Cisco Live 2013 Insights – Cisco Tactical Operations

While walking through the World of Solutions, we ran across a big black truck with lots of antennas all over it.  It was obviously an emergency communications vehicle of some kind, but I was really surprised to see it was a Cisco truck.  It turns out that Cisco has a Tactical Operations group (Twitter) that was formed to provide disaster responders with much-needed communications for EMAs, fire, police, medical, etc.

The big truck was the NERV – the Network Emergency Response Vehicle (PDF link).  It’s full of traditional HF, VHF, and UHF radios that the ham radio operators usually bring to these disasters.  This is a necessity when all phones, cell, and Internet are down.  It could be the only way fire fighters are able to call for reinforcements or the only way a hospital can call for more supplies.  The NERV, though, takes it to the next level.  On top of the radio gear, it is equipped with satellite uplinks for Internet access, wifi, and digital voice and video through UCS Express, IP phones, and Telepresence.  Analog voice is always the first method of communications restored via battery- or generator-powered gear, but an area will eventually need a network with voice and video.  That’s where the NERV comes in.

TacOps also provides plans for small bug-out kits for smaller deployments.  The idea is that there are only a small number of NERVs, but there are dozens of situations every year where a hastily-formed network (HFN) is needed.  With these kits, emergency operations centers (EOCs) can have a way to set up a real IP-based network to support disaster relief.  If you’ve ever seen an EOC van or trailer, you know there are plenty of gadgets for monitoring and communicating, but all of them I’ve ever seen don’t really have a lot of network capability.  These kits would make a great addition to the traditional EOC van to allow data exchange on top of the analog voice.

Do you know what the best part of TacOps is?  As was mentioned in the BRKSEC-1000 session, Cisco doesn’t give away much for free, but they’ve never charged a dime.  Amazing stuff indeed.

Send any volunteer examiner exams questions to me.