European requirements for security-related communications infrastructures include dependability, enhanced connectivity, transmission of multiple formats and advanced search functions. In this context, the EU-funded project 'Seamless communication for crisis management' (SECRICOM) developed a competitive solution to enable secure communication and collaboration between emergency responders. To achieve its aims, the project brought together 13 partners from 8 Member States and created a system that secures end-to-end transmission of data and services across heterogeneous infrastructures. The SECRICOM system also integrated real-time detection and recovery capabilities that protect it against intrusion, malfunction and failure, as well as an innovative push-to-talk voice service. In addition, SECRICOM outlined and analysed the requirements for a fault-tolerant secure communication centre, as well as agent sensor communication with a monitoring and control centre for the system. It also defined the hardware architecture for a secure docking module, developing as well a demonstrator for secure communication via Internet Protocol version 6. Project members then worked on methods for protecting the system against vulnerabilities and malicious attacks, developing as well a prototype for secure agent infrastructure to manage crises. SECRICOM validated its solution through four major live demonstrations with excellent results and reviews. The tests involved information and communication technologies experts, operational officers, and technical managers from the police, fire and health services, in addition to government agencies such as defence, military and intelligence staff. End users noted that the solution offers more effective operations jointly executed by the different agencies, including on-the-go ability to add users to talk groups, with instant access to live information anytime and everywhere. In addition to streamlining interagency collaboration, the system helped reposition the level of communication from a strategic to much lower tactical levels. Overall, SECRICOM showed that technology is not a barrier to multi-agency/national operations, offering excellent prospects for connecting heterogeneous systems, as privatisation continues to bring in new stakeholders and partners. Deployment of SECRICOM's reference platform could require long-term strategic and policy changes over several years plus increased funding. However, once implemented it will no doubt upgrade European emergency services. These services will communicate more efficiently and effectively during crisis situations ranging from natural disasters to terrorist attacks.
Communications, emergency services, crisis management, emergency responders