Language Barriers: The Greater the Number of Available Technologies, the Greater the Need for Interoperability

By Tony Gharios
Director of Corporate Business Development, PURVIS Systems

In an era when technology can bring the latest news, events, and entertainment to the farthest reaches of the world, many emergency response agencies can not share data with one another — even within the same jurisdiction. Emergency responders demand real time data and a lack of viable data delivery and sharing of information can be a great impediment to a rapid response.

There are two ways this issue can be addressed: nationally and locally.

The best way for the issue to be addressed is with national standard protocols such as the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP), Emergency Data Exchange Language (EDXL), and Really Simple Syndication. These standards would create a data structure and common language that would enable data sharing between the varieties of individual agency systems currently in use. A requirement that all agencies use the same software is sometimes touted as a solution, but each agency has its own specific needs. While a common software system would enable multiple agencies to view the same information, it is not true interoperability.

There are numerous emergency applications currently in use, including Computer Aided Dispatch Systems (CAD), web-based Incident Management tools, alerting tools, and others. Each has a unique purpose, and agencies need to be able to purchase the system that is best suited for them. However, it is critical that these systems allow messages to be sent in a standardized format at the interface point where they connect to outside systems creating an open architecture. The benefit is not only to the user, but to the vendor, as well, because they will no longer have to create multiple interfaces.

Until there is a national standard, the issue can be addressed on a more local level. There are ways to enable data interoperability within a municipality, or even between different cities or states. The first way would be through strategic industry partnerships, where companies can agree to go into an area and ensure its systems can work symbiotically. The alternative would be through competing companies, serving different departments or geographical locations, agreeing to work together and being willing to share information for the benefit of the customer.

Today, some agencies define interoperability more as radio communication using the 800MHz and 700MHz system, as evidenced by the amount of funds allocated to this. Although radio communication is needed, it does not address the overall need for an integrated total solution.

The benefits of data interoperability would extend beyond emergency response to affect overall public safety as well. Proper safety to the public requires seamless systems integration. All forms of communication, voice, data and video, must bridge all emergency response systems more reliably and effectively to create complete situational awareness. When true data-interoperability is achieved, real time data can be collected for all types of situations, improving the ability to detect trends and threats. Agencies will know immediately when an event occurs and responders will receive timely information allowing them to provide a more effective response.

Tony Gharios is the Director of Corporate Business Development for PURVIS Systems.

PURVIS Systems is an IT systems and service provider with proven expertise and user-validated performance in the public safety, emergency management and defense industries. For more than three decades, PURVIS Systems has been committed to delivering value-driven solutions for organizations seeking a customer-focused, flexible and accessible partner for their essential technology needs. Based in Middletown, RI, with offices in Phoenix, AZ and other locations nationwide, PURVIS Systems leverages its knowledge, experience and accountability to create enduring and highly-effective partnerships. PURVIS Systems clients include the New York City Fire Department, American Red Cross, Naval Undersea Warfare Center, the Surface Warfare Development Group and various other municipal and commercial emergency/public safety organizations. For more information, please visit

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