Jacksonville plays defense during game

While nearly 73,000 fans watched Florida State University defeat Virginia Tech during the Atlantic Coast Conference football championship game in Jacksonville, Fla., Dec. 3, law enforcement officials kept tabs on Alltel Stadium and the surrounding area with Web portal technology.

It’s not the first time the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office has used the E-Sponder system, which allows officials to share documents, imagery and video surveillance via the Internet. Earlier this year, more than 50 federal, state and local entities shared information via the system when the city hosted the 2005 Super Bowl.

The city’s policy is evolving toward using the system for “large-scale, coordination-intensive operations, such as disasters, special events, major planning endeavors, etc.,” said Lt. Randy Russell, lead planner for the Sheriff’s Office, in an e-mail message.

Although the Sheriff’s Office was able to handle the college football championship without assistance from other agencies, Russell wrote that the system was used in a similar fashion during the Super Bowl.

E-Sponder allows users to create online incident action plans for events, displays tactical imagery of the area surrounding event locations, puts documents in a centralized database for authorized users, immediately notifies all users of any incidents, and shows officers’ and supervisors’ locations on a map, Russell said.

“We have sufficient internal capability to manage events of this scale including contingencies,” he said. “However, we’ve put together a complete site so that, if conditions warrant external agency involvement, we’re ready to bring them on instantly with a few phone calls.”

St. Louis-based Convergence Communications built the customizable E-Sponder system on Microsoft’s SharePoint Portal Server 2003 collaboration software.

Robert Wolf, president and chief executive officer of Convergence Communications, said the technology has been improved since it was used during the Super Bowl. It includes enhanced integration with ESRI software to make better use of geographic information system data layers, and it allows users to create layers within the E-Sponder system on an ad hoc basis, he said.

It’s also easier for incident commanders to manage multiple situations using templates that feature all the same functions, Wolf said, adding that enhancements also offer better connectivity via commercial wireless services.

In addition, the system allows users to create virtual chat rooms. “However, unlike a standard threaded discussion, this utilizes Microsoft Live Communications Server to provide real-time [instant messaging] functionality and notification,” Wolf said. “This combines the advantages of [instant messaging] with a threaded discussion and allows full documentation and review of discussions.”

Wolf said Wisconsin is using the technology for emergency management and the Tampa, Fla., Police Department will use it during an annual festival early next year and when the city hosts the Super Bowl in 2009.

Jacksonville bought the software last year for an undisclosed amount, but Wolf said annual renewal fees, including software upgrades, are $15,600 for an unlimited number of users.

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