Edited Version January 12, 2000 Transcript
EIIP Virtual Online Library Presentation

"Uses of Internet in Emergency Response"

Caroline L. Herzenberg, Ph.D
Argonne National Laboratory

Kenneth M. Bertram, Ph.D
Argonne National Laboratory

Donald E. Newsom, Ph.D
Argonne National Laboratory

Craig Swietlik, Ph.D.
Argonne National Laboratory

EIIP Moderator: Avagene Moore

The original unedited transcript of the January 12, 2000 online Virtual Library presentation is available in the EIIP Virtual Forum Archives (http://www.emforum.org). The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. Typos were corrected, date/time/names attributed by the software to each input were deleted but the content of questions and responses are as stated by each participant. Answers to participants’ questions are grouped beneath the appropriate question to facilitate meaning.


Avagene Moore: Welcome to the EIIP Virtual Library! Before introducing the authors of the paper under consideration today, I would like to alert any newcomers to the Virtual Forum that URL's used in today's session are live links.

You can click on any URL (shows up in blue), the site will come up in your browser window behind the chat screen. You may lose the chat screen on the first one but simply go to the bottom of your computer screen and click on the short bar that reads 'EIIP Virtual Forum.' We find the URL's are very beneficial in demonstrating what our speaker is discussing. For example, today's background page, where you will find a link to the paper we will discuss, bios on all of the co-authors, and a link to Argonne National Lab, is at <http://www.emforum.org/vlibrary/000112.htm> .

We also request you not send Direct Messages to the speaker(s) and moderator. It is distracting and can hinder the smooth flow of discussion.


And now today's introductions --- The paper featured is entitled "Uses of the Internet in Emergency Response." There are four co-authors that submitted this effort to the American Society of Professional Emergency Planners (ASPEP) Journal. The paper was published in ASPEP's most recent publication, the 1999 ASPEP Journal.

All the co-authors are from Argonne National Laboratory (ANL) in Argonne, Illinois. I will introduce our guests alphabetically.

Kenneth M. Bertram, Ph.D., is Group Manager of the Emergency Preparedness Group, Decision and Information Sciences Division at ANL. Dr. Bertram coordinates and manages 140 Argonne professional staff (120 staff are in the group) and 50 subcontractor staff performing emergency preparedness planning, analysis, training, consequence modeling, guidance development, and evaluation activities for technological and natural hazards.

Among his more than 40 publications, major accomplishments include lead authorship of the FEMA/DOT Report to Congress on Hazardous Materials Training, Planning, and Preparedness and the FEMA guidance manual (FEMA-218) for hazardous materials emergency preparedness at rail yards and adjacent communities. Ken also co-authored the National Response Team Training Committee guidance document (NRT-2).

Caroline L. Herzenberg, Ph.D., is a physicist and emergency/energy systems engineer at ANL. She has conducted internationally recognized research in several fields of science and engineering, as well as in history of science and other areas.

Her work in emergency preparedness has been predominantly in support of FEMA, DOE, and the U.S. Army, and has emphasized technological hazards, including primarily radiological and chemical emergency preparedness. Caroline is the author of two books and more than 100 other publications.

Donald E. Newsom, Ph.D., P.E., is an Emergency Systems Engineer in the Decision and Information Sciences Division of ANL. Dr. Newsom was the principal investigator for Year 2000 emergency preparedness and lead author of "Contingency and Consequence Management Planning for Year 2000 Conversion: A Guide for State and Local Emergency Managers."

He analyzed and reported State and local emergency management Y2K survey results for FEMA, the National Emergency Management Association (NEMA), and the International Association 0f Emergency Managers (IAEM).

Dr. Newsom has developed and taught over 100 courses internationally and nationally for FEMA, the U.S. Army, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the U.S. Department of Transportation, the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Atomic Energy Council of Taiwan, and other agencies.

Dr. Craig Swietlik is the Group Manager of Advanced Computer Applications in the Decision and Information Sciences Division at ANL. He holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science/Applied Mathematics from Northwestern University and has over 20 years of experience at Argonne.

