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D.C. rolling out SOA for emergency response coordination

The CapStat system, which relies on Web services, is slated to go live March 1

By Heather Havenstein
January 5, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - The District of Columbia is poised to switch on a new system designed to allow emergency response command centers in Washington and surrounding areas to coordinate responses to natural disasters and terrorist attacks using Web services.
The CapStat system, which will go live March 1, is built on a service-oriented architecture (SOA) that relies on Web services to allow emergency command centers in five jurisdictions in Washington, Virginia and Maryland to exchange information such as citizen reports of power outages, updated inventories of specific types of emergency response vehicles and the locations of people reporting suspicious disease symptoms.
Currently, emergency management officials use phones during an emergency to share information, said Dan Thomas, director of the DCStat Program in the District of Columbia's Office of the Chief Technology Officer. DCStat, a precursor to CapStat, is a similar system that monitors the delivery of municipal services.
Paid for by a $1 million grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, CapStat is relying on SOA to overcome system and data incompatibility problems associated with retrieving and sharing data among the various jurisdictions. CapStat is using Sonic Software Corp.'s enterprise service bus (ESB) to allow the command centers to connect to each other and to publish and use Web services, Thomas said. That allows the partners to share data without having to alter their existing systems, he said.
"The SOA model's loose coupling between services is the only practical way to implement and administer CapStat's distributed architecture," Thomas said. "[The ESB] traverses firewalls, routers and other network boundaries between partner organizations to create a shared message channel that is both secure and reliable."
For its part, the city of Washington has connected its FastSearch search engine to the ESB. The search engine can monitor and gather information from Internet news sites and other sites with information on the district's critical infrastructure, such as power plants and roads, Thomas said. This information can be fed to other command centers during an emergency. In addition, the ESB has been connected to a database that logs calls into Washington's 311 phone service so that when incidents like power outages occur -- and citizens report them -- the data also can be shared. Individual emergency management users can set up customized thresholds to alert them via e-mail or phone when certain types of data -- such as the number of people reporting flu-like symptoms – exceeds normal limits.
In addition, the ESB is connected to each jurisdiction's GIS system -- all five use tools from Environmental Systems Research Institute Inc. -- so

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