EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation – January 15, 2003

ComCARE Alliance's E-Safety Program
"Modern End-to-End Emergency Communications Systems"

Art Botterell
Associate Director, ComCARE Alliance

Avagene Moore, CEM
Moderator, EIIP Coordinator

The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. A raw, unedited transcript is available upon request to [email protected]

[Welcome / Introduction]

Avagene Moore: Welcome to the EIIP Virtual Forum! On behalf of Amy Sebring and myself, we are happy to see everyone here today. We have a well-known speaker and an interesting topic for our first session of 2003. Our session today is an overview of the ComCARE Alliance. The EIIP learned about ComCARE through contacts via IAEM and now we are partnering with them.

We are pleased to introduce Art Botterell who is no stranger to most of us in the disaster management field. Art has more than 30 years experience in emergency management and mass media. He has served on the national response staff of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and with the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (OES). Art has also worked as a consultant to industry groups and government agencies in the U.S. and Asia.

Art is now working with ComCARE and serves as an Associate Director of the organization. Please see Art's biographical information via the EIIP Virtual Forum home page after our session today. Please help me welcome our speaker, Art Botterell.


Art Botterell: Thanks for having me on your screens today! If you would please, see Slide 1.

[Slide 1]

The ComCARE Alliance is a national non-profit organization formed in 1998 to advance and improve communications in transportation, emergency medical services, public safety, and emergency management.

ComCARE's more than 90 members are organizations interested in using open standards for emergency communications and in bringing technical "best practices" from the private sector into public service. In particular, ComCARE is working on network architectures and protocols for the exchange of real-time emergency information to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of dispatch, response and resource management day-to-day as well as in disasters.

ComCARE got involved in this work through its advocacy for the Wireless Communications & Public Safety Act of 1999, which led to the development of data formats for vehicular Automatic Crash Notification and more recently, the integration of ACN with other formats including the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) in an all-hazards "E-Safety Network."

For a complete list of ComCARE's membership you can look at http://www.comcare.org, but for right now, please see Slide 2.

[Slide 2]

A number of important companies, organizations and associations have recognized the need for an integrated, interoperable E-Safety Network. The E-Safety Network is an approach to interoperability for data systems; as we all understand, "interoperability" isn't just for radios!

A variety of groups and companies have begun to focus on standards-based data messaging, much of it using the XML data-sharing language to link sensors, computer-aided dispatch systems, emergency management software and mobile applications used in the field. All in order to deliver "Better Information, Faster, to the Right People."

[Slide 3]

The new awareness of recent days has brought a focus on issues many of us have recognized for years:

• At present we have no comprehensive interoperable national emergency communications and IT infrastructure.

• Most public safety communication systems are primarily oriented toward voice, with weak support for data or video.

• The lack of standards and shared networks impairs our ability to share data efficiently from fixed or mobile facilities.

• And most of our data is still after-the-fact and "siloed" for collection and analysis, not for decision support and action.

As a result, we risk sending responders into situations without all the available information. That's inefficient at best, and can be catastrophic at worst.

[Slide 4]

Fortunately, private industry has been working for years on the problems of interoperability and time-critical, mission-critical data exchange. Industry leaders like Walmart and VISA have learned that shared standards and multi-use networks can help them improve results and control costs. As a result, they've moved to mature standards-based technologies like IP-based networks and XML to eliminate data "silos." This slide describes a consensus architecture for emergency messaging and data exchange, the so-called "E-Safety Network."

[Slide 5]

Data flows among responders in the field and managers in their operating centers through a secure integrated message-switching system with a shared Emergency Provider Access Directory (EPAD) providing message routing information.

[Slide 6]

One of the results is a tremendous improvement in the usefulness of GIS and CAD as emergency decision-support tools. Computer-generated maps can help us enormously by integrating complex "situational awareness" information from multiple sources but only if we can pull together all the available data sources in real-time. Getting the data is always the big challenge for GIS.

The E-Safety Network creates a common platform for integrating all kinds of incident data "telematics" data from vehicles, hazmat data, CAD data, etc., so it can be fused on the screen as a single "big picture" display for the working emergency manager.

[Slide 7]

I mentioned the EPAD a moment ago. EPAD is a "spatially enabled" directory service, which means it's fully compatible with GIS. EPAD lets us query a latitude/longitude location and find out instantly which agencies are responsible for rescue, law enforcement or whatever at that location. By creating EPAD as a shared service, operated on a non-profit basis and supported by usage fees, we can enhance database quality and reduce costs as compared to "stand-alone" implementations.

ComCARE is developing a management framework for the EPAD directory service and a prototype is in use right now for a demo E-Safety system being built by a team of ComCARE member companies. That project, in Virginia's beautiful Shenandoah Valley, is actually doing its first exercise with the system tomorrow.

