Learning Lessons – Watch the terrorists … (1/…)

Posted on November 18, 2015
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[Paris, Hannover, Brussels, …] – Recent security emergency operations have been extensively covered by national and international media.

For the general public that coverage provides news and sensational images. “Stuff to talk about”.

For us professionals, what we can combine as open source data or information into a Common Operational Picture (COP) provides real time case learning material. The professional eye will see interesting operational concepts abroad and will see flaws in operations and crisis communication.







Building Situational Awareness (SA) / Common Operational Picture (COP)

Establishing what is going on and sharing that information is key in functional correct operational management of security threats (or any other emergency situation).

The first element is the construction of ‘Situational Awareness‘: the perception of environmental elements with respect to time or space, the comprehension of their meaning, and the projection of their status after some variable has changed, such as time, or some other variable, such as a predetermined event.

Construction Situational Awareness is something that a person will do, it is also something a group, organisation shall do.

It involves making an objective validated image of what is going on and what might happen next, based on the well know information management process.

This information management process involves:


1. Establishing SA under stress and uncertainty is a rather difficult process and is hindered by the upcoming modern and social media, since they multiply the number of raw data sources and at the same provide lots more unrealiable data, hence making the analysis process much more difficult.

2. Establishing SA in case of ‘Intentional Acts’ (terrorism, sabotage, …) is also more difficult, because the natural flow of data might have been disturbed intentionally to cripple the reactive security operations.  Prediction the risk of future explosions during an industrial fire is in general much easier than predicting future explosions after an isolated explosion of a bomb occured in a town.

3. Establishing SA in case of security related operations is also more difficult because data and information sharing will be done on a “need to know” basis, leaving always a number of operational players out in the cold, because relevant information for them cannot be communicated. E.g. how can a local fire brigade provide support in case of a raid on a bomb maker factory if they are not in the loop of operational planning information.


The second element in the continual process involves building and sharing a “Common Operational Picture” (COP) – sometimes considered to be merely a (geographic) ‘map’, but it is in fact much more. COP involves making a view “à la tête du client”: showing what needs to be shown to a specific person or role, in the optimal format and with a system behind to keep that ‘picture’ current, in essence to make it a motion picture instead of a still picture.


COP map using the COBRA Emergency Management Support System (EMSS). Simulated tracking of the security incident at the Thalys train in Rotterdam: operational zone in yellow, exclusion perimeters in red, security checkpoints at blue circle points, emergency services ingress routes in green, population evacuation routes in purple.




But COP is more … weather info, what crisis communication has been doen, weapon status for response teams, …

(Maps courtesy of: COBRA EMSS) COBRA is supplied by CEMAC-DGI through a strategic partnership. Contact us for more information about COBRA of go directly to cobra2020.net .







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