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NEWS

Civil Emergencies Toolkit - supporting Policing's response to COVID-19

The National Enabling Programmes and Microsoft colleagues have developed a Civil Emergencies toolkit to assist Forces in England and Wales with their remote communication and collaboration.

It feels like months have gone by since the Prime Minister announced the government’s strict new measures to combat the spread of COVID-19. Although only two weeks have past, life in the UK has drastically changed for the vast majority of us. High street shops have pulled down their shutters, bars and restaurants are closed, and all but essential employees have been sent home from work for the foreseeable future. It’s a different life we are getting used to, with some unusual challenges on the horizon.

Like many other businesses and industries, Policing in the UK is having to adapt the way it operates. From splitting up command and control rooms to avoid the risk of mass infection, to enforcing social distancing measures within their communities, Forces are remaining agile during these uncertain times to make sure the public is protected and supported effectively.

A Police car in a South London park over the weekend

At the NEP, we have been working closely with Forces since 2017 to look at improving the way teams are able to communicate and share information internally, and with partner agencies and other Forces. Now more than ever, the need to be able to effectively collaborate with one and other, be it from remote office spaces or out on the beat, has never been greater.

That’s why we are deploying a Civil Emergencies Toolkit as our way of supporting Policing’s response to COVID-19. Representatives from our Business Change and Technical teams have been working closely with colleagues from Microsoft to develop this toolkit, which will support the joint planning and response to the virus for emergency services and partners.

The purpose of the toolkit is to provide Police, Fire & Ambulance services, as well as PCC and local authorities the ability to construct and review contingency planning from remote locations, without having to sacrifice the quality of communication or information. This toolkit will specifically support the co-ordination of Gold, Silver and Bronze Command groups in their preparation and management of civil emergencies.

What's in the toolkit?

We are using Microsoft Teams as a platform for all communication and collaboration between Forces and partnering services and authorities, offering members a number of key capabilities.

Microsoft Teams

The Teams tenant will give members the ability to host meetings, allowing attendees to join remotely through high quality video and audio, both from home by desktop or from out on patrol via mobile devices. These Teams meetings come with the option to record and automatically transcribe content, saving time on administrative duties and allowing participants to access the recording on demand from the cloud.

Teams remote meetings in Cumbria Police via Intune managed Android devices

Integrated within the Teams tenant are a number of productivity applications which can be utilized such as:

  • Planner, an action and task management tool, and
  • OneNote, a virtual notepad which gives all attendees the ability to take notes on a real-time basis, and
  • Chat, an informal chat function with capabilities similar to those of WhatsApp.

It is important to note that the key aspect of this toolkit is to provide Forces a platform which allows staff and officers to work from home, in interim locations, or out on patrol with minimal disruption. Critical to this is providing a solution which is operable on a range of secure desktop and mobile devices.

With Microsoft Intune now assured to manage all Windows 10, IOS and Android devices, Forces are able to extend their footprint to the mobile endpoint by giving officers connectivity to the entire Office 365 stack, as well as being able to manage third party applications to a standard. These devices when managed by Intune form a significant part of a Force’s Microsoft ecosystem. From a benefits perspective, Forces will be leveraging all of their licensing capability down to the mobile end point, allowing officers and staff to access everything within this toolkit remotely.

Crisis Communications Power App

The secondary piece to this toolkit will come in the form of a Crisis Communications Power App which has been created by Microsoft. This application can be used with a view to supporting internal Force communications during any civil emergencies such as COVID-19. The application allows staff to easily update their location, maintain contact with managers and colleagues, and carry out their duties as normal from remote locations, and uses an individual’s Azure identity to update their current status. As with any other Power App, the Crisis Communications app can be pinned to and used within Microsoft Teams, keeping all aspects of the toolkit in one place.

A view of the Crisis Communications app from within Teams

How are Forces progressing with the toolkit?

On the 31st March, we hosted a webinar with Microsoft colleagues presenting the core functionality of the toolkit. Over 110 of our colleagues from Forces attended the webinar which, considering current circumstances, demonstrates a real appetite to take this toolkit forward. We’ve since hosted a follow up session with Forces, demonstrating how an effective Teams tenant can be set up from start to finish, and how the Crisis Communication looks and operates from within the Teams tenant.

As it stands, a total of 18 Forces have written to the programme to inform us of their interest in accelerating the delivery of this toolkit.

We would ask that if you are interested in learning more about the Civil Emergencies toolkit, including the potential benefits and technical considerations, please reach out to your NEP Business Change or Technical SPOC.

If you are interested in accelerating the delivery of this toolkit, please email us at fasttrack@transformation.police.uk.

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