EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation — May 9, 2007

Disaster Management Messaging Standards Update
The Evolving Relationship to NIMS

Chip Hines, PMP

Disaster Management Program Manager
Command, Control and Interoperability
Science and Technology, Department of Homeland Security

Avagene Moore
EIIP Moderator

The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. A raw, unedited transcript is available from our archives. See our home page at http://www.emforum.org

[Welcome / Introduction]

Avagene Moore: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the EIIP Virtual Forum! Amy Sebring, my associate, and I are delighted to see each of you here today.

Our subject today is "Disaster Management Messaging Standards Update: The Evolving Relationship to NIMS." Our speaker is an old friend of the EIIP and he has been with us on several occasions as a speaker and as a participant in the audience. In fact, the EIIP has been involved with this gentleman since we started the Partnership ten years ago.

It is a pleasure to welcome back Chip Hines, PMP, Disaster Management Program Manager, Command, Control and Interoperability, in the Science and Technology Directorate (S&T) of the Department of Homeland Security. Chip has over 30 years of experience working in the emergency management field with more than 15 of these spent developing and managing federal programs and systems designed to assist the country in being better prepared to manage emergencies. He has worked in the areas of National Preparedness, Emergency Operations, State and Local Preparedness as well as in Preparedness, Training and Exercises at the federal level.

He holds a Masters of Science degree in National Resources Policy from the Industrial College of the Armed Forces, National Defense University. He is also a PMI certified Project Management Professional (PMP).

It is with some sadness and yet best wishes for the future that we tell you that Chip is retiring June 1. Chip, we will miss you and wish you health and happiness in your future pursuits. On behalf of the EIIP, we thank you for your friendship and support.

Please help me welcome Chip Hines to the EIIP Virtual Forum! Thanks for being here today, Chip. I now turn the floor to you.


Chip Hines: Thanks, Ava, it's great to be here. I am a big supporter of the work of the EM Forum, I believe that forums such as this are vital to the success of the Disaster Management (DM) e-Gov initiative.

Let me start with a quick overview of our initiative. DM is under the Office for Interoperability and Compatibility (OIC), within the Science and Technology Directorate at the Department of Homeland Security. OIC consists of two separate but equally important initiatives, one concerning voice and the other concerning data. Together both programs work to provide emergency responders, such as you in the audience with resources intended to address all aspects of communications interoperability.

DM was established to improve access to services and information relating to disasters without regard to the specific organization responsible. It was intended to present a functional look at how we prepare for, respond to, and recover from disaster. It's a big mission, and our goal is to not duplicate the work of others, but instead to serve as a central access point to information and services, and to facilitate the development of new capabilities for the broad emergency management community.

Until recently, DM managed four components, the DisasterHelp.gov portal, the Disaster Management Interoperability Services (DMIS), the Open Platform for Emergency Networks (OPEN), and the DM Messaging Standards Initiative. The three operational components (DHelp, DMIS and OPEN) are in the process of transitioning to other organizations within DHS. The transition of these vital components will enable DM to increase its focus, activities, and support of the standards.

A critical aspect to all the development activities of the DM program is working with the emergency response practitioners to develop standards that fit the needs of their day to day activities - this is commonly referred to as the ‘practitioner-driven approach’.

[Slide 1]

The DM Practitioner Steering Group and the Standards Working Group provide us with "on the ground" requirements and needs of the emergency response community. We at DHS cannot begin to think we know what your challenges are, but with your input, our standards will hopefully help you do your jobs in a safer and more effective manner.

The DM Standards Initiative is a practitioner-driven effort to develop response operation messaging standards that enable the sharing of critical information. The Standards Initiative works with public and private entities to ensure that the standards that are developed meet the needs of the emergency response community and will be included in vendor systems and software. This next slide summarizes the purposes of the Standards Initiative.

