AccuWeather.com announced a joint partnership to share data, via a subscription service, in association with a new mobile search-and-retrieval software suite developed by the Operation Respond Institute (ORI), a not-for-profit corporation headquartered in Washington, D.C.

Dr. James Boone is ORI's president and previously served for 27 years with the Department of Transportation's Federal Railroad Administration, retiring in 1996. He explained first responders headed to a transportation incident need to know about potential hazard materials inside rail containers. As a result, the institute's mission is to provide emergency responders with secure, pre-established computer links with the railroad to remotely access rail car ID and manifest records, to enable a hazmat cargo confirmation.

"Primarily, we target the first responders, the first on the scene, who need to know potentially what type of hazardous materials situation they are walking into," Boone said.

The institute developed search-and-retrieval software that taps into manifest databases at the North American and Canadian railroads to decipher whether a rail car contains hazardous materials and to identify chemicals being transported over the railways in tank cars. The data can be viewed wirelessly via mobile computer in command vehicles, he said.

"In other words, it localizes and immediately identifies what the hazard is and, better yet, it begins to tell you what to do about it," he said. "It could be mobile in the sense a lot of squads have laptops it runs on."

That information is combined with AccuWeather.com's mobile weather application, Premium V4, which provides localized information such as temperatures, wind speeds, humidity levels, and severe weather warnings. Such data are useful for hazmat incidents and other public-safety activities, said Boone. For example, should a chemical incident occur, information such as wind direction helps first responders identify areas of evacuation and other operational issues.

"We believe there are two major factors in every hazardous material incident: knowing what you are dealing with and weather conditions," Boone said. "The ability to have pinpoint environmental conditions and merging those two together we think has resulted in a unique capability for the emergency-response community."