During the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center, the New York Fire Department had to plot by hand the locations of its personnel and resources after receiving reports and instructions from units and commanders via phone and radio.
But a new electronic command board system provided by Raytheon Information Solutions of Reston is designed to enable fire department commanders overseeing responses to large-scale incidents to share information and view their resources in real time via wireless technology.
The project will be carried out through a three-year, $6.6 million subcontract that was awarded to Raytheon by prime contractor iXP Corp., near Princeton, N.J.
IXP will provide program management, installation and training services, while Raytheon will provide the hardware and software components. Ten to 15 Raytheon employees will be assigned to the project, the company said.
The project gives Raytheon an opportunity to leverage its experience in command and control for the U.S. military, this time for first responders at the local government level, said JoAnne Saunders, director of homeland security and secure systems with Raytheon Information Solutions.
"It's our first opportunity to move into this type of market," she said. "It allows us to scale our knowledge and experience from the military side of our heritage into helping first responders and give them a better view of their battlefield, which is incident and command response."
By viewing information displayed as an electronic map, fire department commanders will be able to move firefighters, equipment and emergency medical teams around an area where an incident is unfolding much like military commanders move troops and equipment around a battlefield, she said.
Raytheon Information Solutions is being assisted on the project by the company's Homeland Security Strategic Business Area and its Integrated Defense Systems business. Parent company Raytheon Co. has 80,000 employees and annual revenue of $20.25 billion.
The command board system gives first responders access to "collaborative technologies" that are routinely used in commercial offices by employees communicating from remote locations.
One of the obvious advantages is that the electronic command board system allows for greater backup capability and redundant command and control. "With collaborative technologies you can see things happening at the same time and not have to be at that location," Saunders said.
The portable electronic system also transmits wireless information from the command board back to the department's data center and forwards information to department headquarters, central storage and rugged field units.
Although the command board system will not enable the fire department to receive data electronically from other first responder agencies answering the same incident, it will allow the department to input the location of other agencies' units as such information is received by phone or radio.
The opportunity for command and control in the state and local market is substantial, Saunders said. Once the system is proven by the New York firefighters, other first responders are likely to purchase similar systems, she said.
"We believe a lot of fire departments are waiting in the wings" to see what the New York department does with the technology, she said. "They are so large that they drive a lot of the market."
William Welsh is deputy editor with Washington Technology. For more details on this and other technology contracts, go to www.washingtontechnology.com.