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Crisis Management

Nov 17, 2010 10:45 AM, By Cynthia Wisehart

AV Empowers Emergency Response

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CATV Headend
Collaborative Workspace

The Main Coordination Room for the Los Angeles Emergency Operations Center. Critical internal and external information sources are shared throughout the facility through an ambitious CATV system with a powerful headend. The Operation Golden Phoenix photo seen on the display wall is used with permission by NPS Center for Asymmetric Warfare.

On a good day, the room is empty. On a bad day, the 7500-square-foot Main Coordination Room (MCR) of the City of Los Angeles' Emergency Operations Center (EOC) is the epicenter of public safety, where coordination teams converge to support fire, EMT, police, hazmat, law, transportation, public works, and a host of other responders in a natural or manmade disaster.

In past decades, coordination of this life-saving work happened out of a hot, noisy, crowded bunker under City Hall that was itself vulnerable to earthquakes. On the heels of Sept. 11, California's $600-million public safety bond measure, Proposition Q, yielded the $107 million to pay for a new two-story EOC building in downtown that's designed to house three important tenants: the Emergency Management Department (EMD), the Los Angeles Police Department's Real Time Analysis and Critical Response Division (LAPD-RACR), and the Los Angeles Fire Department (LAFD).

This building and the mission of its tenants would come to be the solitary focus of technology consultant Spectrum ITC Group, a relatively small company that would spend four years embedded with the city and stakeholders, helping to design and execute a modern shared technology system. The project is an example of how AV is integral to workplace efficiency. It was also a difficult and singular opportunity for Spectrum to become a next-generation design firm, capable of understanding how AV intersects with a building's overall systems design. To hear principal John Bilar tell just part of the story, the experience was—not unexpectedly—one of techno-politics; it put Spectrum in collaboration with—and at times at odds with—various departments and professionals from the city's IT entity to contractors of every discipline.

The goal of the new Emergency Operations Center was to facilitate professional collaboration; there are places to gather, plan, and execute—all supported by AV.

The building also needed a modern digital infrastructure to bring in vital data and information, and to share it among emergency teams that were not always collegial and that could be territorial—teams that would be operating under extreme stress and very low fault tolerance.

The heart of the EOC's critical news and information infrastructure is a cable TV (CATV) system with shared but independent distribution for the three main tenants (see sidebar). This system brings in news and data from television, radio, and Internet sources as well as internal departmental data and other sources such as security camera feeds. Altogether, the system provides for 135 HD channels including over-the-air broadcast feeds, 45 fiber feeds, 10 satellite sources, 15 ATSC sources, 10 cable sources, 25 radio sources, and classified camera sources—all distributed to 45 venues throughout the building. The Main Coordination Room is the most dramatic of these venues. It is dominated by a display wall that consists of four 10'x5'6" low-gain rp Visuals projection screens arranged in a 2x2 configuration on a customized seismic-rated display structure that is served by four 10,000-lumen Digital Projection International (DP) Titan projectors. Three NEC 70in. flatpanel displays flank each side for a total of six switchable displays. The routing and switching of the digital video signals is accomplished using an Extron 36x36 DVI matrix router. RGB Spectrum QuadView and MediaWall video processors provide for the image layouts to the display wall and provide a secondary bypass feed to the display wall.

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