to perform a complex task are well harmonised. Thinking of two organisations willing to share geographical information, the way such information is coded and presented must be compatible. We know well about different unit systems or mapping systems. All information that Emergency Managers want to share must be coded/represented in a way that a computer system can handle and use without ambiguity. The goal here is to allow an IT system to carry information around without distorting them or losing bits in the process. Human understanding is vital to allow for an easy check and use of the data, with IT system simply allowing for a faster and more efficient storage and sharing.

Emergency Services

At this level, actions are manageable by emergency services, which should be required to set different priorities or act together with their Authorities for acting.

European Commission

This actor level encompasses all bodies and committees at European Level, including the Parliament, the Commission and its Directorates, the Agencies, Standardisation bodies… If possible, the experts should pinpoint what body would be the most appropriate to act.

Harmonised strategy/Doctrines

When approaching the planning of operations in a situation, teams from different origin must have pre-defined level of agreements for coordinating high-level objectives and operational tasks. The implementation of political objectives must require procedures to be executed at local level (e.g. within each organisation) while being confident that all teams will eventually cover all the needed elements of the reaction to an emergency. All technical interoperability layers are far from here, however doctrines must rely on the largest set of agreements at the "lower" levels. The Community Mechanism for Civil Protection is a typical example of this layer, but it can also be limited to a mutual assistance agreement between Regions. The Monitoring and Information Centre (MIC) and the Common Emergency Communication and Information System (CECIS) are example of instruments set up to implement such strategies.

Implementation and monitoring needed

The scene is fully set up. The legal framework is defined, technology is available, and standard and technical guidelines are defined. Solutions must be now implemented and a monitoring activity by control bodies is required to actually achieve the intended goal.

Information Interoperability

We are now dealing with the meaning of information flowing between systems. Even when we correctly receive the data produced by somebody else and even if such data are correctly organized as we like, still we have to understand them and put them in context. There are plenty of examples of this, and we can summarize them with the codification of events or procedures used by an Emergency team. Whatever the complexity or simplicity of this description is, the two sides cannot "interoperate" if their complete meaning is not shared. The way an emergency is classified, the way a resource is named hiding all the bundled components, all these are examples of what Information Interoperability means.

Knowledge/Awareness

This is the core level of interoperability, where technical and organizational interoperability converge to ensure the widest understanding of the situation and appropriateness of (re)action in an emergency. This is the ultimate goal of the command, control and communication systems that have to count on all technical interoperability layers implemented and operate within a well organized procedural/political context.

Layer

Part of the interoperability continuum, logically organised and consistent with concrete results

Legislation

The topic is still in need for a legal framework to be established. Without such framework, fragmented or uncoordinated implementations may be deployed at different levels. Moreover, without clear provisions, in some cases funds may not be allocated for the implementation of existing solutions.

Member States

This level includes any decision level in Member States, including multi-lateral agreements or transnational initiatives outside of the "European" initiatives.

Physical Interoperability

This is the base level of interoperability and needs different tools or devices designed to execute specific actions to be compatible, interchangeable and replaceable. A straightforward example is an air cylinder for a breathing apparatus. During an operation carried on by different teams, one would expect that a life-saving asset like the air cylinder could be used by any member of any team seamlessly, without considering the type of lung demand valve or face mask which is used. If this is ensured, we have a fundamental level of "physical interoperability" guaranteed. No software, no computers, no radio frequency: just physical tools and devices that can be used without asking from where they come. It comes to mind that the adoption of common standards is the main solution to this issue, however many different examples may be found and a continuous effort in identifying first and later discuss a viable solution is needed.

Political Objectives

Ensuring an efficient and quick cooperation during an emergency needs the intervening teams to work under the auspices of clear rules of engagement, overall goals, level of cooperation. In generic terms, all actors must have a defined environment in which they can move reliably and in synergy. This may include financial agreements, military options, and mutual agreements.

Protocol Interoperability

Here we move a step up to the interaction between subsystems. Given for granted that physical interoperability is reached, we still have to be sure that things and information are used and shared in a harmonized way. We do not refer here only to objects, but also to the way they are used, are maintained, are shared and are exchanged. Again, en example may help in "visualizing" what kind of interoperability we are discussing here. An emergency voice call can be originated in many different ways (landline, mobile phone, private network, pre-registered messages, VoIP, …). How can we ensure that the heart of the message (somebody in distress) is received and properly handled? Information flow using many communication methods in the end reaches a call-handler: everything that is in between the call originator and the call receiver must be transparent, i.e. there should be no distortions/delays introduced by the communication chain. In other words, all the different possible communication subsystems must operate in a way that a voice communication can be established, regardless of the devices, the carriers, the network (to name only some). This again calls for a number of agreements (i.e. standards) agreed between all actors in the chain. When it comes to communication between radio systems or computers, things get more complicated but the underlying concept is the same: we want users to get their tasks accomplished without taking care of the complexity underneath. (NB: language can be assigned to this layer)

Research and development

Even with a set of regulations in place, the technical solutions available on the market are not up to the point and additional Research and Development (R&D) is called for. For the purpose of ESENet, such R&D actions cover the full range of research (basic or applied) where private funds from industries may not be enough or may lead to un-needed proprietary solutions.

Result

Outcome of the discussion with and between the members of the ESENet group of experts

Standardisation

Technology is available and ready to be used for concrete solutions, but a common standard (or set of standards) is missing. This may lead to uncoordinated solutions and even to incompatible systems deployed across Europe, creating additional barriers to full interoperability. Activities by standardisation bodies or the setting up of mandates and ad hoc groups is called for.

Sub-Topic

Detailed subject for discussion as part of a Topic and with desired Results

Topic

Identified subject for discussion, linked to concrete challenges and belonging to a Layer and a Cycle.

View

Presentation of the Results according to a specific criterion or set of criteria.

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme
for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement no 313013