Preparing The Public: Early Warning Systems and Emergency Response

Command & Control and Early warning systems

Modern crisis management involves gathering all information related to the crisis and the coordination of several teams, often of distinct disciplines. Today, this data gathering and team coordination is carried out with Command & Control Systems that show to the response teams the information available live and let the coordinators of the crisis issue requests to the different parties be involved. These parties include the response teams and other actors involved, such as municipalities and NGOs.

A system that gathers data, searches for any possible threat and makes all the information available to the responders so they can react as early as possible is known as an Early Warning System.

One of the main objectives of these systems is to make responders aware of new threats and their cause as soon as possible, so the response teams can deal with them as quickly as possible, minimising their impact. In best case scenarios, these systems can help to identify the situations that could potentially lead to a bigger crisis. For instance, a small fire on a road should be notified to firefighters so they can put it out it before it propagates to a nearby forest.

When it is not possible to identify the problem before the emergency starts, the system can send messages and requests to all the stakeholders involved in a crisis and can thus help track the evolution of these requests. These stakeholders include, not only the responder teams, but also public authorities, infrastructure operators, NGOs and, in the most extreme cases, messages for the general public.

Standardisation gaps in Command & Control systems

Command & Control systems are comprised of multiple components that need to communicate with each other. There may be dozens of different types of sensors, and each functionality is provided by a different vendor. For instance, there may be different vendors for the radiological sensors, and different vendors for the modules that analyse the data and the modules that gather them. This entails considerable difficulties: it is necessary for each component of the system, from sensors to software modules exploiting and generating the data, to produce and consume the data in a format that is compatible for all of them. Otherwise, they can’t be integrated. And the way to achieve this is for them to comply with the same standards.

Unfortunately, there is still a lack of a standards for a common data format for all types of information that may be produced in a crisis. However, some standards for specifying how to send some predefined messages during a crisis already exist, but there is no way they can define every possible message that may sent during a crisis, especially for data sent from the sensors.

Sensor standards solve this partially by sending the information as tuples with the name of the field to be sent and its value, but there is no standard yet that defines the names to be used for the fields. Hence, there is no standard yet that defines how to send all possible information that is produced during a crisis.

The STRATEGY project ( aims to bridge this gap by developing standardisation proposals on many different topics, including standards for:


Author: Dario Ruiz Lopez, ATOS