XML plan released for responders

Emergency Management Technical Committee

A group has released its first draft of technical specifications for emergency and incident management communications based on Extensible Markup Language standards.

The Emergency Management Technical Committee under the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS) released the Common Alerting Protocol format that would let users "input a message once to activate all types of alert and public warning systems during an emergency," according to a press release.

The draft format is meant to reduce workload and cost and enhance the technical capability, consistency and ability to get the message to the intended audience, consortium members said. XML tags data so that different applications and systems can recognize it.

The proposed format must go through final review and committee approval before being released this fall to the public for review. Once complete, it will be submitted to full OASIS membership, which must vote on the full ratification as an official standard. Formed 10 years ago, OASIS is a nonprofit, international consortium governing the development, convergence and adoption of interoperable standards.

The technical committee was born out of the Emergency Management XML Consortium. Currently comprised of more than 60 private and public sector organizations, EM-XML was formed last October to address the lack of interoperable equipment among emergency first responders. Public safety agencies have long worried about the inability of proprietary devices and systems to communicate with one another, but the lack of interoperability didn't become a national issue until the problem was highlighted twice in six years: by the 1995 bombing in Oklahoma City and the 2001 terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.

The consortium has an executive committee for policy guidance, education and outreach, and formed the technical committee, which was later formally accepted by OASIS, that is designing and developing XML-based standards.

Core areas being researched include unified incident identification, accessibility and usage of geographic information system data, notification methods and messaging, situational reporting, and asset and resource management.

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