Former DHS official touts emergency-response network

Former Homeland Security Undersecretary Asa Hutchinson is putting his political weight behind an information-sharing network that is being tested for emergency-response coordination.

During a National Press Club briefing held Friday by the Corporate Crisis Response Officers Association to tout the network, current association Chairman Hutchinson said his experience in government has helped him understand both the critical role of government and its limitations. Hutchinson, who served in Congress before joining the Bush administration, added that the network can fill a gap in disaster response and that the government can tap into the resource.

The goal of the network is to support immediate information-sharing and coordination at the local level and in the private sector. The network aims to provide interactive maps and breaking news alerts on wireless text devices, as well as a national database of community stakeholders.

Hutchinson's group is "recruiting private-, public- and community-sector leaders through media, pilot projects and organizational agreements" to be crisis-response officers in the network, according to a fact sheet released at the briefing. Test projects for the network are under way in three communities.

Currently, the network is free to verified users. It has been primarily funded by the association. The future structure and what it eventually will cost users has not been resolved, according to association President Jeb Carney. Providing something for free is not a productive system, he added.

The network is using the same technology the government uses for various portals, Carney said. The project could be combined with a government network, and the association is hoping the government will provide emergency information feeds into the system.

The network will be maintained by NC4, a for-profit corporation that has been involved in the network's creation.

Homeland Security did not respond to a press inquiry about the network by deadline.

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