Edited Version January 26, 2000 Transcript
EIIP Tech Arena Online Presentation

"EM Assist"

Bill Karl, President
EM Assist

The original unedited transcript of the January 26, 2000 Tech arena presentation is available in 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 from the participants to questions by the audience are grouped beneath the appropriate question to facilitate meaning.


Amy Sebring: Welcome to the EIIP Tech Arena!

For the benefit of our first-timers, when you see a blue web address, you can click on it and the referenced Web page should appear in a browser window. After the first one, the browser window may not automatically come to the top, so you may need to bring it forward by clicking on a button at the status bar at the bottom of your screen.

We will start with a presentation, and then follow with a Q&A session for your questions and comments. Right before we begin the Q&A portion we will review the procedure.

Please do NOT send direct messages to the speaker or moderator as it makes it difficult for us to follow the discussion.

Background information for today's session may be found at <http://www.emforum.org/varena/000126.htm>.


Today I am pleased to introduce Bill Karl, President of EM Assist, who is here to tell us about the EM Assist product. Bill has considerable background in Emergency Management as you can see from the bio on the background page, including extensive experience in training, so he has been in a good position to assess the information needs of emergency managers.

Welcome Bill, and thank you for joining us today.


Bill Karl: Thank You, Amy - I am pleased to have the opportunity to make this presentation.


Since I began working in this field -- it seems ages ago -- I've dreamed of creating a product that would improve emergency management and save lives. I believe EM Assist is that product. EM Assist is an emergency management knowledge and resource base that provides rapid access to information through a disk-based, extensively cross-indexed program, and a comprehensive Internet-based guide to emergency management sites and resources.

Every profession needs a common language, to enable clear communication and working as a team. To bring together such a common language for emergency management, we began work in 1984 on what would later become the disk-based component of EM Assist.

We consolidated inputs from many agencies and individuals into one easy-to-use reference work with thousands of pages of program descriptions, job descriptions, definitions, and acronyms.


We organized it alphabetically and by type of hazard or job. Then we added a hyper-link system to index all the pieces and enable users to quickly jump to definitions when they encountered unfamiliar terms.



In our current product this component is one of the most often praised, and it often sells the package. Here is a screenshot of the offline version.

[FIG. 1]

As the Internet came into wide use, we extended EM Assist to include on-line links and materials. We also created new reference and how-to materials. We put these and downloads of the most useful on-line materials onto a CD-ROM, along with the original EM Assist disk-based, or off-line, version.

By having both the downloaded files and the links to their Internet locations, you have the benefit of continual updates and also the benefit of on-hand material when you only have a slow Internet connection, or none at all.


We designed it for rapid reference, with over 600 megabytes of on-hand tutorials, handbooks, and other material -- including an exercise knowledge base, graphics and clip-art, and discussions of lessons learned and management concepts. Here is a screenshot of the on-line component.

[FIG. 2]

Another often-praised aspect of EM Assist is the expansion of topics to include professional development for emergency managers.

We include material on getting results, strategic planning, mentoring, staffing actions, setting up meetings, conducting interviews, stress control, team-building, and problem-solving -- and more. For both the off-line and on-line components of EM Assist, we have always encouraged submission of suggestions and material by those who work in emergency management.

We are currently working to set up a combination of email and secure Web site to make this participation even easier. And we plan to encourage it by offering awards ranging from t-shirts to free copies of software. That email and Web site service will also enable us to offer continual updates on reference material, legislation, technology developments, and news affecting emergency management.

The next version of EM Assist is due out at the end of March 2000. Some of the enhancements will include the following:




After the release of the March 2000 edition, we'll continue work on a second CD-ROM that will focus on presentations, graphics, and developing training programs. At this time we anticipate no increase in price for these additional features and material. And users buying in large volumes will find us very accommodating in lowering unit price based on volume.

The future of EM Assist will be guided by two principles:

1. We want it to become the best possible tool for initiating, maintaining, and improving community, company, and organizational efforts in emergency management and response.

2. We will respond to customer questions and suggestions to fulfill the above for each case, making good emergency management something that can be affordable and achievable for every client.

