I had heard from some friends that Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, loves the Fox television show "24". An interview in the New York Times confirms this. Given his role, I always found this interesting, but now I know why. He has command center envy. Compared to what he deals with in reality, the command centers on "24" are things of beauty.
I remember about 7 years ago I had to give a reporter a tour of a command center after a newsworthy event in the Northeast. The tour started out great. The reporter loved the requisite security checks and security cameras. We had this cool vault like room for communications. Everything fit that "command center feeling" .... then we got to the command center itself. Apparently four computers, scattered communication gear, paper charts and a dirty coffee pot didn't quite fit the image. She was completely let down. What finally made it to the news? A shot of a Senior Chief using the phone system. Apparently, its sleek black console and 30+ buttons at least looked cool.
In any command center, there are legacy systems that don't talk to each other and communication always blunted by static. Information is rarely real time and decisions are made on 70% information at best. The lifeblood of these places isn't equipment or systems, its people who can execute.