Fire department to join state information sharing network

Fire department to join state information sharing network

December 29th, 2009 by Jacqueline Koch in News


The Fusion Center, in Nashville, serves as a clearinghouse for information about criminals and potential terrorists. The idea is that state and local officials can work together better if information is shared through a central location. The Nashville center is one of 40 established nationwide since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Source: Tennessee Regional Information Center

The Chattanooga Fire Department soon will join a statewide network of law enforcement agencies and emergency responders on a public safety intelligence network.

The database contains information and reports submitted by various agencies across Tennessee.

"If you see suspicious activity, it's just a reporting thing," said fire Chief Randy Parker.

The network is designed to share information among agencies that may be responding to disasters such as a hazardous materials spill, Tennessee Bureau of Investigation spokeswoman Kristin Helm said.

The system is run through the state's Fusion Center, located in the TBI building in Nashville, but is run by the state, Ms. Helm said.

Some agencies are part of the system and others soon will join, she said.

"This is a process, and it just takes a long time to get everybody online," Ms. Helm said.

Chief Parker said the network mostly consists of law enforcement agencies. Some of those agencies include the Federal Emergency Management Agency, the FBI and the TBI.

But as more fire departments investigate arsons and other activities related to crime, they, too, wanted to be apprised of other crimes in the area, as well as share any information they learn, he said.

"You're in a lot of buildings that the police don't really go in," Chief Parker said. "They don't go in regular businesses and do inspections and that kind of stuff.

"And our firefighters are out answering calls on fires, and they may see something that's a terrorist event or tied to terrorism."

The network also will help departments spot similar criminal activity, fire department spokesman Bruce Garner said.

"It could be spotting trends that we wouldn't see (otherwise)," he said. "But suddenly (a specific type of gas) station is set on fire in the whole region. We just have one. The network shows 15."

Adding the department to the network won't be labor intensive because the department doesn't file many reports that contain criminal activity, Chief Parker said.

There is not yet a time frame about when the department may join the network, but Chief Parker hopes it will be soon when smaller departments also possess the capability to join. The main concern is for smaller or volunteer departments that may not have computer access to send or receive reports, he said.

"So the issue is how they're going to receive that information, if it's with a fax or text message or something else," Chief Parker said.