[Slide 2]

To date, the DM Standards activities are:

  • Common Alerting Protocol: CAP v1.1 was adopted as a standard on October 1, 2005. CAP provides the ability to exchange all-hazard emergency alerts, notifications, and public warnings, which can be disseminated simultaneously over many different warning systems (e.g., computer systems, wireless, alarms, TV, radio).

  • Distribution Element (DE): DE 1.0 was adopted as a standard in April 2006. DE provides a flexible message-distribution framework for data sharing in emergency information systems. Messages may be distributed by specific recipients, by geographic area, or by other codes such as agency type (police, fire, etc.).

  • Hospital AVailability Exchange (HAVE): HAVE was submitted to OASIS in January 2005. HAVE provides standard exchange of hospital status, capacity, and resource availability between medical and health organizations and emergency information systems. OASIS adoption is expected in Summer 2007.

  • Resource Messaging (RM): RM was submitted to OASIS in October 2005; it supports a pilot for the National Capital Region Data Exchange Hub. RM provides the standard exchange of resource information (persons or things) needed to support emergency and incident preparedness, response, and recovery.

RM is currently in 60-day public comment from April 9 to June 8; OASIS adoption is expected in Fall 2007. The draft specification and schema are linked from today's Background Page. The public announcement can be accessed at:

The DM Program is in the initial phases of creating an Incident/Situational Reporting Standard: The Situation Reporting Messaging Standard addresses information gathered from a variety of sources that when communicated to managers and decision makers, can form the basis for incident management decision making. It provides information on the current situation, the operational picture, and current response and resources in an actionable form.

The Standards Working Group is currently organizing teams around scenarios to flush out additional requirements for the standard. There are five groups that meet twice a month to discuss the requirements. The scenario teams consist of practitioners from multiple disciplines, and work on scenarios ranging from a train derailment to an evacuation resulting from a levee break. The scenarios teams are critical to developing draft specifications because the mock incidents provide the information exchange requirements of emergency responders.

The process by which DM creates standards is designed to include all facets of the emergency response community - public and private. The Practitioner Steering Group (PSG) meets to identify necessary requirements and prioritizes for those needs. The Standards Working Group takes those needs and develops draft technical standards, which are reviewed and validated by the PSG, and are then submitted to the standards approval organization such as OASIS.

OASIS has a comprehensive process to ensure that the specifics of a standard are technically correct, responsive and effective. It's a fairly long process that is well coordinated, and we've come to value their work. A number of changes to the Distribution Element draft standard have been made, and we think it will be a better standard as a result.

This next slide is a flowchart of the process I have just described.

[Slide 3]

So that our efforts can have a quick, practical payoff, we've also been working with a consortium of vendors, called the Emergency Interoperability Consortium (EIC) who provide software and advanced software support tools needed by many organizations. To make this really pay off, we've designed our information exchange services so that these vendors can access them, and we've been working with them to develop standards for exchange of information between all software products.

This means, that when a standard is developed, the implementation process gets it into the vendor's software quickly. This last slide summarizes the key players in the process.

[Slide 4]

As I mentioned before, DM works with various groups to ensure that the final standard is suitable to both the vendor community and the user community. While DM has been coordinating with the National Incident Management System (NIMS) Integration Center (NIC) over the past several years, recently a deeper partnership has developed. The NIC resides in DHS under the Federal Emergency Management Agency and is charged with integrating effective practices in emergency response into a comprehensive national framework for incident management.

The deeper partnership will initially focus on 2 activities:

1. NIMS approval and acceptance of final DM standards

2. Coordination to test and evaluate technologies that have implemented the DM standards

NIMS is establishing a practitioner working group to review the existing Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) standard and the DE standard for NIMS adoption. Once accepted, they will become 'NIMS approved' standards, and will be housed in a NIMS repository for data messaging standards. This will be vitally important to increase the exposure and adoption of messaging standards, as NIMS is the first widely respected standardized approach to incident management and response.

