Laptop control: Safeguarding against network failure...

Policing operations in Northamptonshire can now be run from a single laptop computer from any location in the event of a widespread network failure.

Jul 17, 2008
By Paul Jacques
Haroon Iqbal

Policing operations in Northamptonshire can now be run from a single laptop computer from any location in the event of a widespread network failure.

Northamptonshire Police has invested heavily in business continuity preparations and can now call upon a mobile policing system run from a laptop computer if there is a system failure at force headquarters in Wootton Hall.

Senior officers in the force communications centre (FCC) have tested the system, using emergency facilities elsewhere in the county, and the tests have shown that Northamptonshire Police can maintain a full service to the public in almost any eventuality.

A key element of the system is the use of supporting technologies that include mobile phones, call routing devices, mothballed off-site equipment and mobile computing.

In the event of network failure, all current live incidents will still be able to be accessed via a stand-alone laptop that also contains extracts from the force intelligence system, missing persons, the personnel database, electronic forms and other day-to-day documents and records.

This simple approach ensures that all normal business can continue while the full alternative ‘dark-site’ facility is being established.

The force is also finalising its working practices around a ‘golden hour plan’, detailing roles and functions for all FCC personnel in the event of the total loss of systems and effectively bridging the gap between normal operations and establishing an alternative facility.

Jeff Gutteridge, the business continuity manager for the FCC, said: “Our quarterly tests, supplemented by live scenarios, have proven that we can maintain full services at all times, even on the move.

“We work closely with our partners in Leicestershire and offer each other mutual support, particularly in call taking.

“The flexibility of Airwave and call routing and the minimal costs of maintaining a fleet of mobile phones, coupled with our innovative use of laptop technology, allows us to command force incidents from anywhere in the country, literally within seconds of our command centre operations failing.

“We have tested these approaches extensively and always look to learn from those tests to make sure that we continually improve our continuity arrangements.”

Chief Inspector Gary Ashton of the FCC added: “The laptop enables us to devolve operational capability which gives our business more resilience and enables us to meet our requirements within the Local Policing Plan and the Citizen Focus agenda.

“This development is also a considerable boon for forces like Northamptonshire, which find themselves working under severe financial restraints.”

Henny Cameron, the change manager within the force’s information services department (ISD), explained: “The laptop command has been set up to give a service to officers at our most senior command level and hopefully we will soon be able to introduce this capability on a more localised basis.

“Scheduled business objects documents have been created to supply the majority of the information available on the laptop. The underlying systems are in-house developed systems based on Oracle technologies.

“The laptop is a generic issue that is kept docked in the force’s Gold Control, where it is used for briefings and Powerpoint presentations.”

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