Redlands, California—ESRI announces support for Virtual USA, an initiative designed to improve decision making for local, state, tribal, and federal homeland security practitioners. Virtual USA integrates existing resources to provide real-time access to operational information from multiple sources and jurisdictions. Data such as weather, traffic, infrastructure, fuel supplies, emergency shelters, and medical facilities can be fully integrated, analyzed, mapped, and disseminated for emergency response.
"ESRI will work closely with users and other stakeholders to provide initiative support," says Russ Johnson, Public Safety Industry manager, ESRI. "The promise of Virtual USA?where multiple jurisdictions and disciplines interact and share real-time, actionable information?will enable greater interagency collaboration. It will also deliver a new level of comprehensive situational awareness."
Headed by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Science and Technology (S&T) Directorate, Virtual USA currently operates a pilot program in eight states: Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Virginia, and Tennessee. Additional states will join the pilot program.
The state of Virginia, through its Department of Emergency Management (VDEM), has embraced the Virtual USA initiative and achieved real results. VDEM launched the Virginia Interoperability Picture for Emergency Response (VIPER) using enterprise geographic information system (GIS) software from ESRI. In addition to providing a Web-based common operating picture and analysis tools, VIPER integrates with numerous information systems and links with approximately 250 data feeds. Emergency commanders; first responders; and police, fire, and government officials can tap into a single information resource for better decision making. VIPER recently earned the Virginia governor's IT as Efficiency Driver award during the Commonwealth of Virginia Innovative Technology Symposium. The award recognizes the innovative use of technology to promote efficiency in government.
VIPER is available not only to local, state, and federal agencies but also to the public. Street, satellite, and topographic maps provide a diverse set of basemap data. Feeds from multiple sources supply information related to air incidents, traffic accidents, civil disturbances, earthquakes, floods, terrorist threats, hazardous material spills, hurricanes, reported public health concerns (such as swine flu), power outages, reported suspicious activities, wildfires, and more.
"I have seen firsthand how VIPER has and continues to revolutionize information sharing throughout public safety and across all levels of government," says Charles L. Werner, Charlottesville, Virginia, fire chief and Virtual USA GIS Working Group chair. "Virtual USA has created a momentum that will enhance this capability exponentially and change the way we see, understand, and share data."
As more states participate in Virtual USA, the amount of data sharing, communication, and collaboration will improve all aspects of emergency management including mitigation, planning, response, and recovery.
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