First Responder Authentication Credential

By Jennifer Leah Stong-Michas | Jun 15, 2007




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SInce Sept 11, 2001, there has been a multitude of advances in security, and measures are continually being added to further protect the country. In many instances, the implementation of existing security technology is becoming commonplace, and new mandates are taking shape.

Homeland Security Presidential Directive 12 (HSPD-12) is one such initiative. The basis of this mandate stems from the fact that wide variations exist in terms of quality and security of forms and identification that first responders are currently using. This is especially problematic for responders—emergency, medical or law enforcement officers first to arrive at an accident or disaster scene—seeking to gain access to secure facilities.

In addition, since multiple groups of first responders often arrive at the same location, it is nearly impossible to thoroughly check the credentials of all parties. HSPD-12 provides a roadmap to help ensure both government employees and contractors are exactly who they say they are.

Though scary, it is not impossible for offenders to use false identification or simply attempt to enter an area without authorization. Under HSPD-12, all responders are equipped with a special identification card that helps keep things in check.

To support the mission of HSPD-12, the First Responder Authentication Credential (FRAC) has been developed, with pilot programs using this system throughout the United States.

These identification credentials allow quick, authorized access to emergency scenes across multiple jurisdictions and agencies as the cards are scanned through wireless handheld devices that verify authenticity, said Gary Schworm, FRAC team leader, Johnson Controls, Milwaukee.

The smart cards are encoded with critical data that enables commanders at the scene of an emergency to authenticate the responder. Being able to establish identity helps confirm not only who is whom, but it also helps those coordinating on-site efforts to better understand each person’s qualifications, areas of expertise and skill set. This means first responders can be more effective at the scene, and authorities have a better idea of the number of people on-site.

During incidents that require multiple first responder groups to be present, this system helps take out some of the guesswork and redundant conversations that ultimately occur when coordinators are attempting to figure out not only who is whom, but where they would be best suited in that particular situation.

Arlington, Va., home to the Pentagon, is piloting the first test of the Johnson Controls, P2000 Federated Identity Credentialing System for emergency responders. Johnson Controls is the lead contractor on this project and worked in conjunction with Northrop Grumman, EDS, Rileen Innovative and Exostar.

“We are proud of the accomplishments that our team, working closely with the Commonwealth of Virginia, County of Arlington and City of Alexandria, have made in success of this program and look forward to continuing to support first responders in Virginia,” Schworm said.

Since the pilot rollout, Arlington has issued more than 1,400 FRAC cards to emergency services workers.

FRAC is the new norm for identifying first responders. Federal Information Processing Standards 201 addresses for personal identity verification for other government workers, including contractors. These, combined with other smart card and identification technology protocols both in use and emerging, are designed to create a unified network of accessible information that can enhance both physical and network security.

HSPD-12 includes contractors, not just first responders, so as the initiative moves its way through various levels of government, it has trickled down to tradesmen as well. The underlying premise is everyone involved in any type of government premises work needs to be properly and accurately identified.

Contractors working on projects affected by this mandate should question whether they need to get their own FRAC cards and which employees will need those credentials.

STONG-MICHAS, a freelance writer, lives in central Pennsylvania. She can be reached at [email protected].

About The Author

Jennifer Leah Stong-Michas is a freelance writer who lives in central Pennsylvania.


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