IBM To Build Emergency Response System for D.C. Area

By Roy Mark

August 22, 2002

Wireless network designed to enhance crisis communications among 'first responders' in local, state and federal agencies.

IBM and a partnership of public safety and transportation agencies in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia have been selected to build a public safety data communications network for the Washington D.C. region. The first interoperable wireless system to span multi-state government jurisdictions, the network will allow officials from more than 40 local, state, and federal agencies to communicate with each other in real time.

The Capital Wireless Integrated Network (CapWIN) also is designed to provide firefighters, police, transportation officials, and other authorized emergency personnel with wireless access to multiple government data sources during critical incidents. Improved access to information will help these "first responders" and public safety officials make vital public safety-related decisions.

The network may serve as a model for other areas of the country, CapWIN officials said.

"For the first time, the greater Washington, D.C. region will have a secure and powerful system that lets police, firefighters, transportation officials, and other responders communicate with each other rapidly during crises," said Chief Charles Samarra, Chief of the Alexandria, Virginia Police Department and Chair of the CapWIN Executive Committee. "The strength of CapWIN is the partnerships that have developed and the sense that we have to work together for the greater good of our communities. Public safety agencies have to change the way we do business. Partnerships have to be formed and people have to share resources and work together to meet the challenges of the future."

CapWIN is designed for simplicity and ease of use. To better manage and coordinate multiple agencies responding to an incident, officials will communicate with each other on the network via an instant messaging application deployed on industry standard devices such as PCs, PDAs and data-enabled mobile phones.

Authorized users will be able to set up response teams -- restricted-access, high-performance chat rooms -- designed to help handle unexpected events, such as natural disasters, traffic collisions, fires or terrorist threats. A police officer responding to an automobile accident, for example, may communicate simultaneously with key personnel-including ambulance drivers, firefighters and transportation response units, as well as the hazardous materials team and other special units, if needed.

"One important lesson we learned from September 11 is that we needed to do more to help our first responders communicate seamlessly and more effectively across jurisdictions and different systems," said Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), who spearheaded congressional funding for CapWIN.

In building the network, IBM is teaming with a number of companies, including Templar Corp., whose Informant software provides the access to numerous databases, PB Farradyne, for Intelligent Transportation System consulting services, TeleCommunication Systems Corp. (TCS) for implementation services, and Pelican Mobile, which is providing and maintaining mobile systems. The actual instant-messaging technology is based on the Jabber Communications Platform (JCP) from Jabber Inc.

The CapWIN web site is www.capwinproject.com.



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