He has focused on advanced information technology systems, with an emphasis on Internet applications, high-speed computer systems and networking, computer and cyber security, large-scale databases, full-text retrieval, geographic information systems, modeling and simulation, and associated tools and technologies.

I would like to add that Craig Swietlik was involved in the first meeting at Mt. Weather that resulted in the EIIP. He was a member of one or more of the Work Groups used to further the development of the EIIP and the Virtual Forum as we know it today.

We are very pleased to have all the co-authors online with us today. Caroline Herzenberg will present the formal part of our session. The other co-authors are available for Q&A. After Caroline's presentation, I will review the protocol for Q&A to ensure an orderly and meaningful discussion period.

Caroline, Ken, Don, and Craig -- we welcome you all! Caroline, I will turn the floor to you now.


Caroline Herzenberg: Can the Internet be of value in emergency response: It sure can!

Everyone here now online has already experienced some aspects of how useful the Internet can be in support of emergency preparedness. The Internet has also been used successfully during a number of actual emergencies and in post-emergency applications.

Disasters and emergencies in which the Internet has been useful include:

1) The Kobe earthquake in 1995 in Japan (a web page is still up at http://riksun.riken.go.jp/news/earthquake/sony/index.html );

2) The Loma Prieta earthquake in California in 1989;

3) The ice storm in the northeastern United States and Canada in January 1998 (you can view this web page at http://www.nysemo.state.ny.us/IceStorm98/icestorm98.htm ;

4) Including seeing some images volcanic eruptions in New Zealand in 1995 and 1996 (here's a mirror site associated with the Ruapehu volcanic eruption: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/afs/cs.cmu.edu/user/ajw/www/ruapehu/index.html ; and

5) In the U.S., the Internet was useful in conjunction with the floods a couple of years ago in the Red River Basin; and

6) The major flooding in the Ft. Collins area was one of the early areas to use the Internet successfully in response.

After the devastating earthquake of 1995 hit Kobe in western Japan, local TV stations around the world were slow in starting to report news, but Internet users around the world were getting it already. The Kansai Area Earthquake Information Web site set up in 1995 for the Kobe earthquake at <http://riksun.riken.go.jp/news/earthquake/sony/index.html> links to pages listing the deceased and survivors; damage information, including images; information on relief; mail services information; lists of out-of-service and useable phone numbers; information on Internet connections in the area; information on congregate care and relocation facilities; information from banks, railway service status; arrangements for donating money; information for volunteering; arrangements for pet care; arrangements for donating blood; maps, local information, hospital information, etc. and a message board.

There are lots of other applications! Before an emergency, emergency response information can be put up on the Internet. For example, utilities with nuclear power plants could include on their Web pages information and graphics about the evacuation routes, host schools, and reception center maps. Information put up before an emergency can of course be supplemented and modified quickly during the emergency and during the post-emergency period.

Advantages of Internet use in disasters include such features as interactivity, two-way communications, and multimedia information on demand. A substantial amount of real-time information can be made widely available.

Disadvantages of Internet use in disasters include limited access (but this is improving rapidly in the United States as more and more people get access to computers and the Internet). Another disadvantage is that the Internet is an information free-for-all, and there is plenty of misinformation that is hard to control.

Security issues on the Internet can be a big concern; this technology requires protective mechanisms to safeguard the integrity of information. Network traffic load could be a concern during emergencies.

Looking to the future, availability of a high-speed wireless Internet could be very valuable in disasters. Improvements continue to be made in the Internet that will make it more valuable for use in future emergencies.

You can access our full paper online in the EIIP virtual library by clicking on: <http://www.emforum.org/vlibrary/intern.htm>.

We welcome comments and suggestions and discussion of other potential applications and issues relating to use of the Internet in emergencies!

Avagene Moore: Thank you, Caroline. If you have a question or comment for our guests, please input a question mark (?) to the chat screen. Please compose your question but hold it until you are recognized before submitting. In this way, we can control the discussion. Questions will be taken in the order they are submitted to the screen. Caroline will help steer the question to the appropriate speaker; each speaker has been encouraged to make additional comments to any given response. With your cooperation and patience, we will take the first question now. Just input a question mark.

