ORLANDO--A project begun in January to develop standards that would let a variety of public-safety agencies share data across multiple vendor platforms is scheduled to conclude next month, according to officials speaking yesterday at the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials conference.

The Informational Exchange Development Project—a partnership between APCO, the IJIS Institute, The Bureau of Justice Assistance, and the Law Enforcement Information Technical Standards Committee—first set out to establish a governance model that would let APCO and LEITSC move forward with any standards that resulted from the project.

The second step was to create 12 information exchange packet documents (IEPDs) that would be based on extensible markup language (XML), which is used to describe the data that is transferred from one point to another. XML is a cousin of HTML, which defines how data is displayed. The IEPDs are designed to let disparate systems talk to each other. “The IEPDs are a toolkit,” said Suzette McLeod, program manager, for the IJIS Institute.

The first IEPD developed allowed the automatic electronic transfer of data between an alert monitoring station and a public-safety answering point. Other IEPDs perform the following functions:

  • Eliminates the need to re-keystroke incident information for transfer between multiple agencies, saving time and reducing the potential for error;
  • Eliminates phone calls to determine whether certain resources are available to assist in a specific event—for example, a canine search of a school because a janitor discovered a door ajar might require a different set of resources than a canine search for a suspect who shot a police officer;
  • Provides for regular updating of resources, to facilitate the identification and sharing of those resources, which has become more critical in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina;
  • Facilitates cross-records management system (RMS) searches based on person, location, or incident/offense;
  • Supports intersystem exchanges between RMS and computer-aided dispatch systems.

While a need to connect vendor systems clearly exists, vendors often are resistant to such efforts because they want to protect their proprietary products, said Neil Kurlander of the Central Station Alarm Association. “Vendors have vested interests they don’t want to lose hold of,” he said.

Nevertheless, in such situations, it’s crucial that public-safety officials prevent vendors from bullying them, according to Kurlander. “It’s not easy … chiefs often don’t possess the technical knowledge, so they feel at the mercy of the vendor,” he said. “So a lot of vendors push chiefs around.”

However, Kurlander added that chiefs possess one attribute that should be enough to get any vendor to bend to their will.

“Chiefs hold the power because they control the money,” Kurlander said. “Vendors eventually will do what you want or risk losing you to another vendor.”