You've got NERV: Emergency interoperability on wheels
The Cisco NERV uses an IP-based network foundation, and meets or exceeds the National Incident Management System (NIMS) standards for type II mobile communication centers
On the Expo floor at the 2011 APCO Conference in Philadelphia earlier this month, I visited with Beverly Slocum and Dan O'Malley, Product Manager and Senior Product Manager (respectively) for Cisco’s Physical Security Business Unit. The primary purpose of our meeting was for me to see a demonstration of the Cisco IPICS (Interoperability and Communications System) Module and the Cisco ISSI (Inter-RF Sub-System Interface) Gateway, which together enable interoperable communications between LMR (Land Mobile Radios), P25 (Project 25) radios, 4G LTE (Long Term Evolution) mobile devices, as well as POTS (Plain Old Telephone Service) lines. Ah, uh... gulp.
While the IPICS / ISSI demo was incredibly compelling (read here for more on that stuff), it is little wonder that I was easily distracted by something mentioned almost as an aside during our discussion — the Cisco NERV. Officially dubbed the Network Emergency Response Vehicle, this rapidly-deployable mobile command and communications resource is supported by a highly-trained team dedicated to establishing interoperable communications for public safety personnel in mass-casualty and mass-emergency situations.
If you’ve never heard of the Cisco NERV, that’s perfectly okay, because in a sense, the high-tech communications vehicle flies — uh, drives? — largely beneath the radar. Here are some of the highlights you might find of particular interest...
There are a few of these trucks stationed around the Unites States, ready to roll to any type of major catastrophe, from a natural disaster to a terrorist attack. According to Cisco literature, the Cisco NERV uses an IP-based network foundation, and meets or exceeds the National Incident Management System (NIMS) standards for type II mobile communication centers. When deployed to an incident with its NIMS-certified team, the NERV can help public safety organizations by:
Great Resource, when it’s USED
Closer to home — quite literally — the Cisco NERV was called into action again on September 9, 2010 in the aftermath of the San Bruno gas line explosion and fire, which happened about dozen miles south of the PoliceOne offices in San Francisco. I didn’t know until my Philadelphia visit with Dan and Beverly that the Cisco NERV was even in the area during that incident.
According to the post-incident debrief conducted by a task force comprised of public, private, governmental, and academic sectors — under the leadership of the Carnegie-Mellon University's Disaster Management Initiative — “Communication among professional groups initially was with face‐to‐face meetings. Initially, they drove in trucks from the ICP to EOC to show the Google team maps to the EOC. They later communicated with email.”
The Carnegie-Mellon report stated that the NERV was activated very soon after the emergency began, and then — inexplicably in my opinion — cancelled by CALFIRE prior to arrival on scene the night of the conflagration. According to the debrief documents, the Incident Command Post was aware of the NERV’s activation but unaware of its cancellation. The NERV was subsequently reactivated by NCRIC a day and a half later (on Saturday), long after the flames had been extinguished and the initial confusion and mayhem of that incident had naturally transitioned into a calm and managed response.
Just prior to completing this column, I connected via email with Rakesh Bharania, Tactical Operations Support Engineer at Cisco. Rakesh was part of the Carnegie-Mellon task force that developed the technical debrief of the San Bruno disaster.
“Communications are always vital. During natural and other disasters, however, they become an absolute necessity. Cisco has made significant efforts in the San Francisco Bay Area as well as internationally to break down the different silos between private sector responders, the traditional government response community, NGOs, and VOADs such as the Red Cross and the Academic sector to help respond to emergency situations as efficiently as possible.”
I couldn’t have said that better myself.
Check out the below video in which Cisco’s Bob Browning explains how the Cisco NERV works during large-scale, mass-casualty emergencies.
|Back to previous page|