FBI's Dallas office fields first-alert service

To shore up law enforcement communications, agencies are looking to piggyback on successful data-sharing efforts. One such project is the Dallas Emergency Response Network.

The FBI's Dallas office launched the network in 2001 and greatly expanded it after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Dallas ERN, as the network is called, links nine Texas state agencies, about 40 federal agencies, and more than 540 police departments and 300 fire departments, said Jo Balderas, chief executive officer for the network's contractor, YHD Software Inc. of Fort Worth, Texas.

The hub of activity on the network revolves around a Web site, at www.fbiern.org, linked to a Microsoft SQL Server database running under Linux.

The site funnels information to law enforcement officers and alerts the public to emergencies.

'We created a vehicle for the general public to submit anomalies,' Balderas said. The FBI has opened more than 200 cases based on leads submitted through the Dallas ERN site, she said. The network also provides information to corporations about potential infrastructure vulnerabilities.

The Dallas ERN automatically can transmit alerts to first responders' cell phones and pagers at a rate of 6,000 outgoing calls a minute. It can receive 30,000 incoming calls a minute.

In an emergency situation, the system can be programmed to send warnings to specific users, say in an affected area, Balderas said.

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