[Audience Questions]


Chip Hines: You talk of access as a problem that will lessen as more people get Internet access. Isn't access in an emergency area likely to be poor even in the future?

Don Newsom: Responding to Chip. There's still a long way to go but there is some history of the Internet being up or recovering even sooner than other forms of communication as in, I think, the Kobe earthquake, right, Caroline?

Caroline Herzenberg: Yes, I'd agree!

Craig Swietlik: There are also improvements expected in wireless communication, similar to cell phones.

Dennis Atwood: Emergency management leaders wanting to use web technology must consider the routing/channels/server locations/distant-based redundancy.


Rick Tobin: I would like to know what role the Internet played in the Loma Prieta Earthquake, according to your comments. I'm not aware of any considering the State of the Net and California emergency services in 1989.

Caroline Herzenberg: I'll reply to Rick's question. We understand there were problems during Loma Prieta with the TV antennas on nearby mountain being out because of cable breaks due to the earthquake. Also, there were problems of phones.

Russell Coile: Response to Rick - Jan Parcell, reference 4, commented that power was out for 5 hours but the phones in Sunnyvale never went down.

Caroline Herzenberg: Take a look at our full paper & references for a little more on that. This was a fairly early use of the Internet but because of the TV & phone problems, it turned out to be useful.


Dennis Atwood: The recent Y2k rollover had extensive net use: international at <www.iy2kcc.org> and domestic, <www.y2k.gov > with web-based reporting using ICRS needs to be fully studied for possible future use. Agree?

Don Newsom: Yes, the Internet was great for tracking Y2K reports, showing potential for other events. I wonder, though, if it would be as effective in an acute case vs. the time-spread Y2K scenario?


Christopher Effgen: The commercial use of the Internet during disasters depends on sources of information. What we have found to be the most effective tool for the distribution of disaster related information from official sources is notification by email from agencies. Yet, only one State Emergency Management Agency that we know of distributes disaster related information by email. FEMA's distribution of information by email is poor at best and only occurs after the information is posted on its web site.

Don Newsom: Yes, email would be most effective at getting a message to who you want to get it to (bad grammar). But over the Y2K rollover, I also found online news reports to be useful.

Craig Swietlik: Also, email addresses only specific issues, whereas a web site on the Internet can track a range of issues and allow the user to explore for more information.

David Crews: I use the Internet all the time (more than 10 disasters) in response and recovery activities in FEMA DFO's and was at the Ft Collins flood recovery where both State and Local EMAs used the Internet successfully.

Caroline Herzenberg: I'd like to hear more about the Ft. Collins' Internet use.

David Crews: I have a Web site set up for EM use in DFO's at <http://www.disasters.org/emgold> The Fort Collins recovery had five webmasters that sat in on the daily planning and recovery meetings.

Avagene Moore: Caroline, we did a session on that. I will try to locate the transcript for you. Very successful.

Caroline Herzenberg: Good! Hope we can all access the transcript!


Russell Coile: Comment for Christopher - State of California now has its disaster info system up and running on the Internet as NetRIMS. Only for official users at County and Cities.


Linwood DeLong: I was wondering if many of these disaster web sites are archived, for the benefit of future researchers. What has your experience been? Several of the web sites that were set up in Winnipeg, after our flood, seem to have disappeared. One advantage of the Internet could be that information could come from a remote location where there is currently no disaster, and people anywhere could be accessing this information, IF their Internet connections are working.

Caroline Herzenberg: As far as I know, there has been no systematic effort to archive disaster Web sites. But it might be useful!

Avagene Moore: Christopher is having problems inputting to screen but he archives disaster info re: earlier topic.


Ray Pena: The Internet is perhaps the ultimate information source that can both help and hinder emergency response. Managing information resources so that decision-makers can make good decisions is our most vital responsibility. Our whole Y2K experience has been both a great experiment and an excellent learning opportunity. We must learn the lessons. This work is a great step forward.

Don Newsom: Agree!