To run EM Assist you need a PC-compatible computer, a CD ROM drive, and an Internet browser.

For those who purchase a site-license, EM Assist can be run off almost any network server -- although you do lose some of the survivability and speed of the stand-alone CD-ROM. Also, the CD contains the files needed to create a three-floppy set of disks to install the off-line hyper-linked component on almost any computer running Windows. This installation will take about 13 Megs of space on your hard drive. If you do not want install the off-line version on your hard drive, it can be run from the CD.

How much does EM Assist cost? $300 per terminal for one year --- this includes one update and a year's subscription to access the secure web site that provides news and continual updates. To maintain the service after the first year, the price is reduced to $200 per terminal. We also have a greatly reduced price for college students and universities

To order EM Assist over the Internet, use the Marketplace at <http://www.domesticpreparedness.com>.


For contact info, please see


Amy Sebring: Thank you very much Bill, for preparing this presentation. I hope we will have some good questions for you. Audience, please enter a question mark (?) to indicate you wish to be recognized, go ahead and compose your comment or question, but wait for recognition before hitting the "enter" key or clicking on Send. We now invite your questions or comments.

Bill Karl: Thanks, Amy, I am ready for some questions

Amy Sebring: And I am sure Bill would be interested in your suggestions as well. It usually takes a moment or two to get the first.

[Audience Questions]


Peter Picanso: What is the price for college students?

Bill Karl: Peter, it is $25 with no updates.


David Crews: Bill, I assume EM Assist can run on a local server as an Intranet. How much interactiveness does it have in information and report sharing and can it be customized by the client to meet specific needs?

Bill Karl: David, it has very limited customizable capabilities. It is not an information-sharing or report-sharing software --- it works with other software that have these capabilities, like Web EOC.


James Tyree: Would there be a break in the price for volunteer fire departments?

Bill Karl: James, not right now but maybe in the future. We need to adjust the price to meet the capabilities of the marketplace. I have some ideas but not ready to discuss yet.


Robert Swan: Does EM assist contain information on how to respond to debris management issues, before and after a disaster?

Bill Karl: Robert, our latest version includes a Response button and has response information. We are working on the response area very hard. I notice that EIIP looked at the use of the Internet for response several months ago. We have given a lot of thought to this subject. We have added a large Response button on the upper right land corner of the EM Assist screen. This button links to a phase approach for response --- hazard assessment, alert and notification etc. It also links to the North America Emergency Response guidebook, various national hotlines and response centers and other information such as the parts of the CIA. Hope this answers your question.


Robert Swan: Bill, I would like to get with you in the near future on this topic. Email me at <[email protected]>.

Bill Karl: Robert, thanks very much for your interest.


Joanne McGlown: Just wanted to respond to James; the $25 price is well worth it. I know how hard it is to find funds in the volunteer world, but it is an amazing resource. I require it of all my Master's students in the Emergency Management concentration.


David Crews: Do the definitions in EM Assist contain a taxonomy to establish accurate descriptions of resources needed to satisfy requirements for disaster recovery?

Bill Karl: David, not yet but I am working on a project for FEMA that is solving this problem. It is a problem that will be solved in the future.


James Tyree: I'm lost, is it $25 or $300, for the fire department?

Bill Karl: James, right now if you a student, it is $25. I need to revisit the price for volunteers.


Amy Sebring: James, perhaps by getting together with other VFDs you could come up with a bulk order? I am thinking of your national level organizations.

Bill Karl: As these issues come up, we will address them on an individual basis.


Amy Sebring: Bill, I particularly like the idea of including professional development information, even found a link to holding virtual meetings! Can you expand a little on the type of professional development material? You mentioned strategic planning, for example. This is a topic that has come up several times in this Forum.

Bill Karl: We have done a lot of research in this area. As I worked on the professional development series for NETC, I found it important to update and expand this area. We have included the typical stuff of reducing stress, speaking, writing more effectively but also include topics like getting better results, setting agendas etc.


David Crews: Bill, you mentioned that EM Assist has instructions for using the Internet. Does it contain any information on how to set up a local Intranet on a server and info about a using it in a virtual EOC environment?

