Thursday, January 11, 2007

Report: States, localities to invest more in comms

BY Brian Robinson
Published on Jan. 10, 2007


State and local governments will boost their technology investment by 40 percent in the next five years as they struggle to overcome communications problems that stymie coordinated emergency response efforts, according to a report released Jan. 10.

Technology spending will rise from $3.2 billion in 2006 to $4.4 billion in 2011 as public safety agencies push to bring real-time and on-demand communications to response efforts, according to market analyst firm Datamonitor.

But despite increased spending, those initiatives could run into a raft of problems, according to the report, including limited funding for new purchases, insufficient coordination among independent organizations, and confusion over which technology approach to adopt.

Public safety agencies say funding is the major obstacle to improving interoperability, said Kate McCurdy, Datamonitor’s government technology analyst, “but we cannot overlook the fact that collaboration and collective decision-making is difficult in an environment where individual agencies or jurisdictions typically purchase equipment independently.”

To complicate matters, agencies often receive little direction on choosing those the technologies that can best help them enhance interoperability, she said. As a result, “you have a situation where state and local governments recognize the need to improve interoperability but lack the means to do so.”

The Datamonitor study comes on the heels of several studies by the Homeland Security Department that, while asserting a more positive picture, also point to lagging efforts to bolster interoperable communications nationwide.

In December, the department published a baseline survey on interoperability, which showed that although approximately two-thirds of emergency response agencies nationwide report having interoperable communications, their level of development varies broadly.

Earlier this month, DHS published a study assessing how well urban and metropolitan areas had progressed in establishing interoperable communications. Overall, DHS found good progress, but officials said many regions needed to test their strategic plans more thoroughly so they could plug gaps in performance.

Agencies will have to make organizational and technology improvements if they want to achieve communication interoperability, the Datamonitor report states. Technology standards are emerging that will enable interoperability, McCurdy said, but agencies “must also reform their policy and governance structures to support communication and collaboration with disparate organizations.”

January, 02 2007

Snowstorm Study to Gauge Responder Stress

By Katherine Torres

Researchers from the University at Buffalo plan to study an October 2006 snowstorm to determine whether the performance of emergency responders during the snowstorm was significantly impaired when responders were worried about their own safety or the safety of their families.

The goal of the research, which is being funded by a $30,000 grant from the National Science Foundation, is to gather more information on what the researchers believe is a "critical issue in effective disaster mitigation."

"Our first goal is to study the effectiveness of first responders in the context of emotional pressures," said H.R. Rao, Ph.D., professor of management science and systems in the University at Buffalo School of Management and principal investigator for the project. "This natural disaster provided a unique time-limited opportunity to examine and understand the differences between the different groups of first responders."


Disaster planning, response and mitigation are components of the university's research focus on "extreme events."

Snowstorm Spared Some Areas

The snowstorm that buffeted western New York in October caused extensive damage and power outages. Yet, despite the widespread problems, pockets of the region remained unaffected. This resulted in a mix of first responders, some of whom were affected by the disaster either directly or indirectly (families and significant others) and some who were not affected.

In addition to the first responders, the recovery effort was supported by second responders such as the National Guard, which arrived days after the event.

"First responders who were personally affected by the storm will be compared with those who were not affected, as well as with the second responders such as the National Guard, on measures including psychological distress and its effect on decision-making," Rao said.

Responders' Perceptions to be Studied

Other goals of the project include determining how and when first responders shifted from normal incident response patterns to disaster-level patterns and whether perceptions had changed among first responders after they experienced the unprecedented storm.

"Prior research has shown that populations that have not experienced major disasters tend to believe they are less-vulnerable and better-prepared than their peers in disaster-prone areas," Rao said. "However, less is known about how perceptions change if these same populations encounter a disastrous event."

The investigators expect that the information from the research will contribute to the current body of applied knowledge in the disaster response literature and to policy implementation regarding questions of how first responders respond to, and recover from, natural disasters.


Castleberry ISD is the First School District in Texas to Install the Rapid Responder Crisis Management System




New System Provides School, Police, and Fire with Key Information to Help Protect Students and Staff

SEATTLE, WA (Vocus) January 9, 2007 -- The Castleberry Independent School District today announced they are the first school district in Texas to install the Rapid Responder® crisis management system to protect students, staff, and buildings during an emergency. The district was awarded an Emergency Response and Crisis Management grant for $100,400 from the U.S. Department of Education earlier this year. Seattle-based Prepared Response, Inc. was awarded the technology contract and will be installing Rapid Responder in all of the district's elementary, middle, high school, and administration facilities in the coming months. The district will also receive bio-emergency/infectious disease and critical incident training/response courses as part of the grant.

The cutting-edge, all-hazards Rapid Responder system takes our emergency planning to a new level by improving coordination and response during a crisis. It allows response agencies to develop crisis plans before an event occurs thus saving time during an emergency.

The Rapid Responder system provides school security, police, fire, and other first responders with key information that allows them to act quickly, decisively, and in a coordinated response with other responders. Implementation of the system includes preplanning meetings between school officials and first responders, "digital mapping" of the school buildings, and system training for both school staff and responders. Agencies responding to an emergency now will be able to view more than 300 data points, including floor plans, satellite and geospatial (GIS) information, interior and exterior photos, emergency plans, hazardous materials locations, utility shut-offs, and evacuation routes. Rapid Responder is the only crisis management system to have been "Certified" as a "Qualified Anti-Terrorism Technology" through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's SAFETY Act.

"Castleberry ISD has always prided itself on working closely with emergency personnel to protect our students and staff," said Superintendent Gary Jones. "The cutting-edge, all-hazards Rapid Responder system takes our emergency planning to a new level by improving coordination and response during a crisis. It allows response agencies to develop crisis plans before an event occurs thus saving time during an emergency."

Last November, Prepared Response conducted an orientation meeting with school administrators and first responders to coordinate emergency planning and discuss the implementation of the system over the next few months. Representatives from Fort Worth Police and Fire, River Oaks Police and Fire, Sansom Park Police and Fire, and Tarrant County attended the meeting. A pre-plan tactical meeting was held in December to develop response plans for any crisis.

The Rapid Responder system was used at a Washington state high school to quickly contain a gunman and evacuate 2,000 students in 20 minutes, and in another incident to locate the shut-off valve for a broken fire sprinkler system saving the district more than $100,000 in damage.

About Prepared Response, Inc.

Prepared Response Inc. develops crisis management planning and response systems that enable police, fire, and other emergency responders to save lives and mitigate property damage. The company's flagship product, Rapid Responder, runs on laptop computers and allows first responders to instantly access more than 300 site-specific data points, including tactical plans, geospatial (GIS) information, floor plans, interior and exterior photos, staging areas, hazardous materials locations, utility shut-offs, and evacuation routes for virtually any facility. Rapid Responder is the only crisis management system to have received Certification status by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security under The SAFETY Act. The Rapid Responder system protects more than 7,700 facilities and is currently deployed in educational facilities, public buildings, critical infrastructure, and private facilities across the U.S.
Prepared Response, Inc., is a privately held company headquartered in Seattle, Washington. Additional information can be found at or by calling 1-800-705-1856.

About Castleberry ISD
Castleberry ISD is located five miles west of downtown Fort Worth, TX in a densely populated community covering an area of approximately 5.438 square miles. The district includes the City of River Oaks (pop. 6,550), City of Sansom Park (pop. 3,900), and a small portion of the City of Fort Worth. The district employs 446 staff members and serves 3,335 students (.3% Native American, .3% Asian/Island Pacific, 61% Hispanic, 37% Anglo, and 1.4% African-American).


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