D.C. first responders to get smart ID cards

Starting in January 2006, about 200,000 first responders in the Washington metropolitan area will receive biometric smart card IDs that will allow secure cooperation at sites where federal as well as state and local first responders are called in.

The First Responder Partnership Initiative includes emergency personnel from the city of Washington, Montgomery and Prince George's counties in Maryland and Arlington, Fairfax and Prince William counties in Virginia.

Officials with the initiative said they want the program to serve as a model for other regions to enhance cooperation and efficiency between state and local first responders and their federal counterparts.

The program is being paid for with $3.9 million from the Urban Areas Security Initiative grant from the Homeland Security Department, said Edward Reiskin, Washington deputy mayor for public safety and justice. The Washington metropolitan area received $82 million in UASI grants in 2005.

The effort will be managed by DHS' Office of National Capital Region Coordination, which was established by Congress when it created the department. The office oversees security for the District of Columbia and 12 suburbs in Maryland and Virginia.

The cards comply with Homeland Security Presidential Directive-12 and Federal Information Processing Standard 201, which specifies the architecture and technical requirements for a uniform identity credential to access federal facilities and systems. Among the requirements are biometric data.

The card will identify first responders and their qualifications at the scene of an incident, allowing them to move into and out of secured areas. It can also serve as a platform for physical access to buildings, access to networks, human resource asset accountability, incident command and control, property/firearms accountability and National Incident Management System integration.

The cards are based on the more than 4 million Common Access Cards currently used by the Defense Department, said Craig Wilson, First Responder Partnership Initiative coordinator.

"You have a daily identity card that is tied to your agency that fits this model that can also be your first responder card in time of crisis," Wilson said.

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