- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 25, 2007

Maryland has received a $1 million federal grant to give emergency workers computerized ID cards that will help reduce confusion and delays during major emergencies in which multiple agencies respond.

The grant for the First Responder Authentication Credentials comes from the Department of Homeland Security and will be administered by the Maryland Department of Transportation.

The cards will include the first responder’s name, agency and title, reducing the amount of time on-scene commanders will need to ask questions.

The cards also will help officials tell which responders have arrived and how many are on the scene.

Brad Jewitt, a state transportation official, said the responders will slide their cards into hand-held Wi-Fi scanners connected to a computer network. He said the cards do not have Global Positioning System tracking technology, but the feature could be added.

The cards also will feature “backward compatibility” with existing systems, including those that control building security.

Counties are starting to use the cards after the success of the Federal Information Processing Standard 201, which identifies federal workers and contractors. Only jurisdictions that can comply with the protocol will be allowed to use the cards.

Mr. Jewitt said applying for the card is a stringent process in which the responders must meet with five persons over two interviews.

The credentials expire every three years, and the process must be repeated after that time.

Still, Mr. Jewitt acknowledges that the process has to be accessible enough to include all first responders or “we’ll just be spinning our wheels.”

Montgomery and Prince George’s counties will be among the first in Maryland to use the cards. Other counties should have the cards by early summer.

“The national capital region would be a critical target for a terrorist attack,” said Vernon Herron of Prince George’s County’s Office of Homeland Security. “We learned from the past, and a program such as this would allow us to better support one another.”

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