Data could replace the human voice in emergency communications

Published 2 December 2005

Emergency communications interoperability has been prominent on the radar of must-fix problems since 9/11, and this year’s hurricane season has only underlined the lack of visible progress. Efforts have been moving quietly forward, however, and a demonstration of that progress took place at last month’s International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) meeting in Phoenix, Arizona.

More than twenty technology vendors participated in a demonstration of the Common Alerting Protocol, or CAP, a text-based data exchange protocol that aims to replace traditional telephone and radio emergency communiqu”s with text messaging. Advocates of the protocol, including the non-profit Washington, D.C.-based Emergency Interoperability Consortium, say the key benefits of such a system include richer information streams, the ability to send messages simultaneously to multiple recipients, and interoperability with varying devices and even generations of devices that can help emergency workers from disparate agencies and jurisdictions to work together on the fly.

Using the CAP system, released about a year ago by the Organization for the Advancement of Structured Information Standards (OASIS), a group that works on e-business standards, the emergency demonstration included three scenarios: a pandemic flu, a slow-moving Category 3 hurricane, and a terrorist explosion. CAP is already in daily use by the National Weather Service and the U.S. Geological Survey.

-read Computerworld’s report here and see IAEM’s description of the demonstration here