EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation – March 19, 2003

Geospatial Preparedness for Emergency Managers
The Interagency Geospatial Preparedness Team (IGPT)

Susan Kalweit
IGPT Chief, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Avagene Moore

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.

Our session today is an overview of "Geospatial Preparedness for Emergency Managers: The Interagency Geospatial Preparedness Team (IGPT)." FEMA has established an IGPT to help make geospatial information and technologies more readily available to the national community of emergency managers and responders. The team is coordinating its work with that of the Office of Management and Budget's (OMB) e-government initiative, Geospatial One-Stop.

Our guest speaker today is IGPT Chief, Susan Kalweit, who is currently detailed to FEMA from the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) where she was the Deputy Chief of the North America and Homeland Security division.

Ms. Kalweit is a 17-year employee of NIMA. She began her career as an imagery analyst addressing national security concerns in the former Soviet Union and China. Over the course of her career she has been involved in advanced technology research and development, partnerships with industry, and developing strategies supporting NIMA's transformation in Geospatial Intelligence.

We are very pleased to host this session today. It is my pleasure to welcome Susan Kalweit to the EIIP Virtual Forum! Susan, I now turn the floor to you.


Susan Kalweit: Hello, it is a pleasure to be here today and it is good to see you in the audience. It's exciting for me to be engaging in a dialogue with you, the key stakeholders for our initiative.

Today, I plan to review the basic mission of the IGPT and why and how the team got started. I want to start by saying that this effort is about preparedness. It's about how we improve our capability to make better decisions when planning for, mitigating against, responding to, or recovering from any hazard event.

The premise of our work is that through the application of remote sensing data, GPS, GIS and mapping technologies, we are better able to understand the situation, know where applicable resources and assets are to address the situation, and direct those resources in the most efficient and effective manner possible. This is the premise that drives our vision, our strong desire to ensure that the nation's emergency management capability is underpinned with geospatial knowledge.

When something occurs, the first question that someone asks is "Where is it and what does it look like?" The second question might be "Where are my assets necessary to respond and how do I get those assets from where they are to where I need them." And, then next could be "how do I get people safely out of harms reach?"

All of these questions depend on having the correct information about the incident, about the area that's affected and the area where resources will come from. The resources may come from the immediate area, but they may also come from other states or jurisdictions. The bottom line is that in each case there's one common denominator - location, location, location. Geospatial information and the technologies that enable us to view and apply geospatial information to the problem at hand is what brings location-in a visual sense and in the sense of connecting disparate data sets-into the decision-making cycle.

As critical as location information is, and as widespread as its use across government is, what exists isn't necessarily useable, shareable or readily available. This is in part due to the fact that (1) there hasn't been a consistent application of national standards; (2) licensing, local laws and other factors have hindered open data sharing; and (3) data is tied up in data base silos unknown or inaccessible to a broader audience outside that agency or department.

This is simply unacceptable when you have to be prepared to respond anywhere at any time. This is why our activity is centered upon partnerships, use of a common spatial reference system and the application of open standards as the way to have national interoperability and gain the benefits of cost savings through efficient sharing of resources.

Toward that end, we are collaborating with the e-Gov initiative Geospatial One-Stop and the Federal Geographic Data Committee, which are responsible for developing many of the national standards that geospatial preparedness will rely upon. In addition, we are collaborating with DisasterHelp.gov on their geospatial and mapping requirements.

Another situation that exists today is that in some areas of our country there isn't any geospatial data, or what exists is so limiting that it can't be used for anything other than what it was built for. Our decision support tools and other emergency planning or response applications depend upon having the best available data. When the best available is none at all or poor data, then the best tools and applications are rendered useless. This why we are changing the paradigm to assuring the best data and it's available nationwide.

So, how will the national geospatial preparedness strategy assure the best data - and it's available?

It starts with a needs and capabilities assessment. And, this is where we need your help. We plan to describe the needs in the context of how you conduct your business.

