Monday, December 18, 2006

Why the sheriff's office and fire department need to share information

IEPD specifications can improve public-safety communications

During last year's wildfires in Southern California, San Diego-area residents received diametrically opposed directives from public-safety officials who apparently were working with contrasting information about the blazes.

“The sheriff's folks were running around telling everybody to stay in their homes, [saying] ‘Everything's fine, the fire's under control,’” said Paul Wormeli, executive director of the IJIS Institute, a not-for-profit corporation consisting of industry members. “Meanwhile, the fire guys were saying, ‘Get the hell out of here because your house is about to go up in flames.’”

As it turned out, the fire personnel's assessment of the blaze was accurate. For some heeding the advice from the sheriff's department, staying in their homes proved fatal — a harsh reality that reminds Wormeli of the important role the IJIS Institute's data-standards work can play during an incident.

“Eleven people died because of the misinformation,” he said. “If the dispatch centers had all been connected and were able to share that information from the fire guys accurately to the sheriff's deputies — through the dispatch system and onto their mobile computers — you might have been able to save lives.

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