Panel: Info sharing can lead to better first response

The challenge for first responders and other groups concerned with public safety is to determine which information sharing system is the best suited to their needs, an official told a panel in Washington.

"One of the problems we deal with is there is too much technology and information" available to first responders, said George March, director of the Office of Technology for the Regional Information Sharing System Network and Anti-Terrorism Information Exchange (RISS-ATIX). The network is a Justice Department-led effort to share information among law enforcement organizations.

March was part of a panel on integration of federal, state and local first response held today at FOSE, the government information technology trade show in Washington. FOSE is operated by PostNewsweek Tech Media, which also publishes Washington Technology.

March said first responders and other public and private organizations and commercial businesses concerned with public safety must know as much as possible about the information systems available to them as possible.

"People need to understand enough about the available systems to know which ones to use. ? The real challenge is spreading the word about what is available and what it can do for you," March said.

Information sharing systems have been around for many years, but have only become available to those outside law enforcement with the rise of homeland-security concerns

RISS-ATIX is a secure intranet providing unclassified terrorist threat information and information exchange among law enforcement and first responders. It is composed of a Web page, bulletin board and secure e-mail.

March said ATIX could be very helpful to all first responders, especially to those with limited resources.

"In some cases, first responders are really well equipped, but sometimes they are only getting by on a shoestring," he said.

March said the program is preparing to conduct pilot projects to test commercial software that would provide alerts and notifications to first responders and others with public safety needs when they are offline. The notifications would alert individuals of a crisis or emergency by sending a message to their cell phones or pagers.

Rich Roberts, director of special operations for the International Union of Police Associations, said that first response and public safety have become the "obligation of a host of institutions" that weren't previously involved, such as schools and public utilities.

He advised technology companies designing software and systems for first responders to "take your technology and bring it to the level of the first person on the scene."

About the Author

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

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