For example, the process of developing evacuation routes requires that you know where the roads are, where people live, and where the affected areas are likely to be given the disaster scenario you're planning for. Roads, demographic information, and the geographic extent of disaster affects based on simulations or models are all examples of types of geospatial information. So, we plan to link, for example, evacuation route planning to centerline road data, demographic data, and hazards modeling results. What other business processes do you employ in the course of planning for, mitigating against, responding to, or recovering from any hazard event?

We want to learn from you, and plan to use regional workshops as a mechanism to flesh out your business processes and link them to geospatial needs. During this process, we also plan to gather information about the geospatial capabilities already in use. Some of this information will be gleaned from our partnership with industry, some will come from learning or hearing about what you have.

By October this year, we hope to have a comprehensive needs and capabilities assessment from which we will then identify the gaps that have to be filled to complete the geospatial preparedness picture. Filling the gaps will require both financial resources and new or stronger partnerships at all levels of government and with the private sector. Some financial resources will come from federal programs already in place to acquire and distribute geospatial information. Other financial resources may come from a grant program that we will recommend in the strategy.

The other critical financial aspect is the issue that money flowing in will seed the foundation for our national spatial preparedness. But over the long haul, it is an expensive proposition to expect the federal government to continue putting money in and to sustaining it. So, we will be looking at potential market mechanisms that will allow this program to become self-sustaining. Market mechanisms such as those similar to what the flood insurance program uses already, whereby if you adhere to certain standards, using flood mapping data, you get a break on your insurance.

Why couldn't we have something similar in the case of managing and maintaining your critical infrastructure in a GIS, and thereby "hardening" your city through knowledge of your critical infrastructure? Knowledge that includes how well your structures are maintained. Knowledge that perhaps reduces the risk to the insurance industry. The takeaway is that we need to identify how to create a self-sustaining mechanism for maintaining geospatial preparedness over the long term.

Finally, all of the money in the world can't overcome certain barriers to intergovernmental data sharing. We plan to identify and surface these barriers and then make recommendations on national policies that might be able to overcome the obstacles.

For example, one barrier to sharing is the need to have legal documentation, like an MOU between sharing parties. Constraints on time available from your legal counsel may stall your ability to get these MOUs in place quickly. What if there was a national template for sharing arrangements? Perhaps that could break loose one type of obstacle to open sharing.

With that overview of what the interagency team will do, let's look at who the interagency team is. First, the Interagency Geospatial Preparedness Team is led and sponsored by FEMA as they were the ones to recognize the need for national preparedness to be underpinned by a geospatial infrastructure.

FEMA decided that the way to success for developing a geospatial strategy was to employ geospatial experts. So, they approached two of the leading geospatial agencies in the federal government, that being the National Imagery and Mapping Agency and the U.S. Geological Survey to ask if they would participate in the effort.

I am from NIMA. One of my deputies is from USGS and the other from FEMA. In addition, we have two outstanding officers from the US Department of Agriculture's Forest Service and from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and we're talking with other federal agencies as well. We work out of FEMA headquarters giving us the advantage of direct and regular contact with the emergency management community as represented by FEMA's roles and responsibilities.

In addition, through outreach efforts like this one and the regional workshops I spoke of earlier we hope to gain knowledge and build support for our effort throughout the emergency management community at state and local levels. The contact information for the team is available at http://www.emforum.org/vforum/igpt.htm .

I appreciate your time and attention to this issue that I feel will make a real difference to our nation and our nation's security. Thank you.

[Audience Questions & Answers]


Brenda Fennel: What mapping software is preferred by FEMA?

Susan Kalweit: FEMA uses a variety of GIS applications for a variety of business needs. In their response efforts, they currently are standardized on Map Info. Prior to the stand-up of the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS), FEMA was developing an enterprise architecture approach, which would also consider the needed GIS applications. Many of you may be aware that there is a significant effort going on in the DHS under Steve Cooper, CIO, to develop an Enterprise ARchitecture for the Department. All GIS applications are now being reviewed from the perspective of the larger department’s need. So, the short answer is that today, they use Map Info a lot, but that may change over the coming year or so.


