Marines, FEMA launch emergency data service

The Marine Corps Systems Command and Federal Emergency Management Agency this month will deploy a toolkit for sharing emergency information.

Several states and local emergency management centers have told FEMA and Corps officials they plan to adopt the Consequence Management Interoperability Services suite.

CMIS will provide a nationwide service for information sharing among state, federal and local emergency response agencies, said Richard D. Munnikuysen Jr., the Corps' project leader of the CMIS team.

The Marine Corps Systems Command in Quantico, Va., began developing the system in 2000 and has spent $20 million so far. FEMA recently took over leadership and funding of the program, which the Corps will continue to operate and enhance, Munnikuysen said.

Project officials have conducted eight beta tests of the initial CMIS release, known as Fast Track. For the tests, the Corps provided CMIS CD-ROMs to local officials to install on existing equipment.

'We take a CD with us because we think this is easy to install,' Munnikuysen said. 'In each of the eight beta tests, the user was able to do the installation themselves.'

CMIS lets its users link to a virtual private network of information resources via the Internet. The Corps maintains about 30 servers running Microsoft Windows 2000 to support users, Munnikuysen said. 'All of the applications are written in Java, so it is a cross-platform approach,' he said.

The Fast Track release of CMIS will provide a feature called Open Source Intelligence, a bimonthly report containing both analysis and raw information about terrorism and weapons of mass destruction drawn from public sources.

The release will also include a Tactical Information Exchange component that will provide incident information and exchange capabilities.

The incident information feature will furnish users with maps, images, floor plans, infrastructure information and weather data. It will let users share maps and jointly create overlays on a basic geographic information system.

The exchange capability will enhance communications among first and second responders coping with disasters and will let first-response units request specific capabilities or items that supporting organizations can provide, Munnikuysen said.

The CMIS team this winter plans to add more features:
  • An expert reference tool will provide a subsystem to help emergency workers identify chemical agents and toxic industrial chemicals based on victim symptoms and characteristics of the substances. It also will have online teleconferencing and regional weather forecasting tools.

  • Consequence management tools will offer information about local infrastructure characteristics and incident developments.

Seven states plan to deploy the system as soon as it becomes available, Munnikuysen said. 'We have lots and lots of emergency managers across the country who have also requested it,' he said.

The CMIS kit includes the software and a manual with training materials. The CMIS program also provides help desk support.

'The objective is interoperability in information sharing,' Munnikuysen said. 'That is both vertical, such as a city communicating with a state or the federal government, and horizontal, as in the case of cities linking or a fire department communicating with a police department or a hospital.'

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