Creating a common operating picture

The Los Angeles Regional Common Operational Picture Program employs technologies to improve off-site emergency operations communications

Two LARCOPP consoles also have been built. Because of the city of Los Angeles' size and complexity, one console is in the LAPD's Department Operations Center. The second console is in the LASD's Emergency Operations Bureau/Los Angeles County EOC, which serves all of the cities in the operational area.

"Anyone else who needs access to the information can log on to a password-protected Web site," explains the LAPD's Lt. Don Farrell, the LARCOPP Interagency Manager.

Farrell uses a radiological explosion as an example of when this Web site access may be used. He notes that the site can disseminate mapping, as well as video, information to aid in the evacuation of the area and transport of the injured to nearby hospitals. "We can give any agency or discipline a temporary password, and they can get what they need by logging on to the LARCOPP site," he says.

When an incident occurs in another state, LARCOPP goes on the road or takes to the air. "We can load these (LARCOPP-equipped) vehicles onto a C130, fly them to the site and uplink mapping, live video, resource information and voice over Internet," explains Farrell. "We can shoot that information to the satellite, to the operations center in L.A., and from there onto the Internet so it's accessible to another agency."

Working together

The LARCOPP project sprang from the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) and the State Homeland Security Grant Program Working Groups, which are comprised of representatives from area law enforcement, fire service and emergency management agencies. They meet regularly to discuss and prioritize homeland security projects and allocate DHS grant funds. The LARCOPP project capitalized on those established relationships by creating an ad hoc committee to address the NIMS requirement of a common operational picture among responding agencies.

In addition to the Los Angeles city and county fire, police and sheriff's departments, the project has included the Long Beach police and fire departments, the Glendale PD, which is the third largest city in the operational area behind Los Angeles and Long Beach, and the Pomona Police Department, located on the eastern edge of the county.

Pomona is, perhaps, the anomaly of the group since it is not part of the UASI area. According to Pomona PD's Lt. Bill Leumann, making the Pomona PD part of the project makes the LARCOPP system available to smaller cities in the more remote and rural areas. More important, however, is that it completes a geographic triangle that ensures coverage of the western, northern and eastern portions of the county.

"(The LARCOPP executive committee) realized LARCOPP could not be successful if we kept all the toys among the big agencies," says Farrell. "We had to be inclusive."

There is a significant need to deploy LARCOPP in the northern and eastern edges of the county, along the foothills of the San Gabriel Mountains, because this area is prone to wildfires, notes Farrell. Glendale and Pomona jurisdictions fall within these areas.

"We now have a network of coverage that allows us to manage wildfires and other situations," Farrell says.

Inclusiveness seems to be the catchword for the LARCOPP project, which has capitalized on relationships built through the grant fund working groups. Working together on the grueling and sometimes contentious process of allocating grant funds can bring a community together or break it apart. In the case of the Los Angeles region, it seems to have created an atmosphere where new ideas are greeted with open minds.

"Everyone was receptive (to LARCOPP) because we had a measure of trust and ongoing relationships between the parties," Farrell says. "We try to keep the lines of communication open on an ongoing basis. We don't just exchange business cards, shake hands and walk away. We keep in regular contact, and we stay consistent with our representatives so we don't have to continually rebuild those relationships."

LARCOPP, both the people and the technology behind the system, is dedicated to maintaining a common operational picture through effective communications.

Lois Pilant Grossman is a freelance writer and editor living in California.

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