feature, folks would be able to look for the kind of asset or resource they need, and then it would give them a description of it and instructions on how to use it."

Finally, MEIS will include a patient tracking system for hospitals and emergency medical personnel.

Mobile Command Posts

Emergencies will be managed primarily by incident commanders at mobile command posts, according to Nagel.

"If there's a large-scale incident, our protocols in this area usually call for setting up a command center, whether it's out of a vehicle or a building," she said. "There would be Internet access, either wireless or hard wired, they could use for incident command."

The initial investment was $95,000, which came from a federal Metropolitan Medical Response System public health service grant. The next phase will be funded through a combination of philanthropic dollars ($250,000 has already been pledged) and federal grant money from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. The total cost of the next phase is expected to be around $850,000.

Eventually agencies that use the system will be required to pay "modest" user fees, Nagel said.

"We see it as a public/private effort," she said. "We expect this system, over time, will allow both public and private agencies that need to communicate before, during and following an emergency situation to share information and communicate."

The system requires a broadband connection to work, and the hope is that larger organizations with broadband access will join and smaller entities will upgrade their technology over time, she said.

The concept of connecting communities has been a long time coming, according to Col. Daniel.

"From my perspective, we've been looking for ways to expand situational awareness in a collaborative environment," he said. "It can only be a positive in terms of getting at the complexity inherent in homeland security and putting together collaborative work groups to provide a true regional perspective and to allow these groups to decide what can be done and what needs to be done."

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