State Border Workshop Tackles Collaboration, Interoperability
Wednesday, February 10, 2010 | Comments
Photo courtesy AHC
The All Hazards Consortium (AHC) Second Annual State Border Coordination Workshop held in Gettysburg, Pa., Jan. 25 – 26, hosted a special guest speaker after the Jan. 26 opening keynote address — Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln, who took an unparalleled step of appointing to his cabinet all three of his rivals from his presidential election, knows a thing or two about how to help people with a common vision work together. Of course, the special guest speaker at the workshop was just a local actor, but “He tied Lincoln’s message in with our message about the importance of collaboration across disciplines, and the attendees loved it,” said Tom Moran, executive director for the AHC.
The AHC is a Maryland nonprofit charitable organization formed by the states of North Carolina, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York and the District of Columbia. The AHC’s goal to help create new resources, partners and funding opportunities for the states to support regional multistate collaboration efforts among stakeholders from government, the private sector, higher education and nonprofit/volunteer organizations, which is why the AHC created a regional state border coordination workshop, Moran said.
The workshop covered several topics including public-safety communications interoperability. The communications interoperability breakout group, facilitated by Dr. Michael R. French, department head at MITRE, a Virginia-based research firm working with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), and James Wrightstone of the Governor’s Office of Administration, Pennsylvania Office of Public Radio, comprised participants from the public sector, vendor community and academia in discussions on topics addressed at the first border coordination workshop in 2008. “Communications is one of the greatest challenges for emergency services,” said Clay Stamp, Talbot County (Md.) Department of Emergency Services and scribe for the group. “AHC is a unique organization made up of members who engage private industry with local, state and federal government to interact to come up with solutions to shared issues.”
The attendees at the session addressed six top issues facing public-safety communications interoperability:
1.     FCC support. The FCC should enhance support of state and local efforts to achieve communications interoperability through its licensing processes, Moran said. Currently, attendees at the workshop said they feel the FCC has been slow to support requests for licensing to aid in interoperability solutions.
2.     Data standards. State and local governments need to develop data-sharing standards for CAD and records management systems (RMS). Individual proprietary CAD/RMS systems prevent critical information sharing, which is compounded by relationship challenges, attendees said.
3.     Training. Enhanced training throughout state and local organizations is needed to identify existing interoperability technologies and processes. Public safety should also begin using these technologies and processes regularly to ensure its effectiveness in major situations.
4.     Relationship building. There is a human relationship challenge regarding the implementation of regional, multistate interoperability solutions.
5.     New technologies. There is an opportunity for public-sector leadership to begin embracing private technology, such as social networking applications into operations and strategic planning for communications interoperability.
6.     Cross-border relationship building and procedure development. It’s important to know who to contact and when to contact them prior to an event. Neighboring states should work together to develop mutual plans and procedures.
Even though several member states currently have interoperability projects under way, the group highlighted a few next steps for the AHC, Moran said. One is to complete a nine-state capability assessment, which will identify areas of need along with best practices and opportunities for interoperability improvement. Another is to facilitate the creation of a multistate interoperability tool kit for member states. The tool kit would include a resource list for contacts, interoperability projects, planning templates, standard operating procedures and checklists. “Some of these tools have already been developed, and the AHC would look to leverage these existing efforts and investments instead of duplicating the effort,” Moran said.
The State Border Coordination Workshop had about 190 attendees, which was more than the group had originally anticipated, Moran said. The AHC states will hold another workshop next year and hopes to “build on the success of this year’s workshop,” Moran said. 
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