Live from NFCA: Operational Use of HSIN in Hawaii, Arizona, and Georgia

One of the more interesting panels today featured fusion center representatives from Hawaii, Guam, Arizona, and Georgia, talking about how they use HSIN to support their work. The panelists included:

  • Paul Putzulu, Hawaii State Fusion Center Direction
  • Jennifer Wade, Georgia Information Sharing Analysis Center
  • James Cruz, Mariana Regional Fusion Center and a DHS Intelligence Officer (Guam)
  • Tony Frangipane, DHS Intelligence Officer in Arizona

The HSIN team categorizes use of HSIN in three ways (daily operations, planned events and exercises, and incident support), and the panelists explained how their fusion center uses HSIN in each one.

Daily Operations (day to day activities, such as tracking suspects)

Hawaii’s fusion center staff face unique challenges as a result of their location (they’re 5 hours behind Eastern Daylight Time, where DHS is headquartered). Since fusion center staff can’t just drive over to another city in their state, they rely on HSIN to coordinate activities across the entire state.

Mr. Frangipane told a story of using HSIN, Twitter, and dispatch to interdict a bar fight: someone uploaded a picture to Twitter of a bar fight brewing, and someone recognized a police officer in the background of the picture. The fusion center used dispatch to reach the officer, who was able to address the incident moments later.

Georgia posts every single one of their intelligence reports to HSIN, which Jennifer encouraged other attendees to do.
“This requires little to no training. We throw analysts into this all the time,” said Ms. Wade, of the iTrack capability that the Georgia fusion center has developed. “The system walks you through everything very simply.” They developed iTrack after a state-wide manhunt in 2011 highlighted the need for something to allow different agencies around the state to collect and analyze tips and leads. Using iTrack, they track people and data related to investigations, combing through data quickly to come reach accurate, critical conclusions.

Planned events and exercises (such as the Super Bowl)

Arizona has a string of high-profile events coming up this winter: the Fiesta Bowl on December 31, the Pro Bowl on January 25, the Phoenix Open from January 26 through February 1, and the Super Bowl on February 1. They’ve been using HSIN for events regularly since 2009, but the new stable platform has had a positive impact on their ability to build trust for sharing data, and the flexibility to adapt as an event unfolds. “I was the harshest critic of HSIN in the past,” said Mr. Frangipane, “but for this year’s Super Bowl, they have not let us down.” They built the first public safety planning support page in HSIN – all the working groups on the Super Bowl can access the same data and resources in one place.

Incident support (such as the Boston marathon bombing)

For the Hawaii fusion center, several challenges arise from their location. They’re 5 hours behind Eastern time, where DHS is headquartered, and rely on the mainland for supplies in the event of a major crisis. Their location requires an enormous amount of planning for incidents, and HSIN is a big part of that process.

Guam’s team created an Asia Pacific Regional Situation Awareness Room in HSIN, so that everyone in the islands could be on the same page for updates about typhoons and hurricanes, natural disasters that affect their region. The partnership between Guam and Hawaii was clear during the presentation – they rely on one another as a back-up in case of crises – and HSIN plays a big role in making sure that relationship stays strong.

To close, panelists shared their advice for fusion centers on using HSIN:

  • Work closely with your HSIN representative. No matter what you’re trying to do, your HSIN representative is a vital resource.
  • The important of pre-planning can’t be overemphasized. Get all the relationships in place before you need them!
  • If your fusion center uses HSIN operationally every day, then people will be forced to learn how to use it – and be able to use it when it really matters.

Thanks to all the panelists for your hard work, and for sharing your lessons learned with us! If you’re at NFCA, join the conversation on Twitter with the hashtag #fusion2014.

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