Edited Version of August 9, 2000 Transcript
EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation

"Third Anniversary Celebration and the Global Disaster Information Network"

Szwarckop, J. D.
GDIN Committee Support Office

Avagene Moore
EIIP Coordinator

Amy Sebring
EIIP Technical Projects Coordinator

The original unedited transcript of the August 9, 2000 online Virtual Library presentation is available in the EIIP Virtual Library Archives (http://www.emforum.org/vlibrary/livechat.htm). 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 Forum! Today is a very special day -- a proud and happy day! The EIIP Virtual Forum was launched 3 years ago. Through trial/error, a lot of work, and with the help of you all, we provide a means of staying on top of the disaster business from your desktop regardless of location or time zone.

We appreciate you being here with us to celebrate and hopefully encourage the continuation of online interactive discussions with subject matter experts from the disaster/emergency management community. Your presence and words of support are the reasons the EIIP Virtual Forum is alive and well today!

This past year has been phenomenal in its own way. We continue to grow a credible reputation and following for this type of global sharing of information and networking.

One of the highlights of the year was the December '99 WEBEX II exercise in conjunction with the Virtual Fire & Rescue Expo (VFRE) --- WEBEX is another example of the EIIP pushing the envelope and creating an opportunity for new Internet experiences and learning. If you are unfamiliar with WEBEX, please see <http://www.vfre.com/presentation26/> for further information after today's session.

We were also pleased that we were able to be part of the GDIN Conference in Ankara, Turkey in the spring. We had a remarkable 2-hour connection and did 3 workshops that connected folks in Ankara and around the world. A wonderful global experience!

However, our Wednesday sessions with experts and our audiences that make them so successful are our real pride and joy. This year, the number of participants each week has at least doubled; we have averaged 40-45 per session for the year 2000. It is so rewarding when you, the audience, take the time to be with us.

Another big change this year is that speakers are coming to us in many cases and asking for an opportunity to do a presentation. If you have looked at our Presenter Hall of Fame for the year, you know the lineup of speakers was great! A veritable "Who's Who" in the Emergency/Disaster Management field! We thank each and every speaker for their time and effort on behalf of the EIIP Virtual Forum. Please review this year's Presenter Hall of Fame when convenient -- <http://www.emforum.org/vlibrary/000809.htm#FAME >-- our hat's off to each one of them!

As far as next year, we have plans for moving into distance learning. This has been part of our dream for the past 3 years. We hope to continue the EIIP Virtual Forum -- at the moment, we are working hard to find funding to keep us going. If you value the EIIP Virtual Forum and want it to continue, please let us know. Send us a 'rave' about what it means to you -- perhaps that will help and it will certainly lend moral support to Amy and me. The EIIP Virtual Forum is truly a labor of love for both of us.

I would be remiss if I didn't express publicly how much I personally value the friendship and expertise of Amy Sebring, EIIP Technical Projects Coordinator. Amy provides so much to the EIIP Virtual Forum and she is a true professional. Thank you, Amy!

And now it is my pleasure to ask Amy to tell us about the EIIP Pledges --- the Friends of the EIIP.

EIIP Pledges

Amy Sebring: Thanks, Ava, and the same goes for me. I am going to review where we stand to date on our filled pledges, but I need to do some clarification first.

First, not all the pledgers that I am going to mention pledged 12 months ago. Some may have pledged after August last year, so they may be still working on perfect attendance at this point. From here on out, we will recognize each 12 month fulfillment as it occurs.

Second, we gave pledge credit for showing up at least part of the time, that is, if for some reason a pledge tried to attend, and could not stay connected, we counted them anyway.

Third, "pledges completed" does not take into account how many sessions were completed -- only that the pledger met his particular pledge level for that month.

Also, some pledgers attended more than the pledged amount in a given month. We are only counting up to the pledge, however, we certainly commend those who did the extra time!

I am going to start with those who have completed 6 months of fulfilled pledges at this time, and work our way up to 12 months. Please hold your congratulations, (or send them privately), until the end. Here we go!

