Roles of Emergency Communications Centres in security management
Nigerian security issues are getting more complex despite the government’s efforts to end the various menace confronting the country.
The discourse on security situation is topical, and of national concern, which every Nigerian is conscious of, as it affects everybody. To analysts, increasing security lapses have created room for various criminal activities including insurgency, cybercrime, kidnapping, terrorism, among others to fester like a wound.
While the focus of the Buhari-led government has been to improve the economy, curb corruption, and improve security, analysts posited that it appears that the various measures put in place to tackle the increasing security challenges are defying orders, as kidnapping, ethnic clashes, insurgency are still very much around.
Calls for more ICT investment
As such, this has necessitated calls to rejig of the entire security processes and focus more on the use of Information and Communications Technology(ICT).
The term ICT is basically information handling tools that refer to technological devices and resources used to collect, communicate, disseminate, store and manage information, which encompasses, radio, television, mobile phones, hardware and software, computer network and satellite system.
The impact of ICT in everyday activities has shown remarkable development in politics, education, health and all other socio-economic factors in Nigeria, indicative of the ability of ICT to respond to a natural and human-caused disaster like the current insurgency in the country.
Although, ICT and the security agencies cannot completely guarantee national security, but can greatly support the fight against threats. With the aid of modern ICT facilities such as biometric data collection, Close Circuit Television (CCTV) such as surveillance cameras, and Emergency Communications Centres, among others.
Speaking with The Guardian, Chief Executive Officer, Masters Technology, Akure, Ondo State, Ade Olasogba, noted that every advanced civilization, including security, is powered by technology.
According to him, the more diverse and cutting-edge technologies become, the better for peoples’ advancement.
“ICT has a huge role to play in every facet of our lives. That is why it has become critical in tackling security lapses. The deployment of CCTV cameras, use of Machine Learning, Emergency Communications Centres (ECC), will help a lot in managing security in the country,” he stated.
On the establishment of ECC in Ondo state by NCC, Olasogba said the project falls within the third agenda of President Buhari, where the Commission is leveraging ICT facility deployment across different states to set up emergency toll-free number 112, similar to the 119 in the USA, to provide communication link between Nigerians in emergency and necessary government agencies that can offer them help during such situations.
The ECC roles
The ECC is intended to bridge the communication gap between the distressed and emergency response agencies in the country. The NCC has undertaken the task of facilitating the building and equipping ECC in all 36 states of the federation and the Federal Capital Territory, Abuja. All telecom operators will be mandated to route emergency calls through the dedicated three-digit toll-free number, 112, from each state to the emergency centre within that state. The operators, who are resident in the ECC will then process the distress call and contact the relevant Emergency Response Agency (e.g. Fire Service, Police, FRSC, Ambulance, among others.) whose primary duty is to handle the case.
According to the Executive Vice Chairman of NCC, Prof. Umar Danbatta, in 2005, the then Minister of Communication, Cornelius Adebayo, during the regime of President Olusegun Obasanjo, set up a committee drawn from relevant key stakeholders (public and private sectors) to develop a frame work to facilitate the establishment of a well-coordinated nationwide public protection and disaster relief communication system.
Danbatta said the prevailing lapses observed are from situations whereby various organizations and operators charged with the statutory responsibility of providing response to security/safety issues establish stand-alone emergency call systems, using their own numbering schemes.
According to him, this did not only lead to a multiplicity of emergency numbers but it also confused the public, thereby defeating its purpose. The attendant loss of lives and property are therefore avoidable.
Subsequently, in line with its statutory functions, as articulated in Section 107(3) (a) & (b) of the Nigerian Communications Act 2003, the Commission embarked on the construction and operationalization of the ECCs across the country.
The objectives include to provide a universal, toll-free emergency telephone short code (112) for use by members of the public in Nigeria to seek for help in times of distress/emergency; to provide a one-stop-shop for receiving distress calls from the public and dispatching same to appropriate Response Agencies (“First Responders”) who will respond to the need of the callers. It is also meant to provide easy, effective and coordinated access by members of the public to Response Agencies (Police, FRSC, Fire Service, Ambulance Service etc.) in times of emergency/distress.
Danbatta said there are only three numbers to remember in an emergency 1-1-2. He said the number eliminates the need to determine which emergency agency to call.
Although there is a promise by the Federal Government to establish ECC in all the 36 states, but thus far, it has been established in 18 states including Abuja. They are 1. FCT, Benue, Kwara, Plateau, Kaduna, Kano, Katsina,Ogun, Ekiti,Ondo, Oyo, Edo, Akwa Ibom, Cross Rivers, Imo, Enugu, Anambra, and Adamawa states.
Each of the ECCs is equipped with the following facilities including 11 Workstations (10 for call taking and one for the Supervisor); a server system that receives and processes 112-calls from members of the public and then dispatches the calls to the appropriate Agency that has responsibility to attend to the specific emergency.
The centres also boast of power supply mix consisting of public power supply from the national grid, two units of 100KVAgenerators; and two units of 20KVA UPS powered by 160 units of 100AH inverter batteries and a 10KVA UPS powered by 16 units of 100AH inverter batteries; andthe facility is also equipped with six dispatch workstations for the response agencies.
According to Olasogba, the positive impacts of the operationalization of the ECC in ensuring safety, security of lives/properties and the associated socio-economic benefits recorded so far cannot be overemphasized.
Danbatta stressed that in line with an item of the agenda of his administration, unveiled in 2016, which include facilitating strategic collaboration and partnership.
“We are currently embarking on some collaborative efforts with relevant agencies to ensure effective and efficient management of the ECC and service delivery; facilitate and ensuring adoption/usage and publicity of the 112 by the public and response agencies; enhance the discharge of the statutory responsibility of the respective response agency in the country; and decrease emergency response time.”