Compliance Management, Network Security

On 9/11 anniversary, vendor group announces new credentialing system for emergency responders

A group of vendors today unveiled a consortium formed to allow first responders to easily identify themselves and their skills when entering a disaster area.

The Tiers of Trust consortium – launched on today's six-year anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks – has developed a cost-effective, scalable smart card credentialing system for first responders, based on the Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12) and Federal Information Processing Standards 201 (FIPS 201).

The program was developed after a number of system response breakdowns in the immediate aftermath of Sept. 11 and Hurricane Katrina, when first responders either were not accounted for or were not properly deployed based on their skill sets, according to the consortium.

"We want to make sure they can get right in to help our citizens," Melani Hernoud, chief executive officer of Secure Network Systems, one of the consortium members, said in a conference call Monday. "We need to know who enters that emergency scene so we can get the last person down out."

Under the system, first responders are given free access to software used to create the "contactless" smart cards. First responders must absorb some costs, such as purchasing the discounted cards and readers. Still, the program is expected to save emergency departments some $1.3 million.

The consortium mainly consists of smart card manufacturers, reader makers and distribution specialists, encryption providers, mobile computing platform makers and FIPS 201 compliance service providers.

The vendors include HID, Secure Network Systems, PGP, OMNIKEY, Catcher, TX Systems and Clear Government Solutions.

The new system will allow first responders to focus on their jobs, Howard Schmidt, former U.S. cybersecurity adviser, said on the call.

"We want to avoid spending resources and time," said Schmidt, who heads the consortium.

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