Georgia Sales: Information and referral programs gather and disseminate information about organizations active in disaster. Many place searchable databases on the Internet. I&R staff are trained in information gathering and verification, so the information is trustworthy.


Roger Kershaw: Is there any experience and use of the net by the emergency services during the emergency response?

Dennis Atwood: Yes. We've looked at several resources that look to us like they would be useful (see EIIP's Technology Arena). In the domestic Y2K rollover many "sectors" including emergency services, used net based reporting on a near real-time basis. Fortunately, there were not serious incidents.


Don Newsom: Has anyone in the room used them in an actual emergency?

David Crews: Yes, during weather responses. I use NOAA radio and the Internet in tandem during active weather conditions.

Kevin Farrell: <-- I have, Roger.


Avagene Moore: Kevin, do you want to expand?

Kevin Farrell: Sure. During Hurricane Floyd we use extensive 'net resources to keep our people informed and to disseminate information on what we were doing. We also used the net to keep our command notified. Without it, we would have had a difficult time managing our resources.


Caroline Herzenberg: Ray mentioned the possibility of Internet use hindering emergency response - please elaborate.

Ray Pena: Too much information, sometimes the very process of winnowing info can be a problem. This will require real judgment and skill that we will have to develop.


Valerie Gagnon: Does it have an impact on the media, for example to put some information on the NET can reduce the demands for interviews with emergency managers because the media have a good part of the information they (TV, radio, newspapers) need? Is there some evaluation made after the experience, namely before Hurricane Floyd?

Don Newsom: This is not really my area, but our public information folks tell us that reporters will get their story from anywhere they can. I don't see the Internet at all stopping them from going to the scene and interviewing the officials there.

David Crews: Newspaper media put EMA info and FEMA info on their local Web sites all the time at the disasters I have been at.


Avagene Moore: Any other first-hand experience?

Caroline Herzenberg: An advantage in dealing with the media is that facts can be carefully checked before going up on the Internet, and you can postpone answering questions until you have accurate answers.


Dennis Atwood: Kevin, in Floyd, was net access password protected? Did you have "public" and "private" areas? How was updating handled and was the info archived for review/study?

Kevin Farrell: I had put together a page on our web server to news and weather resources including resources here at Aberdeen Proving Grounds (we have our own weather station). That data was gleaned, and fed sit-rep style to our fire stations and up the command chain via email and via alpha pages via a custom web based paging system we use. Access to our web site is restricted by IP address, so we didn't have a problem with outside interference.

Final Question:

Helen Norris: I have been very interested to hear about the future use of wireless, high speed access. We know that with a generator or batteries (if you are so equipped) you can get around power outages, but with land phone lines only, we are at a loss. I was very glad to hear Russell Coile comment on areas set aside for official use only. I think that would eliminate a lot of the misinformation and help us communicate quicker with other emergency response personnel. What do you think the time line is for wireless?

Don Newsom: Craig is frozen, so he's going to dictate to me. Wireless technology is continually improving. Digital wireless is relatively new. We think digital transmission rates will dramatically improve in the next 1-2 years.

David Crews: FEMA also uses numerous Intranets to overcome the saturation that can happen on the Intranet. Cell phones can already be used on Computer modems.


Avagene Moore: That is all the time we have for this Virtual Library session. If you did not have a chance to get your question or comment in, please hang around for a few minutes. If one or more of our speakers can do likewise, you can ask your question after we are adjourned.

Carolyn, Ken, Don, and Craig -- thank you so much for being here today and sharing your paper and insight with us. Audience, we are grateful to you as well.

Before asking our speakers for their closing remarks, I would like to remind you that next week, Wednesday, January 19, 12 Noon Eastern Time, we will have an open discussion in the Virtual Forum. We will discuss "Building Relationships: Horizontally and Vertically --- I am sure most of you have often heard that emergency managers are the only ones who have to work with people and groups horizontally. Most groups are structured with a vertical chain-of-command. Join us next week.

Any closing remarks from our speakers today? Caroline, Ken, Craig, Don -- anything else in closing? Thank you so much for being here for such a fine presentation. The EIIP Virtual Library is officially adjourned!