Emergency Consortium Agrees with DHS to Promote Data Sharing During Emergencies

WASHINGTON -- The Emergency Interoperability Consortium (EIC) announced that it has signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to promote the development and proliferation of data sharing standards for emergency response. Thought to be the first of its kind between DHS and a non-government entity, the agreement establishes an alliance between the organizations to jointly promote the design, development, release, and use of XML standards to help solve data sharing problems commonly encountered during emergency operations. The initial term of the agreement is three years.

"This DHS/EIC alliance is an important step towards realizing the potential of a public/private partnership to rapidly develop and proliferate valid and commercially sustainable interoperability standards," commented Matt Walton, EIC chairman and vice chairman and founder of E Team, Inc., a Los Angeles-based manufacturer of crisis management software. "Removal of the barriers that currently hinder data sharing in emergencies will benefit everyone involved -- from the government agencies that work to secure our nation against potential threats to first responders in the field and the people they assist."

Initial collaborative efforts between DHS and EIC have already borne fruit in the release in 2004 of the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP), the first data standard for sharing alert information between dissimilar systems. The next generation of data sharing standards, being developed with the leadership of emergency response organizations, is called Emergency Data Exchange Language (EDXL). It goes beyond alerting to address the routing and substance of a wide variety of interagency emergency messaging. The first of these, a common "header" for routing emergency messages, has been passed from EIC with DHS concurrence to the OASIS formal standards development organization. This EDXL routing tool was first trialed passing messages among ten different emergency communications products in a demonstration at George Washington University sponsored by EIC, DHS, and others late in 2004. Steve Cooper, the DHS Chief Information Officer and signatory on the MOA with EIC, was the keynote speaker at the demonstration. Barry West, the CIO of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), also signed the MOA.

"The Department of Homeland Security is pleased to have established an alliance with EIC to promote the rapid development of both valid and commercially sustainable standards to share data between all levels of the emergency response community," said Gordon Fullerton, executive sponsor of the Disaster Management Program of DHS. "Based on the early success of CAP, we are committed to working with emergency response practitioners, EIC, the OASIS Technical Committee, and others to produce multiple standards in the coming year that will make it possible to get critical emergency data to those that need it."

The Memorandum of Agreement provides for a collaborative process to improve information sharing capabilities to protect the nation and its citizens from the consequences of disasters and other emergencies, regardless of cause. It encourages broad-based participation in the design, development, acceptance, and use of XML standards to enable emergency organizations to receive and share data in real time. EIC and DHS are to work together to educate federal, state, local, and tribal governments, the media, citizens, and industry on the meaning and importance of data sharing within the emergency response communities, and to promote innovation and collaboration in these communities around open architectures and standards.

By working together, both DHS and EIC believe that government and industry can more quickly and cost-effectively bridge the data sharing gap between organizations that must be able to interoperate in response to the natural and man-made hazards that form the core of the DHS mission. After an initial term of three years, the agreement can be renewed for additional two-year periods.

"Data interoperability is at the heart of effective response," said Richard Taylor, chairman of the safety non-profit ComCARE Alliance, and 9-1-1 director for the State of North Carolina. "We are delighted at the effective and cooperative way EIC and this DHS program are engaging our emergency response members in rapidly developing common standards." ComCARE is represented on EIC's Board.

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