NISC Brings Together Thought Leaders

Group seeks to drive dialogue on technology best practices for emergency providers


Frequently in EMS, as in just about any industry, leaders realize they’re not the only ones implementing protocols or doing business in a certain way.

But, as is often the case, everyone reinvents the wheel and duplicates efforts without ever trying to define one best practice that fits everyone. Just take a look at the number of governmental agencies that all do the same thing but never get together with each other to talk about it.

The National Information Sharing Consortium (NISC) seeks to put an end to that practice, at least for emergency providers.

The NISC brings together data owners, custodians and users involved in the fields of emergency preparedness, management and response to drive an ongoing dialogue on how to best leverage efforts related to the governance, development and sharing of technology, data and best practices.

By bringing together practitioners on local, state and federal levels, NISC strives to:

  • Influence national policy around public safety and emergency management.
  • Standardize information sharing efforts on a global scale.
  • Improve community resilience.

In partnership with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate’s First Responders Group, NISC presents an opportunity for information sharing on a “whole of government” scale.

Over the years, many technologies have been developed, and critical data that render such technologies operational exists in various formats, is housed by various owners, and is governed by various methods and approaches for ensuring information is trustworthy and timely.

While rapid advancement is promising, progress has inherent challenges—much has been spent on building non-interoperable systems, and it is increasingly difficult to locate and access crucial information and data, and/or to establish needed information sharing standards. In today’s environment of leaner budgets, it is important for public servants in all areas of government to work together to meet these challenges.

Through the sharing of technologies, data and best practices, a cultural shift can occur, bringing about savings in cost and time, and ultimately resulting in a safer, more secure nation.

For years, state and local jurisdictions have been sharing code, data and other tools on an ad hoc basis and, most recently, through the Virtual USA pilot projects sponsored by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) First Responders Group (FRG).

In reflecting on the value of these experiences, the State of Oregon and the Commonwealth of Virginia recognized the many opportunities to leverage one another’s efforts toward “operationalizing” each of their situational awareness and information sharing capabilities. The State of California; the City of Charlottesville, VA; and the City of Charlotte, NC, joined the conversation, and the group agreed that a formalized approach to accessing and sharing information was needed. And thus, the non-profit NISC was formed.

Oregon set NISC activities in motion by sharing a micro-program—the “MyOregon” widget—with the cities of Charlotte, NC and Charlottesville, VA, exemplifying the NISC’s mission to build capacity through collaboration and information sharing. The cities quickly connected the widget and rebranded it “MyVirginia” and “MyUASI,” respectively, enabling connection to open and secure Web map services from any source (international, federal, tribal, regional, state or local government and the private sector).

The result, outside of enhanced situational awareness, was savings of time and money—two resources currently in short supply on both state and local levels.

Additionally, underutilized data that was already paid for was put to use. The three jurisdictions immediately recognized the value of the NISC, and the NISC members intend to replicate this kind of sharing across the country.

For more information or membership inquires, e-mail info@nisconsortium.org.

Jason Busch is an associate editor for EMS World.