Emergency Response Organizations Announce Nationwide Emergency Alerting and Messaging Initiative

Washington, D.C. – National organizations representing every facet of emergency response have announced the launch of the National Emergency Alerting and Response Systems (NEARS) Initiative. NEARS is a non-profit, cooperative effort to demonstrate an effective approach for interagency messaging. “There are more than 100,000 independent local, state, and federal emergency agencies. Today, the vast majority cannot share emergency data messages, much less other forms of data,” said Deputy Chief Barry Luke of the Orange County Florida Fire Rescue Department.

The NEARS partners plan to demonstrate and deploy interoperable emergency data messaging, using national emergency message and data standards, commercial information technologies, and a shared, electronic directory of agencies called the Emergency Provider Access Directory (EPAD). This directory gives agencies the ability to register for emergency messages based on their geography, incident interest and agency type, enabling any authorized official, such as the sheriff, a governor or the President, to send data messages to them. Luke added, “End-to-end data interoperability within the emergency response community is a critical goal. The shared directory of EPAD is a key part of that new vision.”

Patricia Kunz Howard, PhD, RN, CEN, President, Emergency Nurses Association, said, “Secure and integrated communication systems among police, fire, EMS, hospitals and others do not currently exist. This lack of real-time emergency data exchange threatens the safety of the public and first responders and is a barrier to timely and efficient care for sick and injured persons.”

“It is essential in protecting the public health during an emergency that we have accurate and timely information. Both the quality and speed of the response as well as compliance and acceptance by citizens depend on accurate, clear and authoritative messages,” said Dr. Georges C. Benjamin, FACP, Executive Director of the American Public Health Association.

NEARS is a three-track initiative that has the potential to cut costs for emergency response agencies, improve the efficiency of emergency operations, and facilitate information sharing – allowing agencies to save time and lives within the communities they serve.

The growing number of diverse organizations supporting the NEARS initiative clearly demonstrates that there is a willingness to collaborate and share information between emergency response agencies. Current NEARS partners include representatives from fire, law enforcement, 9-1-1, EMS, emergency medicine, public health, emergency management, private infrastructure and the media.

Upon completion, NEARS partners expect that:

  • Every emergency agency that participates by registering in EPAD will be able to send an emergency data message to any other emergency agency in the directory;
  • Agencies will benefit by improving their preparedness planning and emergency event coordination efforts;
  • Agencies will be able to send and receive external information into their current technology tools, so they do not lose that investment; and
  • NEARS will provide one approach for all-hazards emergency messaging, whether the communications are about mass emergencies or single events, and whether there is a need to contact other agencies, private entities or the public.

More information about the NEARS initiative can be found at www.comcare.org/nears or by calling (202) 429-0574.

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