Critical infrastructure dependency

Yesterday, I spent around fifteen hours doing fieldstudies at the command centre at the Greater Gothenburg Fire and Rescue Services. The focus of my study was to learn more about the work of the chief of staff (Stabschef in Swedish). The chief of staff is the senior commander for the command centre.
By a conincidence, yesterday was also the day for a major update of the emergency dispatch system (Coordcom G5). The upgrade was made for four regions at the same time which meant that this system was scheduled to be unavailable between 21:00 to 05:00 the next morning. During this period, the 112-dispatch operators had to rely on a backup-system with less capabilities compared to the normal system. However, for the rescue services, this upgrade had the consequence of moving from a system-based practice towards a higher degree of paper-based practice. After 21:00 the normal system was shut down and the command operators changed to the pre-planned paper-based procedures for 112-call management. Still, they had access to a range of other systems for log keeping and GIS.
However, it was a good opportunity for to see how important aspects in a command centre setting became visible when the preparations were made to shift in to a “reserv mode” of work.
The shift was made without any major disturbances and the partly “new” way of working was successful. I left the command centre at 22:30 and during this time, no alarm-calls and incidents was required by the rescue services.
This episode reminded me that the range of new systems we design must also be designed to make updates and maintenance in the system a very non-intrusive activity. I am pretty sure that these issues are seldom covered in the design work but painfully revealed when the first batch of patches and updates are needed. When designing systems for emergency and crisis response, models should be developed that target the issue of making the updating of the system-use a very non-intrusive process.

After fifteen hours of continous study, I feelt very tired and full of new insights and impressions.

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