Homeland security with a regional flavor

The Kansas City, Mo., Regional Homeland Security Coordinating Committee lives up to the regional part of its name. It covers two states, eight counties, more than 1.9 million people and even brings Washington, D.C., into the picture because critical parts of the federal infrastructure are housed there.

Local officials created the committee in 2002 because they needed a way to keep up with the influx of funding from the Homeland Security Department, said Richard Noll, assistant city manager for Kansas City and co-chairman of the committee. None of the entities had capabilities for dispersing the money, and they recognized that they could easily duplicate funding for programs.

"Essentially, we had to try to keep our municipal egos in check," he said.

The committee includes representatives from each entity, including the legislature, law enforcement, fire, emergency medical services and emergency management. That ensures that every potential requirement or concern is raised and that everyone feels like they are part of the decision-making process.

The most important factor, however, may be that the committee is part of a larger organization, the Mid-America Regional Council, which is decades old and eliminates homeland security disputes about jurisdiction, Noll said. He can relate to the multiple groups within the council and the committee because he has served as a Kansas City councilman and a reserve police officer.

Important projects for the committee include increasing communications interoperability, using smart cards to standardize identification and creating a patient-tracking

system.

The top project is the Metro Emergency Information System, which will go into testing within the next two months. It will serve as a common Web-based platform for all of the planning, documentation and resources within the region. One of the features officials across the region request the most is the online real-time inventory of equipment and expertise available during an

incident.

"It's a real-time ability to query the system and access it, and in real situations, time counts," Noll said.

The committee is also developing a Web-based management system to serve the emergency operations center. It will be combined with the Metro Emergency Information System to allow administrators to coordinate from the highest level to the front lines. "We're really excited to get this up and running," Noll said.

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