Synergising our Security
First response in an integrated intelligence environment is crucial to protect mega cities.
Hyderabad, 28 June 2012, terrorists struck at Gachibawli stadium, Charminar and Inox at 1.30 pm; firing indiscriminately.
Before they could kill/injure more than 3 people at Gachibawli, the local self-protection group and the citizen forum swung into action. The local policemen on duty fixed these two suicide operators and forced them to take cover. The sports authority managers and volunteers moved the players and the crowd to safety.
Simultaneously, through a simple pre loaded SMS the twitter went across control rooms of all police stations, the 108 and all quick reaction teams as also ambulances were directed towards the stadium. A similar exercise was put into action for Charminar and the Inox.
By 1.35 PM, while a pitched battle between the police and terrorists was on, the quick reaction teams of rapid action and police reached various venues. After a swift 30 minute battle, the terrorists at all the three places were killed. In the meantime, the entire city had gone into over drive with army, NSG and CRPF reaction teams moving into key localities business centres and installations including bus/train stations and airport.
The cities crowd and traffic management volunteers had diverted traffic and people away from the attack venues and ambulances reached the sites to ferry injured to the nearest hospitals.
All this in these golden 30 minutes between 1.30 and 2 PM. By 2.15 PM a joint statement by the state and city leaders was made on news channels calming nerves of the entire nation and the world.
Possible ! Yes. That is one way effects of terror or suicide attacks can be minimized and situation brought under control – If the preparations for the first 30 golden minutes are put in place.
The exercise is based on few premises. A holistic approach to city security by the local administration, an integrated system of operation employing ICT (Information Communication Technologies) with real-time connectivity to all architectures and nodes in question, (Police, army, CRPF, hospitals, corporate). It needs a dedicated response mechanism between various agencies involved and public information and empowerment systems.
A basic module of the architecture was put in place by Hyderabad administration by through a private public partnership when “Satyam” and the Naidu Government took the first step towards synergizing the response mechanism in 2003. As a result 108 service was born. A lot of volunteers worked on the project and with in a year the service with the aim of integrating hospitals, PCRs and reaction vehicles was organized to ensure casualty management in the city in the event of an accident to save lives. Its scope though limited, was a tedious process warranting digitization of local maps, satellite overlays database management, people, police, hospital, ambulances interconnecting these, and training and educating various components participating in the venture.
It should now be taken to its logical next step which would follow the “Golden 30 Minutes” principle in which the city would be ready to meet any contingency, limit the damage, ensure safety of citizens and installations and above all act as a deterrent to any misadventure. A refined systems approach towards crisis management entails few basic processes.
Firstly, a dedicated and vibrant intelligence mechanism by the District administration involving various agencies on a real-time basis is an absolute must. Regular updates, meetings, red teaming are part of the growth mechanism of this setup. An active citizen’s response and warning update system also needs to be put in place to verify all inputs and strengthen intelligence.
Secondly, An architecture based on latest communication and IT techniques to link the entire mechanism real-time.
Thirdly, Resources of police, CRPF, Army, hospitals, ambulances, civil volunteer groups, corporate security organizations need to be integrated and harmonised in a sectored approach towards generating the desired responses.
Fourth and most important – the key to stabilising and preventing immediate damage is the first response – the police, CRPF or other security organisations on duty. It is these one-two men team who need to be trained, geared and motivated to take on the first response and fix the terrorists while the entire system swings into action.
Lastly, this entire arrangement works on the basis of active citizen participation. Hence public awareness, motivation and civil defence education at various levels is an absolute must.
An arrangement of this nature must start from grass root levels. If the districts and city centres can be energized, the upward multi channel linking and synergy towards state and national level will be that much faster.
It is when efforts at district and National levels approach the problem from both ends an enduring answer would follow.
This piece is a replay of a 2010 piece brought out again in line with Nitin Gokhale’s incisive article on protecting our mega cities. Nothing great seems to have changed including stalling of an effective National Counter Terrorism Centre.