First responders lack data-sharing tools, feds say

HERSHEY, Pa.?The homeland security effort needs an "interstate information expressway" paid for by the federal government but that can be used by state and local first responders to share information, Steve Cooper says.

And, "it's high time for us to get on with this," the Homeland Security Department CIO said yesterday at the Industry Advisory Council's Executive Leadership Conference 2003.

With the exception of law enforcement, first responders generally cannot share information easily enough, Cooper said. Public-health officials are especially behind the curve in data sharing because most health issues get solved locally so there's rarely much impetus to sound public health alarms, he added.

Scott Wetterhall, a medical epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, echoed that view.

"Vertical communication is not a substitute for horizontal communication" among police, emergency medical teams and others, Wetterhall said.

Cooper also vowed that DHS would have a single virtual network infrastructure by the end of next year, and a single physical network by late 2005.

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