Three counties in Mississippi will be among the first in the nation to pilot a $14 million Department of Homeland Security project linking their police and fire department computer systems to one another.
Spearheaded by U.S. Senators Thad Cochran (R-Miss. and Trent Lott (R-Miss.), the Automated System Project (ASP), the program is an effort to improve homeland security, emergency response time and investigative work, including the search for missing children. It could eventually become a national model for linking more states together using a centralized software applications model. However, funding for a nationwide program has not yet been secured.
Through the use of IBM iSeries running DB2 and Linux, officials across the country will eventually be able to remotely access (from laptops in their vehicles) every type of public safety information record currently available nationwide (including arrest warrants, criminal intelligence, mug shots, hazardous materials data, missing persons and medical emergency protocols).
"It is critical that all of our first responders have instant access to the critical information that can save lives, speed arrests and ensure public safety," Maj. Julian Allen, Ph.D., director of the Automated System Project said in a release.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) was formed in 2003 in response to the September 11, 2001 attacks. Since then, the DHS has distributed more than $8 billion to support state and local readiness, including grants for law enforcement terrorism prevention efforts, and direct grants to improve fire departments' response to terrorism and other major incidents.
Mississippi's decision to use an iSeries is not surprising, given the already huge presence the platform has within government shops. However, the real draw, said Gordon Haff, analyst, Illuminata Inc, Nashua, N.H., was more likely the platform's ability to run multiple operating systems. Connecting three disparate databases requires a level of integration that few companies - beyond IBM – can do, he said.
Each centralized datacenter network will consist of one IBM eServer iSeries 825 and two eServer xSeries 445 systems running Tarantella Secure Global Desktop Enterprise Edition remote access software, Novell's SUSE LINUX and IBM DB2, said Jay Bretzmann, director of eServer products, IBM. The iSeries will also run multiple operating systems, including OS/400 and Windows.
This datacenter will be linked to an identical datacenter at a separate location 60 miles away in order to provide redundancy and guarantee that there is no single point of failure. As the ASP system expands, these networks will be linked together to join multiple jurisdictions into a single centralized information source.
"This is being established as a failover mode," Haff said. "Which is critical given the significance of this program and the need for it to be operational during a disaster."
The initial deployment of the Mississippi Automated System Project (ASP) will support all law enforcement, fire department and emergency medical services within Hancock, Harrison and Jackson counties. The complete ASP system will be rolled out in three distinct phases. The first phase, which was completed in February of 2004, provided a single point of access to the existing jail management system of three county jails. The second phase, initiated in June 2004, allows integrated records management and computer aided dispatch for fire and law enforcement. The third and final phase of the project, which is expected to be deployed in October 2004, will implement the mobile data infrastructure -- connecting laptops in all police, fire and emergency vehicles to multiple databases.