Portal To Protect Presidential Candidates At Second Debate

To do this, the event's incident-command team, comprised of police from St. Louis County and Washington University, firefighters from the city of Clayton, Mo., and agents from the U.S. Secret Service, will rely heavily on a Microsoft SharePoint-based portal modified by service provider Convergence Communications LLC. In its university lecture hall headquarters, the command team will have 25 PCs that can send and receive data over a LAN to as many as 450 police officers positioned across the campus, regardless of whether the officer hails from county, city, or university forces. Five officers normally patrol this same area.

The command team refused to use a Web-based or wireless network. "The bottom line is that we're talking about the protection of the president of the United States," says Nick Gragnini, deputy director of the St. Louis County Police Office of Emergency Management. "We just couldn't take the chance and go out on the Web or use wireless."

The portal will let command-center workers exchange instant messages, share data, and have joint access to a checklist of tasks that need to be completed on schedule. For example, if a road is scheduled to be closed at a given time, the officer closing that road must communicate via the portal that he accomplished this task. "If the task is overdue, the list will flash so that the commanders know there's a problem," Gragnini says.

The portal simplifies the management of so many cross-jurisdictional entities. Without it, the command center would be bombarded with radio systems squawking across as many as eight different frequencies, Gragnini says. "We need to take what's occurring outside this room, take it inside this room, and put it in a user-friendly format," he says.

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The portal serves a long-term purpose as well. Incidents that occur during the debate will be logged and stored so events can be reconstructed years from now, Gragnini says.

The portal is a prototype of a communication and alert Web portal being developed by the Missouri Department of Homeland Security that's scheduled to go live Nov. 1. The state's $1 million portal, also designed by Convergence on top of SharePoint, will serve as a central point of communication for first responders throughout the state during emergencies.

This story courtesy of InformationWeek.com.