Regional emergency system prepped

Police, fire, ambulance, and transportation officials from Maryland, Virginia

and Washington, D.C. are closer to developing an interoperable and real-time

wireless data communications system.

IBM Corp. announced on Aug. 22 that it has been chosen as the systems

integrator for the $20 million Capital Wireless Integrated Network (CapWIN)

project.

CapWIN, which spun off from a Transportation Department project about

two years ago, will provide a communications bridge for emergency responders

across jurisdictions to effectively respond to daily incidents as well as

events such as last year's terrorist attack on the Pentagon.

An estimated 40 state, local and federal agencies will communicate with

each other via the network using laptops, personal digital assistants and

other devices.

Sponsors of the project (www.capwin.org), which is managed by the University

of Maryland's Center for Advanced Transportation Technology, include the

National Institute of Justice and the Public Safety Wireless Network. An

executive committee composed of local, state, and federal officials governs

the project.

"CapWIN is revolutionary thinking," said Fred Davis, CapWIN's deputy

program director. "People have got to change the way they do business. The

days of 'this is my turf and you can't play' — well, those days are over."

The open-architecture system will be built using commercial, off-the-shelf

technology that has been already developed, Davis said. IBM has a number

of subcontractors - including Templar Corp., PB Farradyne Inc., TeleCommunications

Systems and PelicanMobile Computers Inc. - to help with implementation,

which will occur in several phases. The system will interface with existing

disparate legacy systems.

By February, Davis said mobile computing capability would be provided

to those agencies that don't have such systems and interfaces will be developed

for transportation centers in Maryland and Virginia that collect traffic

information useful to officials.

In addition, disparate mobile systems will be connected among agencies.

Databases maintained by different agencies will be linked and only appropriate

information will be shared, Davis said. For example, transportation officials

would not have access to criminal databases.

Eventually, the project will provide Web-based incident command systems

for first responders to effectively manage and deploy personnel and equipment

at an emergency. When the system is fully developed, it will be easier for

transportation and other emergency officials to redirect traffic in case

of an overturned truck, for example, he said.

Although agencies from across jurisdictions will have to sign memorandums

of understanding, Davis doesn't anticipate a problem. "The basic fundamental

concept of CapWIN is partnerships," he said. "If we don't have partnerships

we can't move forward."

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