DHS launches "Virtual USA" - Information-sharing initiative for emergency services
"Our first responders need interoperable tools to make accurate and timely decisions during emergencies," said Secretary Napolitano. "Virtual USA makes it possible for new and existing technologies to work together seamlessly during disaster response and recovery and gives the public an opportunity to contribute information in real-time to support the efforts of police officers, firefighters and other emergency management officials."
The announcement came as part of the White House Open Government Initiative and reflects President Obama and Secretary Napolitano's shared commitment to making government more efficient and fostering a culture of transparency, participation and collaboration.
Virtual USA links disparate tools and technologies in order to share the location and status of critical assets and information-such as power and water lines, flood detectors, helicopter-capable landing sites, emergency vehicle and ambulance locations, weather and traffic conditions, evacuation routes, and school and government building floor plans-across federal, state, local and tribal governments.
Developed by the DHS Science and Technology Directorate (S&T), Virtual USA currently operates as a pilot in eight states-Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, Virginia and Tennessee-with plans to incorporate additional states underway. In Virginia alone, Virtual USA has reduced response times to incidents involving hazardous materials by 70 percent.
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