David Kruse: Will the Regional Councils of Governments be involved in the regional forums? We are a national group of state sponsored non-profits that work across county lines, there are 24 in Texas. http://www.aacog.com

Susan Kalweit: David, I am not familiar with the Regional Council of Governments. Coming from DoD many of the associations and such are new to me. I appreciate the URL so I can learn more about them. Thank you David. I will look into this organization.


David Crews: I just returned from the Space Shuttle Disaster DFO (Disaster Field Office). I work in Info and Planning for FEMA. We had one of the largest interagency GIS operations ever put together for a disaster. One problem that always arises is sharing of GIS data at all levels. The other is that public law and ownership is the greatest barrier to using GIS technology.

Susan Kalweit: David, you are so right on track. As I stated in my comments, all the money in the world can't overcome barriers to data sharing. Often the barriers have to do with licensing arrangements, proprietary aspects of the data or FOIA concerns. Our aim is to try to surface all these issues and propose, where possible, solutions or ways to overcome them. Data sharing is imperative not only for geospatial preparedness but for homeland security as a mission at large.

(Additional Comments)

Brenda Fennel: They need to look at ESRI applications if they want to be serious about serving data to different users. ESRI applications can use just about any file type and that is what was used in the debris recovery efforts.

Steve Sawyer: In Rhode Island, agencies are standardized on ESRI across the board.


Mark Whitney: First, thanks for your efforts re IGPT! Question, have you been getting good vibes from the private sector as an indication they will robustly support IGPT recommendations and existing FGDC standards such as US National Grid (USNG) / Geoaddressing?

Susan Kalweit: Thanks for your question. First, we have been getting extremely positive vibes from the spatial technology industry about supporting our recommendations. We haven't yet gotten involved with the private sector, e.g., the owners and operators of critical infrastructure. An initial quest into that venue suggests that these private sector folks would agree in principle to the IGPT recommendations, but have real concerns about data protection.

Mark Whitney: Really meant GIS and GPS vendors, sorry!

Susan Kalweit: Regarding your second question, we will point to all the relevant standards to make geospatial preparedness a reality. When you're talking about data related standards, FGDC is where we're focused. So, yes, we do plan to recommend USNG, that being said I also understand there may be concerns about that particular standard. I'm interested in hearing from anybody who has such concerns so we can address those concerns in the most appropriate way. The spatial technology industry includes GIS, GPS, data acquirers, system integrators, spatial dbms vendors, etc.


Jon Gottsegen: Two questions: 1) This one has been touched on already since I typed it out, so you can ignore it if you want. I think you mentioned proprietary data as one obstacle to data sharing. Will the team address issues like the balance between security of infrastructure data, say from utilities, and need to disseminate it? 2) Any thoughts about "standardizing" risk assessment or evacuation models, which obviously impacts data need?

Susan Kalweit: Jon, thanks for your questions. On the first, balancing security. The good news is that this is not a geospatial unique question but in fact impacts all of homeland security. To that end, we will leverage whatever work is being done in the security area by the Office of the CIO. However, we are also getting smarter about geospatial unique problems and solutions. One example yesterday was a discussion about digital watermarking technology for raster products. This holds some potential for dealing with proprietary, and other security issues for some data types, but not all. I hope that answered your question, if not please restate.

On the second question - we're just starting to investigate modeling and SIM tools. So, I don't have a solid answer yet for you, other than we need to understand what the data needs are for these tools.


Michael Dueweke: Institute for Geospatial Research & Education - Eastern Michigan University - selfish question - are there any guidelines for disaster preparedness for universities?

Susan Kalweit: I suggest you check the FEMA web site as a resource to find your answer.


Shripad Deo: The usefulness of geospatial information system is as good as the spatial data used. To make this a tool people can trust how do you plan support the data needs? With local, state and regional efforts going on, how do you plan to bring order to this apparently chaotic situation?

