IBM and Cisco have announced a new one-stop service designed to help businesses and government agencies respond to and recover from disasters.

The new managed service, available in early April, is aimed at emergency responders, other government agencies, and large businesses in the energy, financial services and other fields, IBM said. The two companies announced the new service at the FOSE IT-in-government trade show in Washington, D.C.

Interoperability among public emergency response agencies has been a major issue since the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on the U.S. Police and fire agencies responding to the attacks often couldn't communicate with each other because their radios operated on different frequencies.

The service, called IBM Management Services for Crisis Response, will focus on a variety of services, including continuity of operations, network operability and recovery, Internet Protocol-based communications, incident management and others.

The service will be based on commercial software and hardware from Cisco and other vendors, IBM said. It offers advantages over piecemeal packages that large organisations have to integrate, said Russ Lindburg, IBM's director of continuity and resilience services.

"There's at lot of point services out there that can address facets of what we're trying to do for emergency crisis response," he said. "This is an end-to-end managed service."

Customers can choose a variety of components such as a tactical communications kit - a suitcase-sized kit designed for quickly deployed IP-networks - and a so-called fog-cutter device, which is a service-rack-sized module that can deliver voice, data and video interoperability. Customers can also choose from two network emergency response vehicles including a sport utility vehicle providing medium-scale network and information services and a six-wheel truck that delivers large-scale network and information services.

IBM will also offer consulting and disaster recovery planning, Lindburg said. The managed service "makes it sort of future-proof," he said. "Instead of a client having to go in and make a sizable investment in equipment, this is sold as a service. If the technology changes over time, we can update it on behalf of the client."

The service will use Wi-Fi, satellite and WAN networks to deliver Internet connectivity, Lindburg said.

The service is designed to help businesses and government agencies "sufficiently respond to the rising threat level across the globe," Lindburg said. It is also designed to help those organizations recover from natural disasters, from terrorist attacks, from sabotage and other problems, IBM said.

Cost of the customised service starts at US$100,000 per year.