When major disasters occur, the consequences are traumatic and far-reaching. This applies equally to individuals caught directly in their wake, who can lose their lives or livelihoods, and to regions and countries as a whole, where it can take years to rebuild economies and communities. The EU aims to counter growing vulnerability to disasters by strengthening its crisis management capabilities. It must be able to respond in a timely, coordinated and effective way to large-scale disasters that happen both inside and outside its borders. The 'Critical response in security and safety emergencies' (CRISYS) project aimed to provide concepts, tools and planning in the form of a roadmap for developing and demonstrating a better system to protect the population, environment and economy, and ensure a rapid return to reasonable quality of life following a crisis situation. CRISYS elaborated concepts to improve capabilities in communications, situation awareness, decision support, logistics, search and rescue, medical care and basic services through better resources, training and information technologies. A key focus was on highlighting common needs and forging better contacts between local and national administrations and emergency services to develop innovative solutions together. These various levels of users were consulted extensively to develop the new system, integrating existing capabilities to enhance interoperability rather than imposing a new uniform solution. The CRISYS concept model, which focuses on the use of data and information, was proposed for its application in three operational scenarios with different needs, timescales, and geographical and political landscapes. CRISYS roadmap, when applied in the second-phase demonstrator project will drive fundamental change in how emergency operations are carried out and enable better use of the EU's existing capabilities to respond when the worst happens.