Raytheon brings military technology to firefighters

Raytheon Co. has won a subcontract with the New York City Fire Department that gives the defense company an initial step in the first-responder market.

The company will deliver military command and control capabilities to the New York City Fire Department under a $6.6 million subcontract it won this month.

"It's our first opportunity to move into this type of market," said JoAnne Saunders, director of homeland security and secure systems with Raytheon Information Solutions of Reston, Va.

The project will let Raytheon "scale our knowledge and experience from the military side of our heritage" into helping first responders improve their incident and command response, she said.

The company will work on the project through a three-year subcontract awarded to Raytheon Information Solutions by prime contractor iXP Corp. of Princeton, N.J. iXP will provide program management, installation and training services, while Raytheon will provide the hardware and software components. Ten to 15 Raytheon employees will work on the project, the company said.

Raytheon Information Solutions is getting help on the project from the company's Homeland Security Strategic Business Area and its Integrated Defense Systems Business.

During the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center, New York City's fire department had to manually plot the location of its personnel and resources based on reports and instructions from units and commanders via phone and radio.

The new electronic command-board system will let commanders oversee response to large-scale incidents to share information and view their resources in real time via wireless technology. It gives first responders access to collaborative technologies used routinely in private-sector offices to let employees communicate from remote locations.

"With collaborative technologies, you can see things happening at the same time and not have to be at that location," Saunders said.

By viewing information displayed as an electronic map, fire department commanders will be able to move firefighters, equipment and emergency medical teams around an area in which an incident is unfolding in much the same way that military commanders shift troops and equipment around a battlefield, Saunders said.

The portable electronic system allows for greater backup capabilities and redundant command and control by transmitting wireless information from the command board to the fire department's data center and forwarding information to department headquarters, central storage and rugged field units.

Although the command-board system will not let fire department commanders receive data electronically from other first-responder agencies answering the same incident, it will let them input the location of other agencies' units manually as such information is received by phone or radio.

The opportunity for command and control in the state and local market is substantial, Saunders said. After the New York City Fire Department implements the system, other first responders are likely to buy similar systems, she said.

"We believe a lot of fire departments are waiting in the wings to see where FDNY goes" with this technology, she said. "They are so large, that they drive a lot of the market." *

Senior Editor William Welsh can be reached at wwelsh@postnewsweektech.com.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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