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Interoperable IDs Bring New Meaning to Emergency Response

IDs, Driver’s Licenses, and Emergency Tags Go Digital

As technology advances, it has become increasingly integrated into our lives. Products like Salamander’s cards, tags, and tag software bring a whole new level of efficiency to the fire service. This is all thanks to something called an interoperable ID.

What Is an Interoperable ID?

Digital ID interoperability is an “interconnection among ID users, ID providers, and ID consumers that permits the transmission of digital ID information between them via a secure, privacy-protected channel.” This may sound new, but you probably use this technology in your day-to-day life. If a TSA agent has scanned your driver’s license or passport to check in for a flight, then it isn’t new to you.

In fact, Coloradans have more experience with this than most other Americans. In 2017, Colorado was the first of four states to pilot Gemalto’s digital driver’s license (DDL), available via secure smartphone application. While DDLs are not yet standardized state-wide, several benefits have already become apparent.

For instance, a smartphone-based ID is much less likely to be counterfeit than a physical ID. It verifies that the document in question actually belongs to the person presenting it. In addition, it is far easier and faster to update name and address in a DDL.

Users can delete them remotely should the smartphone be lost or stolen. Plus, information privacy is improved with a DDL. That’s because the app will only display pertinent information. So if a server asks for your ID when you purchase alcohol, the server “would only be able to see your picture with an indication that you are ‘over 21’ or ‘under 18’.” No other personally identifiable information would be visible.

Now that the benefits of digital IDs are coming to light, some companies are beginning to dig deeper. They want to tailor their products to more specific markets.

One example, Salamander, has created a system of interoperable IDs with emergency management in mind. SalamanderLive, as it’s called, has become quite popular in Colorado. This is one of the handful of areas where Salamander has been adopted by state government.

Emergency Management

The biggest difference between something like Gemalto’s DDL and Salamander’s products is their application. Salamander, like other interoperable IDs, works with both physical and digital ID cards. They call their emergency management IDs “tags.” Tags serve as credentials, identifying holders as first responders and outlining the type of support they provide. The tags can also permit access to restricted areas during or after an event.

But what really sets Salamander apart is its software. Administrators can use either desktop or mobile devices to quickly create tags for individuals — adding visitors or volunteers who aren’t already in the system. This makes it easy to manage joint efforts.

It can also geolocate first responders. This allows managers to see assignments, qualifications, and progress, and to analyze, manage, and reposition individuals via the Command application. Commanders can also run personnel accountability reports, analyze data, and track inventory. This makes SalamanderLive useful for multiple day-to-day situations.

In addition to emergency management tags, Salamander products include civilian tags. These tags pull data from drivers’ licenses to create badges for victims and others in need of assistance. These tags also include demographics and up-to-date tracking, and inform hospitals of incoming patients.

North Carolina’s response to Hurricane Michael last year is an example of SalamanderLive in action. More than a hundred agencies tagged 2,000 personnel at the operations center, making it easy to track each one. It also streamlined shift reporting to finance departments afterward and allowed the county to use the civilian tags for evacuation.

North Carolina responders noted that in the past they had no way to tell who was in each of their shelters. But moving forward, they will now know where each of their rescued civilians is and how to contact them.

Hurricanes seldom occur in Colorado, 2018’s Hurricane Rosa being a notable exception. But North Carolina’s model can be applied to wildfires, floods, and other scenarios common in Colorado.

Other Applications

First responders are a good use case for systems like Salamander. But such systems have a wide variety of applications. For instance, parks may utilize digital IDs to manage field trips, off-site excursions, or athletic events. Transportation districts could use software like Salamander’s for bus accountability. Meanwhile, any district can use Salamander to manage inventory, track attendance, and store certifications.

Regardless of use, it’s clear that these IDs and systems have proven valuable for day-to-day operations. For fire departments, emergency services, and many other entity types, the possibilities are endless.

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