Common Operating Picture

A common operating picture (COP) has been defined as: “A common overview of an incident that is created by assessing and fusing information from multiple sources, and is shared between appropriate command, control and co-ordinating groups to support joint decision-making”.

A common operating picture is a single point of reference for those involved, and supports joint decision-making. Answering the questions below helps develop a common operating picture and helps establish shared situational awareness:

  • What? - What has happened, what is happening now and what is being done about it?
  • So what? - What might the implications and wider impacts be?
  • What might happen in the future?

The form of the common operating picture depends on local requirements and practices. It would be updated as events and inputs change and also as the results of further work become available, such as analysis which answers the ‘so what?’ or ‘what might?’ questions.

The common operating picture should have a clear relationship with established command, control and co-ordination groups (including the Scientific and Technical Advice Cell) and should be accessed through a suitably resilient and secure common information sharing platform.

This completed Strategic Co-ordinating Group situation report is an example of a common operating picture. In other contexts, the common operating picture may be a dynamic dashboard that provides an overview of the incident, using maps and graphics as well as text.