October 29, 1997 Panel Discussion

Using the Internet for disaster response and recovery.


Live Chat Summary
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Donald P. Schwert, North Dakota State University
Dave Biondi, EAS-i
Kelly DiMartino, City of Fort Collins, CO
Julie Evans, City of Fort Collins, CO
Chuck Hagan, American Red Cross

Avagene Moore, EIIP Coordinator
Amy Sebring, EIIP A&C Work Group Facilitator

Related Links:
Fargo Flood Home Page
EAS-i Development Site
City of Fort Collins Flood Page

October 29, 1997 - 12:00 Noon - 1:00 PM (EST)

Topic: Using the Internet in Disaster Response and Recovery

The EIIP Virtual Forum hosted a 1-hour live online discussion on October 29, 1997, to consider "Using the Internet in Disaster Response and Recovery" from the perspective of a few people around the country who have recent experience in the subject. The panelists for this lively moderated discussion were:

  • Donald P. Schwert, Professor of Geology at North Dakota State University, Fargo, ND
  • Dave Biondi, EAS-I, Webmaster and Member of Broadcast Industry
  • Kelly DiMartino, Communications/Public Involvement Coordinator, Fort Collins, CO
  • Julie Evans, Information Management Analyst, Fort Collins, CO
  • Chuck Hagan, Regional Disaster Response Planner, American Red Cross, NHQ P&E, FEMA Region IV

Questions directed to the panelists were structured to elicit each speaker's perspective on respective experiences as to their enthusiasm for using the Internet in a disaster situation and recommendations to further the use of the technology. Overall responses indicated that the Internet does not replace other means of communication but is a tool that offers immediate information to the community and the world beyond. As stated by one of our speakers, "It (the Internet) served as a resource for the media, provided information for the general public, and was a central source of information for our local responders." The dialogue included how coordination of information was accomplished, specific technical challenges involved, how displaced citizens accessed Internet information in the disaster communities under consideration, and lessons learned from the various experiences related in this online discussion.

Twenty to twenty-five people were involved at various times during the moderated chat and the "Brown Bag" discussion immediately following. The interest in the Virtual Forum Monthly Feature topic carried over into more questions and answers in a rather animated but less formal discussion for a second hour.

Lessons Learned:
This was a very smooth and well-paced chat session. Our speakers were perhaps more experienced and confident with the format due to their background and expertise with web sites and other information technology. Additionally, some of our audience were repeat participants. This implies that practice produces skill. The Virtual Forum "Brown Bag" sessions each week (Wednesday, 1:00 PM EST) should be continued and promoted widely to ensure an upbeat pace and ease of interaction for future online discussions.

Professor Donald P. Schwert

Donald Schwert is a professor of geology at North Dakota State University in Fargo. During the 1997 Red River flooding, he coordinated the Fargo Flood Home Page: a web site set up to help coordinate emergency information and assist in reestablishing contact among the thousands of flood-displaced residents, as well as provide a current status overview
for the public and news media.


Donald P. Schwert
Department of Geosciences
North Dakota State University
Fargo, ND 58105-5517

Office: (701)-231-7496
Fax: (701)-231-7149
E-mail: [email protected]
WWW: http://www.ndsu.nodak.edu/geosci/

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Dave Biondi

The Emergency Alert System replaces the Emergency Broadcast System January 1, 1998, however, broadcaster participation for local emergency messages is not mandated under the FCC rule, nor are cable TV companies required to implement the system for at least another year.

In the meantime, a member of the broadcast industry and experienced Webmaster, Dave Biondi, in cooperation with Houston-based, Internet service provider Electrotex, are in the process of setting up a website, EAS-i, for the purpose of receiving and distributing emergency alert messages and follow up public information, provided by local emergency management officials.

A beta test of the capability to receive EAS messages via decoder, and to redistribute via list serve, is scheduled in the Houston-Galveston area for late October. If successful, plans are to expand the service nation-wide.

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Kelly DiMartino

Kelly DiMartino had been Communications and Public Involvement Coordinator for the City of Fort Collins, Colorado for one month when flooding hit on July 28th. Prior to that, she served as the Public Information Officer for the City of Grand Island, NE for four years. She reports:

We saw an opportunity to use the web site as a tool to provide adequate and accurate information for citizen questions and concerns, as a resource for national media, and to field inquiries from across the United States. The week of July 28 to August 4, the total number of hits on the City of Fort Collins web site was over 205,500, an increase of 215% from our average of 65,100 hits per week. Over 72% of visitors hit the Flood Information and Resources page first.

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Julie Evans

Julie Evans serves as Information Management Analyst for the City of Fort Collins, whose responsibilities include web services administration - inter/intranets, security, and email. She is presently a master's degree candidate in Computer Information Systems at Colorado State University. She writes:

The web page developer at the time of the flood, July 28, saw the Internet as a wonderful medium in which to communicate to the world the disaster relief efforts, FEMA assistance, and clean up status for Fort Collins residents. The web pages proved to be invaluable when traditional communications methods were temporarily inoperable. The City's emergency communications center collaborated information from Larimer County, Colorado State University to keep everyone informed.

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To Be Announced


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Avagene Moore, CEM

Avagene Moore is a Certified Emergency Manager (CEM) who served as the Director of Emergency Management for 16 years in Lawrence County, Tennessee. Avagene worked four years (1991-1995) as an Emergency Management Project Manager for the Emergency Management Laboratory, Oak Ridge Associated Universities; her responsibilities included the coordination of the Occupational Safety Special Interest Group (OS SIG) for TRADE. She currently runs her own company, Avagene Moore/Professional Management (AM/PM), and serves as Vice President of TEAM Simulations, Inc., of Tallahassee, Florida. As part of her work, Avagene coordinates the Emergency Information Infrastructure Partnership (EIIP) for the National Coordinating Council on Emergency Management (NCCEM).

Avagene is a 22-year member of NCCEM. She is a Past President of both NCCEM and the American Society of Professional Emergency Planners (ASPEP) and established her name and credibility with the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), other Federal agencies and national organizations through speaking engagements, published articles and papers, and testimony before various congressional committees on behalf of NCCEM and the emergency management profession.

Summary of Background/Experience:

Avagene Moore / Professional Management (AM/PM), 10/95 - present
Current Responsibilities as Personal Services Contractor:

  • Write Video Scripts, Training Manuals and Guidance Documents
  • Manage Emergency Information Infrastructure Partners (EIIP) - NCCEM/FEMA
  • Manage and Develop Projects for TEAM Simulations, Inc.
  • Serve as FEMA Disaster Assistance Employee (DAE), Community Relations
  • Work projects with Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC)

Oak Ridge Associated Universities, Oak Ridge, Tennessee 6/91-9/95
Emergency Management Project Manager for the Emergency Management Laboratory; Group Coordinator and Project Manager for Training Resources and Date Exchange (TRADE)

ERP&M, Inc., Princeton, New Jersey 1/91-6/91
Personal Services Contractor:

City of Lawrenceburg, Lawrence County, Tennessee 1975-1990
City/County Emergency Management Director; Chaired Local Emergency Planning Committee (LEPC) and 911 Emergency District Board

Professional Affiliations:

National Coordinating Council on Emergency Management (NCCEM)
American Society of Professional Emergency Planners (ASPEP)
National Association of Female Executives (NAFE)
American Management Association (AMA)
Toastmasters International (TI)
Emergency Management Association of Tennessee (EMAT)

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