NIMS representatives are also initiating a process to assist with the testing and evaluation of technologies that leverage the DM standards in the NIMS testing center. This process will validate the level of interoperability amongst industry products and ensure standards are being used appropriately. Currently DM is working with the NIMS leadership to define the scope and develop an implementation plan for this effort.

Simply put – the potential to integrate the DM standards portfolio into the NIMS usage environment will be a tremendous opportunity. The collaboration of DM and NIMS will enable responders at all levels to work together more effectively and efficiently to manage domestic incidents no matter what the cause, size or complexity, including catastrophic acts of terrorism and disasters.

In addition, it is the intent of OIC to align the OIC/DM standards activities, NIMS, and the National Information Exchange Model (a joint DHS and Department of Justice partnership for standards). This alignment would provide comprehensive solution to meet the information exchange needs of the emergency response community.

This concludes my overview; we can now get into some more detail in response to your questions. I now turn the floor back over to our Moderator.

Avagene Moore: Thank you for your update, Chip. I am sure our audience has questions.

[Audience Questions & Answers]

William Cumming: How does your work involve the NCS (National Communications System-EO12472 ) and its advisory committees?

Chip Hines: At the present time we aren’t working with the NCS. Our standards are message based and are public standards rather than federal standards, but we do try to ensure that they are available and used by federal agencies and their programs.

David Coggeshall: How can we get more information on the Incident/Situational Reporting Messaging Standard? How can we join the planning effort?

Chip Hines: The standards working group is open and we would love to have more involvement. The quickest way to get into the loop is by contacting Tim Grapes ([email protected]). If you have any problems get in touch with me.

Paul Howard: Does your work include or incorporate existing and legacy information exchange programs (like NC4 E-Team, WebEOC, and others) to build a fully integrated information exchange between DHS/FEMA, its partners, FEMA Regions, and the various states, territories, etc.? If so, how?

Chip Hines: Yes, we are working hard to include industry. We work with the Emergency Interoperability Consortium of vendors to help get implementation moving quickly. We also work with any specific vendors (including those you mentioned). In addition, we conduct demonstrations using multiple vendors to show the use of standards. We also host OPEN, an exchange system that makes it quick and easy for vendors implementing our standards to start exchanging them. In support of this we have staff to work with them to iron out any difficulties, and provide OPEN accounts to their clients so that they can quickly start using standards.

Charlie Hanson: Are the DM standards built into the NIMSCAST evaluation tool; or if not, is the plan to include them in the future?

Chip Hines: I can’t answer if they are in now, but if not, we will work to make that happen. Richard Vandame may know the answer to that question.

Rich Vandame: Hi, Chip. I don't think the messaging standards are in there.

Mick Crnkovich: With regard to NIMS adopting CAP and DE, do you think we are likely to see an actual "NIMS Approved" or the "NIMS Recommended" standards that came out of last year's efforts, i.e., NFPA 1561 and 1600? If only "Recommended" what will that mean to users?

Chip Hines: I do think that we will have requirements for using the standards. There are already some grants requirements, and I expect them to be more specific in upcoming grants cycles. We haven’t worked out the details yet with NIMS but I do hope the standards will be required.

Keith Miller: What are the plans to integrate a standard set of emergency messaging for use by all agencies and volunteer groups such as Amateur Radio Emergency Service operators in communications support?

Chip Hines: The specific standards we work on are brought to us by a practitioner steering group. We work on the priorities they provide us. I hope over the next year to establish a "universe" of information sharing standards that need to be developed to better ensure that the highest priorities are being worked on and that the ones we do work on are in the full context of this universe. We aren’t at present working in the voice communications arena, but we are trying to make our efforts well known.

Ric Skinner: Do the DM initiatives consider the HL-7 standard or the work being carried out by the Public Health Data Standards Consortium? It seems both of these would be important in transmitting health related data during a disaster.

