Mar 27 2008

From the Editor

Emergency Communication

As past disasters have demonstrated, the ability to communicate across different state and local jurisdictions can be a matter of life and death. Communication interoperability is a top public-safety priority being driven by homeland security mandates from the federal government. Nearly $1 billion in federal funding under the Public Safety Interoperable Communications grant over the next three years should improve how localities respond to crises and the flow of information on the ground.

As Allen Kniphfer of Jefferson County’s Emergency Management Agency points out, infrastructure improvements help local governments close the gap in providing quicker and better responses against a wide range of potential hazards, such as natural disasters or industrial accidents. The Alabama county, for instance, recently deployed an IP-based tactical wireless emergency broadband system. When radio or cellular traffic gets overloaded, the county can tie into a satellite feed to ensure its first responders can communicate.

In our cover story, “Enhanced Emergency Systems,” StateTech delves into several recent technology infrastructure upgrades like Jefferson County’s. Take the city of Marietta, Ga., as another example. The city wanted to equip its patrol cars with access to real-time information ranging from in-house records to national crime databases. But leaders of the Atlanta suburb didn’t want to build their own wireless network. Instead, Marietta deployed mobile communications hubs and a wireless virtual private network tied into a local carrier’s wireless service. The net result: better communication in emergency situations and between officers, access to crime databases from the field and the ability to update in-vehicle computers over the network. For more insights on how local governments are upping the tech ante, turn to Page 22.

Warning Signs

But what happens when a planned infrastructure upgrade or consolidation project goes wrong? Better communication can help you determine whether a project can get back on track or is heading toward a Titanic-size failure. Some warning signs IT professionals should look for include missed deadlines, shifting specifications (otherwise known as the infamous scope creep), spotty reporting, lack of communication, a project sponsor who has gone missing in action or a failure to properly identify risks. In “Righting the Ship,” on Page 32, we offer tips for fixing these problems.

If you recognize several of these red flags on a current project, it may be time to put the project on pause and consider implementing some corrective measures. Joseph J. Zucchero, co-author of Project Rescue: Avoiding a Project Management Disaster and the CIO of General Parts International, recommends conducting a project audit to help uncover the root cause of a wayward project. If problems are caught soon enough, most projects can get back on track, and with better oversight, they’re likely to deliver the expected results.

Lee Copeland, Editor in Chief