Working together, the federal team, along with the NASCIO team and the private-sector players, hope to have a pilot All Alert system ready to demonstrate by September 2005.

Changes Ahead

Once All Alert is up and running, those involved say it will let first responders do their jobs faster while relieving some of their burden.

"This will make first responders' jobs easier because they can get information out to the community fast. The more informed the community is, the more able they are to respond appropriately," said Sander. "A lot of the panic and danger that occur during an emergency stem from the confusion generated when the public doesn't know what's going on. This is the first thing I've seen in 15 years of working in the government technology arena that breaks down the barriers between jurisdictions and can really make a huge difference in people's lives."

For the public, the All Alert system means reducing some of that confusion so they can better respond to emergency situations.

"We can significantly improve our early warning systems in the United States in a short period of time if we can work together," said Ward. "Amber Alert proved the coordination can be done. Now we just need to cooperate and expand to reach more people using more outlets."

Justine Brown  |  Contributing Writer