Mike McMullen, the security operations manager at the Port of Long Beach, talks to Activu about the new joint command and control center that was implemented in January 2009. Mr. McMullen was recruited to help define and develop the new center. The 28,000 square foot facility, which houses 10 million dollars worth of high-tech system equipment, is chartered with keeping the Port of Long Beach secure.
Could you begin by providing an overview about the Joint Command and Control Center at the Port of Long Beach?
The development of the new Joint Command and Control Center at the Port of Long Beach was a development project that spanned over five years. We officially broke ground in 2007 and the new building was turned over to us in Oct 2008. The security division moved in shortly after that in January 2009. So we haven’t been here quite a year yet. Our facility is a thirty million dollar structure full of high-tech security systems which keeps close watch on the Port. The building cost twenty million dollars and we’ve invested about ten million in the systems that reside inside the building, that doesn’t include all the sensors that are in and around the Port. The twenty-eight thousand square foot structure is three stories high with a heliport on top. All of our business Bay Area process servers operations reside on the third floor with multiple agencies residing in the building including the Coast Guard, Customs and Boarder Protection, Harbor Patrol, L.A. and Long Beach police departments and Marine Exchange. Our Harbor Department performs all of the camera maintenance in the field, when it’s required. We also have a very sophisticated commercial dive team with our own fifty foot boat and six full time divers on staff. These guys are diving in and around the Port every day. So from a day-to-day operational standpoint, it is a dynamic building with a lot of moving parts.
Can you easily integrate new software applications into the visualization solution?
Of course, we have no problem integrating new software applications into the existing system. When we originally installed the visualization solution, everyone thought it was just going to be for the wall in the command center. From our standpoint, that was never the intention. We intended to share information within the total scope of this building. There are eleven areas in this building where we have the ability to view and share content on a monitor, on an LCD screen, a video wall or an overhead projector. When we designed the system, we made sure that any digital signal, whether it be radar, sonar, video, amber alerts / port information signs, or TV stations, had the ability to be digitized and shared anywhere within the building. So when we came up with the solution that was the scope of work. As we’ve progressed and started to add additional sources, integration into our existing visualization and collaboration solution has always been a line item to make sure that we can put that on the new system, on the grid as well.
Are your cameras IP video cameras?
They become IP cameras. We encode and decode at the edges. So we are an NR solution. We currently put our cameras over a 650Mb private wireless network and we’re in the process of laying thirty-five miles of fiber. As we get to the camera locations, we’re putting those cameras on our fiber so we have a redundant video feed. But currently, we take an analog camera, put an encoder at the end and digitize it. On the other side, it sends it down the wireless network and when it comes into our control center we send it through an encoder to make it analog again and then pipe it into our servers.
Is the visualization system streaming the videos?
The way we have deployed the system is that Verint is integrated into the overall visualization solution. We have middleware software so operators don’t have to learn to function the Verint system. It’s important to know that we have nine systems currently running, we have purchased fourteen, and there are another four on the drawing board. So we have eighteen core systems coming in here. We didn’t want to have to teach all the officers how to use all eighteen systems so we bought a middleware package to handle all the camera system. With our visualization and collaboration software, we replicate all of the systems in their native form to the grid so that we can bypass all the different GUI’s from an administrative standpoint. If executives want to see a number of cameras, they can just bring camera feed up on the video wall, let it populate, and I can share it in any of the twelve locations throughout the building. So the visualization solution is the portal that allows us to do that. It’s an educational tool.
I imagine a lot of what’s on the wall is video feed?
No, we have a lot of different content that we’re posting to the wall in addition to our camera feed. For example, we are pulling and pushing content to the wall from an access control system that handles our badge and our alarm monitoring. We also have a military software package that tracks vessels throughout the port. We have VTS which is the official vessel tracking system for the port which comes from the Marine Exchange. We have 3 high-end video surveillance systems, a web portal where we share our video feeds with our tenants and they share their cameras with us, and we also have other things that go on the wall like our port information signs on the highway, an A.M. radio with a GUI to see what’s being broadcast. There’s a multitude of applications and we integrate all of them into the visualization solution so it doesn’t matter if you’re in the executive conference room, in the department operations center or in a break room on the second floor. If you have a need to see any of that information, you can.
What is the size of your wall in the main command center?
We have twelve fifty inch Mitsubishi cubes deployed in the command center. So it’s a big wall.
What other agencies occupy the space within your building?
We have “stakeholders” which are tenants and partners within the building. Our partners include regulatory agencies like the Coast Guard, Customs and Boarder Protection, Marine Exchange, Port of Los Angelas Police, Long Beach Police, and Intelligence Officers. We also have tenants. They’re the people that do business in the port, the SSA Marines, the total terminals by BP, they have land here. We are a landlord port so most of our large tenants are Coast Guard regulated; they have their own security plan, their own security force. The Port and Harbor Patrol, with all the sensor systems, provides a safety net, an umbrella, to assist the overall port.
Can you give me an example of how you’ve improved communication, collaboration, and situational awareness with the new visualization solution?
On the third floor, we have a beautiful executive conference room that sits about twenty-five people. In that room, we have video conferencing capabilities through the visualization system. The video conferencing capabilities links to our department operations center which is on the 2nd floor and can be used externally or in the building. What that allows us to do is to give the policy decision makers a room where they don’t impact the people that are working the operation. It allows us to separate them out and then it also allows the incident commander to walk into the command center room and use the tools there to create his emergency action plan for the event. So here you have activity going on in three separate rooms. But through the visual solution, now we are able to link all of that activity into a picture so they all have the same information. And that’s a very powerful tool because all three of those activities have their own priorities and their own needs. In the past, you’d have to put them in a room together and then you’d have to fight over whose priority was number one. But now, they can all work on their own priorities simultaneously and they’re just sharing that information and not getting in each other’s way. That in itself is a powerful tool. It has streamlined the way our teams work together.