IBM to Build Emergency Response System for Washington D.C. Area
August 2002 (Newstream) -- IBM and a partnership of public safety and transportation agencies in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia on August 22 announced that the company has been selected to build a public safety data communications network for the Washington D.C. region. The first interoperable wireless system to span multi-state government jurisdictions, the network will enable officials from more than 40 local, state, and federal agencies to communicate with each other in real time.
The Capital Wireless Integrated Network (CapWIN) also is designed to provide firefighters, police, transportation officials, and other authorized emergency personnel with wireless access to multiple government data sources during critical incidents. Improved access to information will help these "first responders" and public safety officials make vital public safety-related decisions.
The network may serve as a model for other areas of the country, CapWIN officials said.
CapWIN will help eliminate the confusion that can plague responders currently hampered by incompatible communication gear and insufficient information.
"For the first time, the greater Washington, D.C. region will have a secure and powerful system that lets police, firefighters, transportation officials, and other responders communicate with each other rapidly during crises," said Chief Charles Samarra, Chief of the Alexandria, Virginia Police Department and Chair of the CapWIN Executive Committee. "The strength of CapWIN is the partnerships that have developed and the sense that we have to work together for the greater good of our communities. Public safety agencies have to change the way we do business. Partnerships have to be formed and people have to share resources and work together to meet the challenges of the future."
"One important lesson we learned from September 11 is that we needed to do more to help our first responders communicate seamlessly and more effectively across jurisdictions and different systems," said Senator George Allen (R-Va.), who spearheaded congressional funding for CapWIN. "Congress has dedicated significant resources to this kind of communications interoperability, and I'm pleased that IBM will be working with CapWIN to help reach this greater potential in Virginia, Maryland and the District of Columbia."
CapWIN is designed for simplicity and ease of use. To better manage and coordinate multiple agencies responding to an incident, officials will communicate with each other on the network via an Instant Messaging application deployed on low cost, industry standard devices such as PCs, PDAs and data-enabled mobile phones.
Authorized users will be able to set up response teams -- restricted-access, high-performance chat rooms -- designed to help handle unexpected events, such as natural disasters, traffic collisions, fires or terrorist threats. A police officer responding to an automobile accident, for example, may communicate simultaneously with key personnel-including ambulance drivers, firefighters and transportation response units, as well as the hazardous materials team and other special units, if needed.
In addition, network users will be able to establish longer-term groups to stay in touch with each other during ongoing assignments-a criminal investigation, for example.
Another advantage of the network is data access across jurisdictions in the DC/Maryland/Virginia region. Today, a police officer typically can only obtain information from his or her own department's records management system. CapWIN will provide a communication bridge to all participating agencies in the region, including jurisdictions throughout Virginia and Maryland.
Implementing the network will have minimal impact on the information and communication systems already in place at the CapWIN agencies. Agencies will not lose investments in the existing systems. IBM will use industry-standard technologies that will make it easy to interface with legacy systems, thus avoiding significant costs and delays. Sponsors of the network include the National Institute of Justice, Office of Science and Technology's Project AGILE, Maryland State Highway Administration, Virginia Department of Transportation, the Public Safety Wireless Network (PSWN), the U.S. Department of Justice's Office of Domestic Preparedness, and the U.S. Department of Transportation. CapWIN is managed by the Center for Advanced Transportation Technology at the University of Maryland with support by George Mason University, University of Virginia, International Association of Chiefs of Police, and the International Association of Fire Chiefs. The CapWIN web site is www.capwinproject.com.
"This project is an example of remarkable teamwork on the part of many people, including our Executive Committee, state and local officials from Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia, federal agencies, and members of Congress," said Chief Samarra. "Senators and Representatives in our region from Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia have indicated their support and are working with us to implement this important project. We expect that CapWIN will substantially improve our ability to protect the public."
The IBM Solution
The heart of the Capital Wireless Integrated Network is IBM's First-Responder Interoperability Solution. Built on an open and scalable architecture, the solution harnesses a cluster of IBM eServer pSeries UNIX servers, running IBM WebSphere software for message routing and browser communications. It relies on a Global Directory developed by IBM that serves as a bridge connecting the disparate addressing systems in use by the various government agencies. The IBM solution offers security features that meet or exceed FBI standards for mobile data communications.
"By integrating disparate systems into a seamless whole, CapWIN will be far more powerful than the sum of its parts," said Rusine Mitchell-Sinclair, general manager of IBM Safety and Security Services. "Officials in the Washington D.C. region are taking a leadership position in setting up standards in information technology for public safety."
In building the network, IBM is teaming with a number of companies, including Templar Corporation, whose INFORMANT software provides the access to numerous databases, PB Farradyne, for Intelligent Transportation System consulting services, TeleCommunication Systems Corp. (TCS) for implementation services, and Pelican Mobile, which is providing and maintaining mobile systems.