'National standard needed' to share emergency information

A national standard should be developed to allow communication between different IT systems used to respond to emergency situations such as floods.

A standard for communicating between systems and better staff training can make emergency responses more effective

A standard for communicating between systems and better staff training can make emergency responses more effective

The standard would mean that different agencies, using different IT systems, would still be able to easily share information in a crisis, according to IT-system developer Citysafe.

Speaking at the Managing Emergencies with IT conference in London, Nick Beale from Citysafe said: "We need to find a way we can link those systems together."

He argued that the development of an "interoperability standard" would need to be driven by business rather than Government to speed up the process.

Training staff to use their in-house systems properly will also be a crucial factor in managing emergency situations, Colin Berghouse, from Defra's Flood Emergencies Capability Programme, said.

He said this problem became obvious to him during last summer's floods when staff in the Environment Agency's national incident room were unable to use a machine that would have linked them to other incident rooms around the country.

More sophisticated use of technology could also allow people higher up the chain of command to be briefed without taking staff away from the emergency situation.

"In last year's floods, there was a need to brief ministers," he said. "It was taking hard-pressed response staff away from their job having to feed the relentless machinery of briefings and so on."

Government is in the process of developing a National Resilience Extranet to allow the efficient and secure exchange of information between agencies during emergency situations.

Mr Berghouse said ministers are set to announce that a joint contract for the system will be awarded to BT and Ultra Electronics.

"The contract is still in the process of being signed," he said. "It is almost a done deal but it is official.

"We look forward to, after a very long procurement process, actually getting that moving."

Kate Martin



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