Six month pledges: 6 individuals have completed 6 months of fulfilled pledges:

Dennis Hicketheir, Tim Murphy, Jan Kimmell, Chip Hines, Steve Smith, and Christopher Effgen

Seven month pledges: 5 persons have completed 7 months of fulfilled pledges:

Terry Storer, Jim Cook, Rick Wood, Isabel McCurdy, and Roger Kershaw

Eight month pledges: 3 persons have completed 8 months of fulfilled pledges:

Kevin Farrell, Don Hartley, and Leslie Little

Nine month pledges: 4 persons have completed 9 months of fulfilled pledges:

Claire Rubin, Ray Pena, Burt Wallrich, and Rick Tobin

Top 3 categories ... drum roll please ....

Ten month pledges: Those completing 10 months of fulfilled pledges are:

Cam King, Darryl Spiewak and Linda Underwood

Eleven month pledges: We have one individual who has completed 11 months who is Gilbert Gibbs!

Twelve month pledges: And we do have one person who has completed, (or at least attempted to complete) 12 months - David Crews - !! Way to go David!

Now can we please hear/see your congratulations to ALL our pledgers! (At this point, the majority of participants expressed their congratulations.)

Amy Sebring: We will send David an appropriate certificate, suitable for framing, (not sure if we can afford the frame!) and we hope you can use this certificate of evidence of professional development for CEM credit, life experience credit, or at least show it to your boss and see if you can get a raise!

David Crews: Thanks Amy!

Amy Sebring: We will send such a certificate to anyone who hits 12 months of filled pledges, regardless of how long it takes you to do it! We will also notify you when you hit 12 months, and ask you if you would like to renew your pledge for another 12 months, assuming we can keep going that long! We are also happy to take any new pledges today! Just go to <http://www.emforum.org/eiip/pledge.htm> and fill out the form.

We have a new pledge this week from Peter Buchner in Germany, < //bell http://www.emforum.org/pledge.wav> Thanks Peter! I would like to add that we have seen what a difference this has made in our attendance this year, and has been very worthwhile. We don't always pick the most sensational topics, because we try to cover a wide variety of things that we think are important, and that you should know about. So it really helps that when a speaker goes to the time and trouble it takes to prepare a session for us, free gratis, that there is a decent audience for his efforts. It also makes the sessions more beneficial for everyone when you are here contributing your questions and comments. Ava, I will turn it back to you to add your comments and to introduce our special guest for today.


Avagene Moore: Thank you, Amy. We appreciate the Friends of the EIIP and encourage you to become one if you have not previously done so. Now, it is my pleasure to introduce our special guest today. Joseph D. Szwarckop is the Director of the Global Disaster Information Network (GDIN) Committee Support Office. J. D. supervises an interagency staff responsible for supporting the Interagency Coordination Committee and for implementing the GDIN program under the Committee's guidance. Please read J. D.'s full bio after the session to find out about his distinguished career prior to being appointed as FEMA's representative to the GDIN program.

Welcome, J. D.


J. D. Szwarckop: Hello everyone; thank you for your kind introduction. Before I begin I would like to wish EIIP a Happy Birthday and congratulations on another successful year.

I would also like to extend my appreciation to Avagene and Amy for doing such a fine job producing the forum over the past three years. Again, happy birthday and congratulations. To you out there in cyberland, thank you for this opportunity to speak to you about the Global Disaster Information Network (GDIN) initiative.

GDIN is a concept for reducing the impact of natural and man-made disasters through an improved application of information technology for disaster management. As envisioned, GDIN is a robust, integrated, virtual information and decision support process which provides for the timely and accurate exchange of relevant emergency management information during all phases of disaster management to save lives and reduce economic loss.

For years the effectiveness of emergency management has been hampered by the community's inability to readily access required disaster information. This obstacle has been due in part to the lack of standardization, integration and interconnectivity.

To achieve the desired accessibility, the GDIN initiative would encourage the participation by all stakeholders and promote the establishment of a distributive knowledge base, interconnectivity and integration. Stakeholders would include government at all levels, non-government organizations, industry, academia, research community and the general public.

A distributed knowledge base would consist of systems of measurement, methods of data visualization and exploitation, information analysis, event forecasting, knowledge modeling and data and information management. Interconnectivity would entail the modes of communication employed to retrieve and distribute data as well as disseminate information products developed with the distributed knowledge base. Integration would address the tracking of system performance, standardization, quality and reliability assurance and systems training.

