The EU-funded FREESIC (Free secure interoperable communications) project set out to help multiple agencies to communicate effectively. Overall, the aim was to develop a unique interoperable communications platform. Agencies retain their own systems and equipment. However, FREESIC's concept allows them to be freely connected. The system allows European agencies to link and coordinate across borders, in a secure and controlled way. This interconnection of responder agency communication systems does not require significant investment and operational costs are minimal. In addition, agencies can join FREESIC and remain connected at relatively low cost. Work began with the identification, analysis and resolution of legal, organisational and operational barriers that negatively impact interoperability. An interoperability communication platform was developed, complete with an interface comprised of open source software modules and sample implementation configurations. The platform facilitates the required information exchange. Project partners published an open source gateway enabling first responder organisations connected to FREESIC to exchange information with partner agencies regardless of location. The project had an important goal of collaborating with end users and determining their requirements through stakeholder feedback. This involved eight EU countries and the United States. Activities and events included field test demonstrations, workshops and trade exhibitions. Interoperability guides, procedures and recommendations were elaborated based on the knowledge gathered from stakeholders and the interoperability barriers. They include advice from end users, proposed best practices, mandatory protocols and step-by-step guidance on platform use. By introducing a highly secure and cost-effective interoperability solution, FREESIC helped streamline inter-agency communication, potentially saving lives.
Interoperable communications, first responders, civil emergencies, police, fire fighters, inter-agency communication