Cost-effective Information Interoperability for All-Hazards Events in Spite of Decreasing Preparedness Funding - Part Two, The Solution
Ed. Note: This is a two-part article. In the
first part, which appeared last week, the author described the
environment that is putting pressure on disaster response resources,
requiring them to "do more with less." This second part of the article
offers a solution to the challenge.
One of this article I described the environment of diminishing
all-hazards preparedness funding that is strapping local communities to
the point where the vast majority of local emergency management
organizations will soon be unable to afford often pricey commercial
incident management products and solutions. This creates a "necessity
is the mother of invention" situation for communities. It becomes
necessary for communities to be more creative with their limited
funding resources in developing or enhancing planning and preparedness
capabilities, including becoming more interoperable with neighboring
communities, other agencies and critical response organizations.
The "Disaster Management Interoperable Information System" (DMIIS)
described here would provide participating towns, agencies and other
resources with a cost-effective capability for enhanced situation
awareness, disaster response, resource request and allocation, and a
collaborative environment for training and exercises. In addition,
because the system will incorporate proven technology designed to use
message content standards, a town and region may have interoperable
capability with similar systems in other towns and regions.
The platform for communicating data and information (text and
geospatial) uses the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP)
message content standard. CAP standardizes the content of alerts and
notifications across all hazards (i.e., natural, technological,
CAP-compliant systems that have developed an interface to DHS's freely
provided Disaster Management Open Platform for Emergency Networks (DM-OPEN) CAP API can
communicate with each other. DM-OPEN is a proven
technology and provides an interoperability backbone that acts as a
"level playing field" to allow disparate third-party applications,
systems, networks and devices to share information in a
non-proprietary, open yet secure, standards-based format. As federal
infrastructure, DM-OPEN is designed to support the delivery of
real-time data and situation awareness to public emergency responders
in the field, at operations centers and across all levels of response
Where military installations are part of the regional picture, this
same interoperable information systems design has been successfully
demonstrated for moving incident response data and information between
civilian and military (both unclassified and classified) domains.
One of the principal design criteria of DMIIS is cost-effectiveness.
The interoperable platform for data and information communications will
use DHS's Disaster Management Interoperability Services tools (DMIS)
to extend incident management and information exchange capabilities to
jurisdictions that do not have any other feasible solution. The no-cost
software provides a good, basic capability that enables the emergency
management community to securely share digital information (text,
geospatial). By providing information sharing capabilities, tools and
supporting infrastructures, DMIS installations help local and regional
practitioners better prepare for, respond to and recover from
emergencies, as well as in their day-to-day operations.
DMIS supports one of the president's 24 e-Government interagency
initiatives established by the Office of Management and Budget.
DMIS and DM-OPEN are proven technologies, providing a cost-effective
solution enabling communications between municipal departments,
municipalities and other organizations, other municipalities and
regions, and state Emergency Management Agencies, Public Health
Departments, etc. DMIS plans for and manages incidents, and focuses on
local needs and local control.
DMIS will soon have the capability to interface with NOAA
HazCollect, providing an automated capability to streamline the
creation, authentication, collection and dissemination of non-weather
emergency messages in a quick and secure fashion. DMIS is also expected
to incorporate the Resource Messaging (RM) and Hospital AVailability
Exchange (HAVE) standards. These new
standards, which are near completion, will provide DM-OPEN with
even more information exchange capabilities relevant to emergency
DMIIS is based on essentially the same DMIS/DM-OPEN model that was
identified as one of the most promising new technologies successfully
demonstrated in "Trial
3.27" (pdf) of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Coalition Warrior
Interoperability Demonstration 2007. Also, Trial 3.27 won the top
award (pdf) in its category from the International Association of
Emergency Managers for Technology & Innovation.
At the time this article was written, DMIS was under review by DHS/FEMA
to determine the technical, economic, and operational feasibility for
recommended enhancements and improvements.
Another no-cost solution that has emerged is "Sahana." Sahana is a free and
Open Source disaster management system. Unlike DMIS, Sahana is a
Web-based collaboration tool that addresses the common coordination
problems during a disaster, including finding missing people, managing
aid, managing volunteers, and tracking refugee camps effectively
between government groups, the civil society (NGOs) and the victims
themselves. Sahana is an integrated set of pluggable, Web-based
disaster management applications that provide solutions to large-scale
humanitarian problems in the aftermath of a disaster. Scale may be its
major distinction from DMIS, which is perhaps better suited for
managing incidents at the local/regional level. A review of Sahana, and
a comparison of DMIS and Sahana, is planned for a future article.
Author's note: A previous draft of this article was reviewed by Sarah
Hyder, Avagene Moore and Rick Hauschildt who provided helpful comments.