connection. Given the Web-based nature of PIER, a live Internet link is a minimum requirement. There are workarounds, however: With today's Internet-ready mobile devices, the opportunities to get online are numerous.

However, what happens if the Internet is entirely down in the crisis area? Even that unlikely scenario can be managed, Baron said.

"I have a communications team somewhere, and I have a cell phone, so I can call them up," he said. "As long they have Internet access, as long as I can get to somebody who has access to the system, I still can tell them what needs to go up on the system."

Universities, school districts and fire departments have already deployed the system. In Houston, Edmonds expressed optimism for a system that could bring new efficiencies to crisis communications.

"We expect this new communications platform to make a difference," he said. "A variety of potential scenarios can obviously have a tremendous impact on the port and surrounding areas, so it goes without saying that setting up truly effective and rapid communication processes is key for us."

Adam Stone  |  Contributing Writer