[Slide 8]

Using shared interoperable standards and a comprehensive shared directory service, we can help our team work as a team now more than ever.

Of course, the E-Safety Network is just the sum of its members' efforts. ComCARE exists to bring people – like you – together to take advantage of the new opportunities for service that new technologies are giving us.

Please see the contact information on Slide 9. Meanwhile, I'll be glad to address your questions at this point.

[Slide 9]

[Audience Questions & Answers]


Rick Tobin: My question is about turning data into information. With the growing number of baby boomers leaving the profession, and training budgets cut, how will we bring people and information together in a meaningful way?

Art Botterell: Good question, Rick. There's information, and then there's wisdom, of course. The wisdom we lose through generation changes in our profession can only be addressed by giving the younger generation access to our experience and then getting the heck out of their way! Several of the most exciting applications of the E-Safety architecture are in the training and exercise-support area.


David Crews: Art is there an effort with the US Auto-makers to integrate traffic emergency response into data and voice systems for private autos? It would be extremely helpful for the traveling public to see/hear and avoid traffic emergencies as well as all hazards with a system like ComCare, especially with the navigation systems being offered in vehicles based on GPS/CAD.

Art Botterell: As ever, David, the problem is at the input. There are plenty of tools now for getting information to drivers and plenty more on the way. But the challenge is fusing all the different relevant data sources into a single, comprehensive situational picture for the driver.


Donovan Hoggan: Please forgive my ignorance, but what does GIS stand for?

Art Botterell: Please forgive me. Geographic Information Systems, the fusion of database, graphic display and spatial analysis applications to make computerized maps.


A.J. Harrison: Art, as you know, I already have an E-Safety Alerting system in place. What is the difference in what my system does, and what your organization is doing? Can we help in some way? As you know, my goal has always been to help the American public! The one thing that prompted the question is that we can alert 1,300,000 people at once. Of course we deal with e-mail only at this time.

Art Botterell: I think there's a key role for your system, AJ, and others like it as elements of the E-Safety Network. The problem for any warning system is to get the inputs from all the different possible sources and in all the possible formats. And that problem isn't just limited to warning. All kinds of emergency management and public safety systems face essentially the same challenge.

So what we're trying to do is arrive at a set of data standards and to create a network infrastructure to get you and everyone else the inputs needed to leverage all that great dissemination and display capacity.


Amy Sebring: Is there an implementation strategy beyond the demonstration? In order to make shared costs reasonable, it would seem you would have to have a good-sized user base.

Art Botterell: We're working on that. Fortunately, there's also some ability to phase the development both of EPAD and the network infrastructure to pace it to resources.


Sunnie Baldwin: Will this mesh with such services as CMI-Services.org?

Art Botterell: The E-Safety Network is based on open, non-proprietary data standards, so any system that wants to mesh, can.


David Crews: Is the FCC one of your Federal partners? Are they working on information and broadcast standards/systems that will allow integration of emergency response data into future comm/data/video systems?

Art Botterell: Federal agencies have to deal with some particular rules about how they can interact with private enterprise so we have to interact with the Commission through some formal filing and comment processes. That's one of the things ComCARE coordinates for its members. In general the FCC is looking to industry to bring forth such standards, and ComCARE members are doing that.


Avagene Moore: Art, I have a two-part question. You mentioned an exercise in VA tomorrow; what is the scope of that exercise (short version)? Will the results be shared beyond your internal needs?

Art Botterell: Small field exercise, with the E-Safety systems being used for information exchange. Don't know exactly what the after-action reporting process will be, but I'm sure you'll hear about it!


Rick Tobin: Art, do you see this centralization and distribution as an increase or decrease to cyber-terrorism risks to critical infrastructure for communications?

Art Botterell: No centralization involved as you understand; what appear to be discrete functions are frequently implemented using distributed and redundant infrastructure. But in general, I think it's a lot easier to secure a few well-known open systems than a patchwork of proprietary ones, any of which could have an unrecognized vulnerability.


John Niles: ComCARE is helping Center to Bridge the Digital Divide and public safety agencies in Washington State implement E-Safety. Very helpful, great partnership!

Art Botterell: Washington is taking a strong leadership role. Thanks, John!


Amy Sebring: Are the open GIS standards developed under the Open GIS Consortium integral to this? That is, in the area of GIS will you adopt those standards?

Art Botterell: Yes, we're working with OGC to keep the spatial components standards-based.


Avagene Moore: We are about out of time. We will have a transcript posted by tomorrow, Thursday. Please look for it then. Thanks to everyone for participating today - you have been a great audience - and please help us thank Art for his fine presentation. Art you did a great job! The EIIP Virtual Forum is adjourned!