Bill Karl: David, we have not address this issue. We have a list of search engines and describe which ones to use; we also have 'Ask Jeeves' that is a very good search engine.


Avagene Moore: Bill, does the professional development include certification programs? If so, can you give us an example or two by organization or type of certification? This area seems to be growing rapidly.

Bill Karl: Avagene, actually we are working on the certification issue as we speak. There is interest to certify 911 operators. We are exploring with JSU on using EM Assist to develop a certification program for 911 operators. I might add, the Association of Public Safety Communicators is interested in this project.


Amy Sebring: JSU?

Bill Karl: Jacksonville State University.


Amy Sebring: One of the things we try to highlight here in the Forum is the continuing research. Do you include these kinds of resources as well?

Bill Karl: Amy, yes, we have best practices and links to the virtual libraries and case studies.


Peter Picanso: Getting back to the professional development area, does it have a list of resources for additional courses or universities? I'm particularly interested in the area of undergraduate studies and have a dearth of options on the west coast.

Bill Karl: Peter - we have right now about 30 courses on the CD. We are expanding this area --- the courses are from facilitation to information warfare.


Helen Norris: You mention the ability to update information. Is there going to be a charge for the updates as with a subscription for virus updates?

Bill Karl: Helen, the first update is free. Future updates after the first year are $200 per year.


Robert Swan: Is there a way to view a sample of the software? I am having trouble visualizing the product.

Bill Karl: Robert, I will send you an old version that I use for a demo.

Amy Sebring: Bob, if you see the transcript, it may help you also. Two screen shots are included.

Robert Swan: Thanks. That will be very helpful.


David Crews: Have you translated EM Assist into any other languages, e.g. Spanish?

Bill Karl: David, I am working with two international companies. They are handling the marketing of the CD. I feel that the legislation issue forces into a new disk. George Washington University took a copy to Turkey about a week ago.


Amy Sebring: Bill, legislation issue?

Bill Karl: Amy, legislation is key to definitions of terms and approaches to program. SARA Title III has a lot of specific definitions that would not apply to other countries.


Amy Sebring: Can you tell us anymore at this time what you are working on for FEMA for terminology or taxonomy, or does that need to wait a bit?

Bill Karl: Amy, Alabama CSEPP is building a resource taxonomy and a data plan that will work in FEMIS. I believe the approach can be expanded into other hazards and programs.

Amy Sebring: (Chemical Stockpile Emergency Preparedness Program, I believe. ) Very interesting indeed.

Final Question:

David Crews: Have you included the new 1600 EM Standard in EM Assist?

Amy Sebring: It's not published yet, David. I don't expect it will be out by March.

Bill Karl: David - this is a good question. We are aligning the CD to conform to NFPA 1600. Philosophically I have always endorsed the program approach to EM. So there is not a lot of work that needs to done in this area.


Amy Sebring: Thank you very much for being with us today, Bill. We hope you enjoyed it. Please stand by for a moment while we take care of some business.

Bill Karl: Amy, thank you and thank everyone for the interest.

Amy Sebring: Avagene, can you tell us what's on for next week, please?

Avagene Moore: Thank you, Amy. And my appreciation to you, Bill, for sharing EM Assist with us. Very informative.

Next Wednesday, we start our February sessions for the month with a session in the Virtual Library. Kenneth L. Patterson, Sr., Firefighter and EMT from St Augustine, Florida will present his paper, "Issues in the Wildland/Urban Interface". Ken's paper was recently published in the 1999 edition of the American Society of Professional Emergency Planners (ASPEP) Journal.

Make your plans to participate in next week's session on Wednesday, February 2, 12 Noon EST. That's all for now, Amy.

Amy Sebring: Thank you, Ava. We have also decided to add an opportunity for our audience members to make announcements. Are there any announcements from the floor?

Claire Rubin: Check out The Emergency Management Society meeting in FL in May at <http://www.tiems.org>.

Amy Sebring: Thanks, Claire. Any other announcements? Thanks again, Bill and thank you, audience. We will adjourn the session for now, but you are invited to remain for open discussion.