Firefighters plan a military approach to command and control

The New York City Fire Department is looking to take a Defense Department-style command-and-control approach to deploying its fire crews.

The department recently awarded a $6.6 million subcontract to Raytheon Co., an experienced Defense contractor. Raytheon will apply its experience from the military side to helping first responders improve their incident and command response, said JoAnne Saunders, director of homeland security and secure systems with Raytheon Information Solutions of Reston, Va.

The company will work on the project through a three-year subcontract under prime contractor iXP Corp. of Princeton, N.J. IXP will provide program management, installation and training services, while Raytheon will provide the hardware and software components.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center, the city's fire department had to manually plot the location of its personnel and resources based on reports and instructions from units and commanders via phone and radio.

The new electronic command-board system planned under the contract will let commanders oversee response to large-scale incidents, and share information and view their resources in real time via wireless technology. It gives first responders access to collaborative technologies used routinely in private-sector offices to let employees communicate from remote locations.

By viewing information displayed as an electronic map, fire department commanders will be able to move firefighters, equipment and emergency medical teams around in much the same way military commanders shift troops and equipment around a battlefield, Saunders said.

The portable electronic system allows for greater backup capabilities and redundant command and control by transmitting wireless information from the command board to the fire department's data center and forwarding information to department headquarters, central storage and rugged field units.

William Welsh is deputy editor of GCN's siste publication Washington Technology.

About the Author

William Welsh is a freelance writer covering IT and defense technology.

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