The Current State of Emergency Response Systems

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As we remember the tragic events that took place on this day eight years ago, now would seem like an appropriate time to consider the state-of-technology that is currently available to emergency first responders.

While the technology available to emergency personnel has improved dramatically, there a number of unresolved public policy issues hampering adoption of digital technologies that could be deployed to facilitate communications in the event of an emergency.

For example, Motorola has developed a digital communications capability in its latest generation APX 7000 platform that allows emergency personnel to access video, data and voice using a single platform. The problem that emergency services personnel have in terms of justifying the acquisition of these technologies is that there isn't universally enough bandwidth available to make use of these systems. Hopefully, steps will be soon taken to make the appropriate amount of bandwidth available to support the applications that run on these systems.

In the meantime, internal IT departments have been slowly moving to increase the amount of visibility and control they have over their own environments. Those efforts include next-generation digital video camera systems and the ability to remotely lock down any part of building using a central console that is linked to physical security systems over an IP network.

Some institutions have even gone as far as linking projectors and other display devices in conference rooms to the network so messages can be broadcast not just to an individual PC and smart phones, but to groups of people all at once.

The question this all begs is just how open will these internal IT systems be when it comes to integrating with systems being used by emergence response organizations. For instance, you can easily see a scenario where the fire department is going to want to be able to access a company's internal digital video camera systems in the event of an emergency.

There are a obviously lot of security implications that need to hammered out, but at the end of the day companies are going to be faced with a civic obligation to make sure this happens. Of course, everybody wants to argue about who should pay for it, but when you get right down to it the obligation to make sure your company is not the digital equivalent of a fire trap is going to rest with the internal IT organization. The best thing they could do right now is reach out to their local emergency response organizations to start building the framework for this integration today.

No one is ever fully prepared for an emergency. But the state of technology has advanced far enough that we now all have a collective responsibility to leverage it. The only real questions is are we going to do that before the next emergency actually happens, or stand around afterwards asking ourselves what could we have done differently.