Susan Kalweit: Thanks for asking your question. You're right on. The tools are only as good as the data they are using. Garbage in is garbage out, which is why what we're striving toward is the BEST DATA and it's available. You ask a good question, however, how do I (the user) know it's the BEST data. One way will be through the metadata, but we may also need to consider a broader issue of assuring that the data is the best as not everyone who will use the data will understand the metadata. You have raised an issue we haven't yet thought about, so thank you. As far as order in chaos, if you subscribe to the chaos theory, then there is order in chaos. The vision in me says that once the data is out there, the users will figure out what data they should use and what data is garbage. This certainly won't happen overnight, but that's as far as my thinking has gone on the issue you raise.


Radha Krishnan: I am a Faculty member in the Emergency Preparedness Center at UTD and would love to collaborate and cooperate with your organization to help shape events for the future, how do I go about it?

Susan Kalweit: Thanks, Radha. Contact me by e-mail [email protected] to discuss.


William Cumming: What efforts are being made to incorporate satellite imagery in the project?

Susan Kalweit: Satellite imagery from our perspective is one collection means for imagery data. We will identify the use case or business uses in emergency management that use imagery with some explanation of resolution requirements. Those responsible for acquiring can determine what source is best.


Eric Kant: Hello Susan, 1.) Will you be conducting or participating in exercises to evaluate the quality of the information provided? 2.) Will you be making recommendations on geospatial modeling algorithms, such as the CATS product from DTRA that does chemical plume models, hurricane models and the like in a GIS environment? 3.) How do we join?

Susan Kalweit: I don't have plans in this year to participate in exercises that would evaluate the quality of information provided - good idea, however. I hope to at least gather a listing of modeling and simulation tools that are relevant to geo preparedness and link those to the data needs. We don't plan to conduct any evaluations of those tools. As a vendor, I encourage you to help us develop the national strategy through the STIA Defense and Security Geo Initiative. STIA has a web site with contact info if you wanted to follow up.


Amy Sebring: I think you are absolutely correct in seeking to identify obstacles. My concern is that more and more data needed for planning etc. will become harder to get with concerns about security (which has been touched on). And that hoops for each separate agency will be required. Any thoughts about a 'clearing house' approach such as hazardmaps.gov ? or thru Geospatial One Stop perhaps?

Susan Kalweit: There already is a lot of discussion in the community about what geo data to protect or not. We are aware of this discussion and participate in it as appropriate. As for a clearinghouse approach, we are working closely with Geo One-Stop, as we are also with DisasterHelp.gov. The bottom line from my perspective is being able to assure that those who need the data can have access to it when they need it, and that doesn't mean every day access. Again this is an issue bigger than just geo; we will look to the larger CIO efforts for recommendations.


David Crews: The most successful we have been with GIS in disaster recovery has been when we were allowed to match a local database from a community to the storm track provided by FEMA and NWS. That allowed us to match damaged areas to teleregistration and send Community Teams to people who had storm damage but had not registered for assistance.

Susan Kalweit: This makes perfect sense to me. From a business process standpoint I'm interested in learning more, how can we follow-up?

David Crews: [email protected]


Todd Bacastow: Does the National Guard have a potential coordinating role in identifying needs based on state/local contingency plans and likely operational scenarios?

Susan Kalweit: If you are asking does the NGB have a role in the overall strategy we're developing, yes. Do I yet fully understand or can I adequately express what the role is yet, no. I am working on getting a POC from the Guard so we can begin to engage them as both a contributor and user of national geo preparedness. Did that answer your question?

Todd Bacastow: Yes --- thanks!


Jon Gottsegen: Just was going to clarify my previous question. When I said data security, I wasn't thinking about protecting the data from inappropriate changes (an interesting problem though) as much as state, regional or local agencies getting data that serves a public good but is not being distributed for valid security reasons (e.g., utility infrastructure). Since this has been touched on already, perhaps you could direct me to how to get involved with the discussions on this issue.