With the foregoing explanation, one might very appropriately ask, "What will GDIN provide that is value added?" Required disaster information will be accessed through a search engine dedicated to disaster management. Information will be passed over the Internet and dedicated national communications systems. Policies will be established that promote the availability of information as well as certify the quality and reliability of information. Processes will be established that provide security and confidentially for the disaster information required.

Having stated in general terms what GDIN is, it is also important to state what GDIN is not. First, the network is not a supranational communications authority for disaster information management. Second, it is not an initiative to replace current emergency management facilities and systems. Rather, the system would build upon existing activities and encourage voluntary compliance to standards and processes developed collectively by GDIN's stakeholders.

What does this all mean, for example, to the emergency manager and other decision- makers involve in disaster management? By establishing a GDIN, everyone will have:

• a "network" for sharing critical expertise, data and technology;

• a "collaboration forum" for information exchanges across all levels of civil, military and commercial sectors,

• an "Internet-accessible archive" for time-critical and value-added information.

President Clinton underscored the importance of establishing GDIN when in April of this year he signed an Executive Order directing the Federal government to support domestic and foreign disasters through the use of the GDIN concept. This order establishes an Interagency Coordinating Committee (ICC), comprised of 13 departments and agencies, to provide leadership and oversight for the development of GDIN. The order also establishes my office - Committee Support Office - to assist the ICC by developing plans and products that promote GDIN.

By this executive document, GDIN, as a program, has official recognition and the infrastructure to accomplish what is required to establish the concept. But if GDIN is to succeed as a program, support by the Federal government is not enough. All stakeholders need to be involved in the development of the network.

One way to accomplish this task is by forming a public-private partnership. We have already begun working toward that end by participating in a number of emergency management conferences to inform attendees of the concept. Further we are sponsoring a GDIN Exposition and Conference in Hawaii this October 9-11. Our purpose is to explore the needs of participants in government, business, and non-profit sectors related to emergency management technologies.

We are also investigating the possibility of conducting a national conference to promote GDIN. In addition, as we work toward forming the public-private partnership, the GDIN program will focus its attention to establishing disaster information interconnectivity within the Federal government.

I have mentioned the principal activities of the program for the upcoming year. For those who have developed programs, you know that there is a lot more to be done with regard to planning, administration and logistics. I know that some of you have questions so I'll close by recommending the following documents for a more detailed explanation of the GDIN concept:

Disaster Information Task Force Report. Harnessing Information and Technology for Disaster Management: The Global Disaster Information Network (GDIN), November 1997, 115pp.

National Research Council, Reducing Disaster Losses Through Better Information, National Academy Press: Washington, D.C. 1999.

President William Jefferson Clinton, Executive Order 13151: "Global Disaster Information Network", April 27, 2000, found at <http://www.whitehouse.gov/library>.

(The latter two are linked from the background page for today's session.)

Thank you for this opportunity to briefly describe the GDIN initiative to you. I hope this presentation will stimulate everyone to learn more about the program and how important it is to the welfare of our country. I am now ready to answer your questions.

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Avagene Moore: Thank you, J. D., for the overview of GDIN. I remind you of the protocol for asking questions of our guest. Please input a question mark (?) to indicate you wish to speak. Compose your question but hold it until you are identified by name, then hit Send or Enter to submit your question to the chat screen. We will take questions and comments in the order in which they appear on the screen. Please submit your ? now if you have a question of Director Szwarckop.Please input your ? now. Louise, whenever you are ready, submit your question.

Amy Sebring: Please be patient for responses. There appears to be some lag time in the connection to Washington. Director Szwarckop is coming from inside the Pentagon.


Louise Comfort: J.D., thanks for the summary of GDIN. How many nations are currently involved in GDIN?

Joe Szwarckop: At last count I understood 13.


Louise Comfort: Are there plans to increase this number?

Joe Szwarckop: We are encouraging all nations by attending conferences that are international, for example the Inter-American Development Bank conference.


Steve Detwiler: With the implementation with this new Disaster Networking systems will the Federal government be depending on private contractors to handle the functional areas? (gathering data etc.)

Joe Szwarckop: Re: contractors, that is still to be worked out through a public private partnership.


