BT data-sharing tool to help disaster-relief efforts

Due to go live in 2009, the £2m National Resilience Extranet will link more than 1,000 organisations involved in emergency-response and rescue efforts

An online system to help co-ordinate emergency-response and rescue efforts in the UK will go live next year.

The £2m National Resilience Extranet (NRE) will be a browser tool linking more than 1,000 organisations involved in disaster-relief efforts.

The Cabinet Office Civil Contingencies Secretariat and the Department of Communities and Local Government have commissioned BT and Ultra Electronics Datel to develop the NRE.

The NRE will allow organisations such as police, fire, ambulance, utility companies and local government to securely swap reports from the ground when tackling emergencies using a built-in emergency information-management package. The organisations will also be able to map developments using a geographical information system.

It will also provide access to a central store of disaster and resilience plans for these emergency-response organisations to allow each body to understand each other's role and responsibilities during an incident.

The NRE was born out of the need for a more effective and secure way of sharing information on protecting against and dealing with national emergencies. The need was identified by government departments and emergency-response groups in the wake of last year's flooding of 17,000 homes in Hull and recent livestock disease outbreaks.

A Cabinet Office spokeswoman said disaster relief and response organisations currently use methods such as email to share information about live incidents, and rely on websites such as to access each other's disaster and resilience plans.

"[The NRE] could be used following a whole range of disasters and emergency situations — a good example is the recent flooding.

"It is about making sure that these key organisations can access and share information about what is going on and what role each is playing as quickly as possible," she said.

The tool will only be available to designated emergency-response organisations, and will require both registration and authentication of users to keep it secure.

The Environment Agency already runs a £4.2m flood-alert system that sends out flood alerts to more than 330,000 people via telephone, fax, SMS, email and pager.