Chip Hines: Our approach involves considerable research as to what already exists and who is working in the particular area. We do not want to duplicate other efforts. The HAVE standard came from the medical community, and we have continued to coordinate with them. That being said, I didn’t want to continue in health related areas without more formal and closer ties to the health standards area. At present we are following their work but need to get closer – right now it’s a matter of available resources.

Kirby Sommers: Are you saying this "universe" of information sharing standards will be ready for use within a year, or will it still be a work in progress?

Chip Hines: I wish I could have it done in a year. Actually, we will continue to work on our current priorities while we develop this universe. I think we should be working priorities against the universe within the year, and we can use this to reach out to other organizations working on standards to help coordinate efforts and recognize interdependencies.

Avagene Moore: Chip, in addition to focusing on standards, will DM be taking on new activities or program elements as well in the next fiscal year? If so, can you tell us what they will be?

Chip Hines: We are now in a time of high activity. As I said earlier we are working to have some of our ongoing operations successfully integrated with other activities in DHS. We are also working more closely with the voice standards group in OIC to be more effective and efficient, for example expanding the data sections in the SAFECOM statement of requirements.

William Cumming: Do you make a distinction between standards and/or protocols and their development and adoption in your work? Does your office have any written materials on this distinction, if any, available to the public? Is this an important distinction, if it exists? Is there a DHS/S&T contact on issues discussed by you today after June 1st?

Chip Hines: Now that’s a question! We do have a "soup to nuts" approach to our standards efforts. Our end goal is adoption, but we are trying to facilitate in all areas to make this happen. Practitioners give us requirements. Our standards working group process does research and develops a draft, OASIS provides professional standard work to ensure a tight, effective product, and we work directly with industry to speed adoption via providing development and testing services as well as demonstrations. We are also as I said working to get more specificity in the grants language.

And my replacement will be Denis Gusty ([email protected]). I’m very excited about this since he has been working with the OIC for several months and has the right approach and a terrific background. He was also an e-Gov program manager for GovBenefits.gov which is very citizen focused. I feel great about him stepping into the job.

Amy Sebring: Chip, in our last session on IT for Disaster Management, Art Botterell suggested we may need a standard for Directory Services. Do you have any thoughts about improving the architecture for message distribution, (based on geography, individuals and/or roles as you mentioned in connection with DE), to achieve the integrated network that Mr. Howard referred to earlier, to include the public? And/or, will this be impacted by the work that is going on in mobile communications (e.g. cell phones, etc.) under the FCC auspices?

Chip Hines: I have heard of this proposal, and I do think it has merit. To some extent we already address some of this through DE and CAP but this isn’t the final solution. One issue is that this is a technical issue, and at present we are working more specifically in support of the specific exchanges required by the community. If I can get the resources, I’d like to better evaluate this requirement and see what we can do about it. We don’t have anything on the horizon at this point.


Avagene Moore: That is all the time we have today. We know you have another commitment this afternoon, Chip, and we thank you for sharing this update today.

If I may before we close, we welcome three new EIIP Partners to the fold today:

National Warning Corporation http://www.natwarn.com with David Coursey, CEO, as the designated Point of Contact (POC) to the EIIP;

Community Safety Programs http://linkedin.com/in/creativecommunications with POC, Michelle Cadieux, MBA; and

Baystate Medical Center, Health Geographics Program http://www.baystatehealth.com/gis - Ric Skinner, GISP, Senior GIS Coordinator, is the POC.

If interested in partnering with the EIIP, please see the "Partnership for You" link. If you would like to be alerted to future Virtual Forum topics and are not on the EIIP Mail List, please subscribe by going to the EIIP Virtual Forum homepage.

Before we sign off, please help me thank Chip Hines for his presentation. Feel free to wish him well in his retirement. – And thanks to you, the audience, for your presence and participation. The EIIP Virtual Forum is adjourned!

Chip Hines: Thank you all for coming - I think this is a tremendous opportunity for our programs as well as for the community. Take care all. I will stay in touch.