Jack Long: Is GDIN focused strictly on disaster response, or can it serve as a medium for sharing preparedness information as well (sharing best practices and lessons learned, for example)?

Joe Szwarckop: It is what the community wants. The idea is to make the process better for accessing info from all sources.


Amy Sebring: What happens to Executive Orders when the Administration changes? And has any funding been approved for FY2001?

Joe Szwarckop: No funding approved. Executive Orders stand unless revoked by the incoming.


David Crews: The GDIN Website URL is <http://www.gdin-international.org>. There is a lot of new information been posted on the Working Groups and the GDIN Initiatives in the past three weeks.

Joe Szwarckop: I need to explain something about the program. The US GDIN program is made up of two parts, the national and what I call IDIN. The goal was to first establish an NDIN, then go on to expanding the concept to an international activity. The international side jumped ahead because other nations saw the value right away. Because of some politics, the national side wasn't funded so hasn't moved as far as the international.


Mohan: I would like to know how international organisations could participate in GDIN?

Joe Szwarckop: We have another International conference coming up in March in Australia; that is a good time to join in.

Avagene Moore: Thank you, J. D. I will ask Steve, Amy and Louise to submit your questions now so we can cut down on the lag time, please. I will help track the questions.


Louise Comfort: J.D.: At the Ankara Conference, there was discussion about changing the name of GDIN to GDIN-USA, to make it consistent with other national DIN's. Has this been done?


Amy Sebring: The Website David mentioned is focused on the International GDIN effort. Is a Website being planned for the domestic effort?

Joe Szwarckop: Ref: web site, a GDIN-USA is being constructed to address the national activity. GDIN-Int will continue to reflect the program as the international community sees it.

[Closing of formal portion]

Avagene Moore: J. D. I am afraid we are out of time. Sorry. Thank you again, J. D., for your time and effort in the Virtual Forum. Please stay with us if you can afford the time. Audience, thank you for your fine participation.

Upcoming event:

Before moving to the remainder of our anniversary party, I must inform you that our session next Wednesday August 16, 12 Noon EDT, is one you don't dare miss.

Everyone in this business needs to be aware and supportive of the Congressional Natural Hazards Caucus, co-chaired by Senators Ted Stevens (R-AK) and John Edwards (D-NC). The kickoff event for the Natural Hazards Caucus was June 21 in Washington, DC.

David Applegate, Director of Government Affairs at the American Geological Institute, and Peter Folger, Public Affairs Manager for the American Geophysical Union, will bring us up to date on the Congressional Natural Hazards Caucus on August 16. Make it a point to join us on that date.

Amy, I turn the floor to you now. It's party time!

Third Anniversary Party

Amy Sebring: Thanks Avagene, and Let the Party Begin!

Amy Sebring: Put on your //hat, blow up a //balloon, grab some //cake, raise your //glass, and please sing along with the Prairie Dogs at <http://www.justfree.com/mrsg/pdbirthday.html>. Notice the cake with 3 candles at the top of that page!

Paul Bourget: Happy Birthday, EIIP!

Peter Buchner: In Germany it is 7 PM now. Time to have a drink for the birthday party?

Amy Sebring: Now we would like to share some birthday cards with you.

• This first one is from one of our partners in Peru, Antonio Ramirez at the University of Piura <http://www.emforum.org/vlibrary/bday3/Running.htm>.

• And here is one from our friend and partner Jan Zastrow in Hawaii where it is VERY early at the moment, <http://www3.bluemountain.com/cards/box4287h/xja9rpmxmjmuit.htm>.

• And here is one from Isabel,


We had a game prepared. We have run way over time, does anyone want to play? (Twenty-five participants wanted to play.) Ok, I will carry on. This is just for fun, so you are on your honor for scoring, there are no prizes! We are going to play an adaptation of Scattergories. Don't worry if you have never played it before; it is very easy.

[Whereupon 4 rounds of on-line Scattergories ensued.]

Amy Sebring: That's it for our party this year. Let's hope we make it to celebrate year 4! Please tell your friends and co-workers about us and invite them to check out the Virtual Forum. I would also like to thank our partners Monty Gearhart and Pat West for supporting the EIIP with server support! They are great to work with and make it all possible! Support the VFRE and watch for firefighting.com!