Susan Kalweit: I'm not sure at this moment I have a good answer but would like to follow-up with you, as I suspect you might have some good insight into the issue. If you don't mind emailing me so we can continue the discussion a little more and maybe then we can figure out where to plug you in.


Beverly Cigler: Susan, can you provide some specifics on how your activities are being coordinated with state and especially local governments who do all kinds of mapping?

Susan Kalweit: I've also been asked it from the standpoint of how does your activity fit in with the other federal geo initiatives that state and local government's are being asked to support. Short answer is we're leveraging state and local government associations to the greatest extent possible and practical and doing that in coordination with Geo One-Stop. Second part to the answer is the workshops I mentioned. However I plan to get help from the associations in drawing the right folks to the workshops. Hope that answers your question.


Jeremy Williams: Two questions: 1) How are IGPT efforts linked/coordinated with JTF-CS and NorthCom? 2) How is IGPT linked to the 133 Urban Areas work?

Susan Kalweit: We're working the linkage with JTF-CS and NORTHCOM as we speak, it's in part an outgrowth of the last HIFLD meeting, if you're familiar with that. My deputy and I keep close contact with our respective USGS and NIMA colleagues working the 133 city effort. Our work is a long term strategy, the 133 city effort is a near-term contribution to the geo capacity that we hope will be developed to meet the needs of geo preparedness - feds, states, local governments, tribal governments, and private sector organizations are all contributor to this national capacity. Don't have to wait for our strategy to start contributing!


Ed CowsarofDetigo: 1) Are you aware of the results yet of those utilizing the Hazmat2000 GIS application (or a similiar GeoSpatial Emergency Preparedness Application) for Emergency Planning? I have local government clients interested in further information on this particular Emergency situation and modeling GeoSpatial application - feedback is appreciated. 2) Are you aware of any organizations integrating live digital video data (view of grassy knolls, pipeline leak recognition, border crossing lookouts etc.)

Susan Kalweit: Thanks for your questions - these are all new to me!


Isabel McCurdy: Will Canada have access to the data?

Susan Kalweit: Good question. I don't have an answer to that. My guess is that issue will be worked in part by the smart border initiatives groups in place.


Stanislaw Grzeda: While it may not be popular, why not investigate "eminent information domain" over geospatial data during a declared disaster or emergency? After all do firemen or police worry about trespass while responding to a call? Why should officials responding to a GIS need have to worry about proprietary data issues?

Susan Kalweit: Thanks for your input. You have expressed to some extent what I had in mind when I said everyone doesn't need access everyday. When they need it, they need it and we should have mechanisms in place to allow for just in time. I'm not familiar with "eminent domain info" if there's more info on this I'd like to read it.


Joe Sukaskas: Re: data security: Maine law authorizes the PUC to collect critical utility infrastructure data from private and public utilities and issue an order that protects security-sensitive data, but allows it to share such data with state law enforcement and emergency managers without FOIA exposure. Susan, do you think DHS might employ a similar model on a national scale to enable emergency management to access private security-related data?

Susan Kalweit: Joe, thanks so much for your comment. In fact, normally I hold up Maine as the example of what can be done to overcome barriers to sharing, especially for FOIA concerns. I do think that we can build off of what Maine has done, and plan to go down that path with the help and expertise from the folks in Maine!


Avagene Moore: Susan, we appreciate you giving us a few extra minutes. I would like to take a moment and welcome new EIIP Partners at this time.

Scientific and Environmental Associates, Inc., http://www.seaconsulting.com

SAS, http://www.sas.com

If interested in partnering with the EIIP, please see http://www.emforum.org/partners/criteria.htm .

We will have a transcript posted later this afternoon. Please look for it then.

Thanks to everyone for participating today - you have been a great audience and please help us thank Susan for her fine presentation. Susan, you did a great job! Most informative - thank you!

The EIIP Virtual Forum is adjourned!