AT&T deploys Web-based alert system

State and local agencies continue to explore Web-based communications solutions as an affordable, easily deployable means of linking public safety workers.

In Georgia, AT&T Government Solutions won a one-year contract to build a Web-based emergency alert system that the state's agricultural agencies will use in the event of a crisis, such as a mad cow disease outbreak.

The value of the contract is modest ? less than $100,000 according to an AT&T spokesperson ? but company officials see it as a first step in what may be a growing market for such systems.

The system, called Chain-EMN, is based on technology from Invizeon Corp. of Missoula, Mont. The company builds communications solutions for government and commercial customers.

Through a Web browser, government agencies can access a system and read or initiate broadcast messages. Web-based alerts are automatically routed from the site infrastructure to AT&T's enterprise messaging network, which then sends the message to a variety of devices and applications.

Alerts can be sent simultaneously to cell phones, land phones, PDAs, fax machines, e-mail systems and instant messaging clients. Future versions of the solution will be able to route messages to radios and satellite-based communications devices.

"Chain-EMN is an important tool to allow state and federal agencies to be better prepared," said Lou Addeo, president of AT&T Government Solutions.

In Georgia, the project involves several agencies, including the Georgia Agriculture Department, the Emergency Management Agency and the Public Health Division. Bill Hitchens, Georgia's homeland security director, said it was a unique partnership.

"Our goal is to be prepared to deal with any kind of threat to Georgia's agriculture sector," Hitchens said. Because the Chain-EMN system is a single, cross-agency platform, health officials can respond more effectively through better intra-agency communication.

Evoxis Inc. of Pittsburgh launched a similar communications system for transmitting information to first responders over a variety of channels. Its Prodigent for Emergency Management system allows personnel to broadcast information to phones, pagers and e-mail and instant messaging systems from a single point of operation.

Pennsylvania's Southwest Emergency Response Group, a regional anti-terrorism consortium that includes Pittsburgh and 13 neighboring counties, was the first government agency to adopt the Evoxis system.

With 2003 revenue of $34.5 billion, Bedminster, N.J.-based AT&T Corp. ranks at No. 20 on Washington Technology's 2004 Top 100 list, which measures federal contracting revenue.

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