Neff thought it could potentially offer regional interoperability. She broached her findings with public safety officials who would listen.

"We tried to pick out friends. When you've got people who say 'We don't need you, we're talking about securing buildings, that sort of thing,' you've got to find other people who may have a little better understanding and then have them bring up the topic for the group."

Neff used the World Trade Center tragedy to show the need for business continuity and redundant systems in case of a cataclysmic event.

"They had to move from thinking just about physical to thinking about information security as well, and how they would operate if something happened and they lost all their communications," she said. "They wouldn't be able to get any of the GIS maps, because they had nothing in a redundant system that would be stand-alone in an emergency."

Neff approached the emergency operations people and said, "You're exposed here. Let us talk to you about this. Gradually they warmed to that, and we got a position at the table."

Once there, the IT staff offered to help public safety officials locate grants for new technology equipment. "They were very happy," she said. "Because they're not trained to do that, and they know they need to."

Roper also found that the history of public safety planning in Kansas City didn't include the IT organization. She too found it incumbent upon herself to provide evidence that, as CIO, she had a role to play. She was diligent in developing an understanding of homeland security issues. Then she made her move.

"The simple answer is I had to push myself to the table," she said. "I had to think about what I had to offer and have that dialog." She now blames herself for not forcing the issue earlier and advises any CIO not involved in the process to get involved.

Planting the Seed

Despite talk of cultural barriers, Roper and Neff said they were well received once they convinced public safety officials they could help, especially with communications issues.

"It wasn't something that was common to them," Neff said. "It was a lack of understanding of how technology could be used as a tool to make what they do easier and better."

Although cultural barriers still exist, there is growing realization that the stovepipe approach doesn't work, and collaboration is necessary. Roper recalled an experience at a recent homeland security conference where a police chief asked if CIOs around the country were involved in homeland security planning. "I asked the police chief if his CIO was at the table, and he said, 'Not enough.'"

Others at the table looked at Roper with dismay as if asking, "Why should the CIO be involved?"

"My answer was that technology plays a huge part in this," she said. "I mentioned GIS initiatives in their respective cities, and they went 'hmmmm.' I think the seed has to be planted that there is a technology issue or concern or focus that could play a part in a disaster situation."

A Culture of Collaboration

Some jurisdictions, such as San Diego and Phoenix, have evolved to the point where barriers among agencies are considerably less defined. In Phoenix, collaboration is business as usual, according to Murphy.

"That is something Phoenix prides itself on from the manager's perspective, and the mayor and Council's perspectives," he said. "The directors collaborate and cooperate extensively. It's expected."

It's the norm in San Diego too, where CIO Arellano was brought in to head homeland security policy. His 22 years in the military and experience with the Navy's Space Enabled Warfare Systems Command, which

Jim McKay, Justice and Public Safety Editor  |  Justice and Public Safety Editor