A partnership of the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) and the IJIS Institute today announced that it has been awarded a $450,000 grant to develop a data interoperability program for public safety.

While the program could include some new development of information sharing—data sharing with commercial alarm companies—the focus of the program will be to encourage public-safety entities to adopt existing standards, most notably the National Information Exchange Model, said Paul Wormeli, executive director of the IJIS Institute.

“We’re going to be teaching communications-center directors what NIEM is, how to build IEPDs for their own use and making them aware of the IEPDs that have been built already,” Wormeli said. “There are a number that are in the clearinghouse, for example, to let the CAD [computer-aided dispatch] system from Vendor A talk to the CAD system from Vendor B.”

In Washington, D.C., most interoperability discussions have focused on radio interoperability between disparate public-safety agencies. However, similar issues have arisen in the data sector, as many public-safety entities use customized CAD systems that do not talk with one another.

By leveraging data-interoperability standards work completed in recent years, public-safety answering points (PSAPs) and other communications centers—including regional fusion centers and federal agencies—can quickly exchange vital response information and eventually lower the cost of CAD systems, Wormeli said.

“Part of what we want to address is how we can create that national interoperability between communications centers and fusion centers, and how we can use standards like NIEM to make that happen,” he said. “[Data standards] can facilitate it so that it doesn’t cost a fortune.”

Wormeli said he is “excited” about the grant, even though the funding level was well below the more than $800,000 requested in the APCO-IJIS Institute grant proposal.

“It’s still a generous grant, and we think we can do a lot with that to train communications-center directors and help them figure out how to use these new standards,” he said.