D.C. first responders to get smart cards

In an emergency, police, firefighters and other first responders are often the right people at the right place at the right time. The Homeland Security Department will soon issue Washington, D.C.-area responders smart cards to ensure they are.

Starting in January 2006, the 12 jurisdictions in Maryland, Viriginia and the District of Columbia that comprise the National Capital Region will distribute smart cards to their first responders, Craig A. Wilson, first responder partnership coordinator for DHS’ Office of National Capital Region Coordination (ONCRC), said today.

The cards will use Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) to identify each first responder by their sponsoring agency – police department, hospital and the like – and their qualifications, Wilson said.

The cards will help ensure that only qualified and trusted personnel can move freely and securely inside, outside and within incident areas, Wilson said.

“It’s so we know you are who you say you are in relation to a sponsoring agency,” Wilson said. The cards will keep people out of areas where they are not authorized or qualified to be, he said.

The cards will use strong encryption and follow FIPS 201 and 14443 standards to allow contact and contactless verification of card contents, Wilson said. The open architecture is standards based and vendor neutral, he said.

The cards will be recognized by all federal, state and local jurisdictions and will be good for up to five years, Wilson said.

ONCRC plans to distribute 200,000 cards by the 2007 fiscal year, Wilson said. A $3.9-million Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI) grant is paying for distribution, he said.

The cards are useful beyond identification and access in crises, Wilson said. Participating jurisdictions can use them for daily physical and digital security as well, he said.

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