EM Forum Presentation — August 10, 2011

Connecting People, Tools, & Resources to Support Crisis Response

Heather Blanchard
Co-founder, CrisisCommons

Pascal Schuback
Program Coordinator, King County Office of Emergency Management

Amy Sebring
EIIP Moderator

This transcript contains references to slides which can be downloaded from http://www.emforum.org/vforum/CrisisCommons/CCEMforum.pdf for ease of printing
A video recording is available at
An audio podcast is available at

[Welcome / Introduction]

Amy Sebring: Good morning/afternoon everyone and welcome once again to EMForum.org. I am Amy Sebring and will serve as your Moderator today. We are very glad you could join us.

Our topic today is CrisisCommons which began as an idea to bring together people who were interested in leveraging technology and telecommunications systems to assist communities in times of crisis. Since 2009, CrisisCommons has coordinated crisis event responses such at the Haiti, Chile and Japan Earthquakes and the floods in Thailand, Nashville and Pakistan.

We will also be hearing about the upcoming CrisisCamper tour, possibly visiting a city near you this September. One of the tour objectives is to visit local emergency operations centers to talk to first responders about what they need from the technology community and how better to support their efforts, not just in a crisis but also to prepare communities.

[Slide 1]

Now it is my pleasure to introduce today’s guests: Heather Blanchard is the cofounder of CrisisCommons following 16 years of working for government, the private sector and academia. This past spring she was invited to testify before the Senate Homeland Security committee on social media in the aftermath of disasters and there is a link to that hearing on today’s Background Page (http://www.emforum.org/110810.htm) as well as other relevant links.

Pascal Schuback works for the King County, Washington Office of Emergency Management where he is responsible for supporting technical operations and systems in the King County Emergency Coordination Center (ECC). Pascal previously worked in Oregon with several emergency management agencies in the Portland / Multnomah County area.

Welcome to you both, and thank you very much for taking the time to be with us today. Pascal I now turn the floor over to you to start us off please.


Pascal Schuback: Good morning and good afternoon. Thank you, Amy, for the introduction and the support in getting this set up. It is very well appreciated. It is a great application and a great program for us to be able to connect. It helps us start out our presentation this morning with the ability for us to gather together as emergency managers and others in the continuity of emergency management business.

Through technology, in the past, this would have been very challenging to accomplish without this type of technology, to collaborate. It brings us into the ability to move forward and adapt them to our operational standards. It changes the game on how we do business. It is a challenging change for many, both financially, both for the change, and policy issues.

CrisisCommons is a good group of people and a good organization that helps build that capability and helps get us through the rough spots and find better ideas to do that.

[Slide 2]

CrisisCommons is an organization that supports many different things. The most important thing it supports is a tool we use called the CrisisCamp. CrisisCamp is the ability to harness people either physically together in the same location, or virtually throughout the world to support an incident or support a technical need or challenge that is presented.

Those challenges could be presented in multiple ways. It could be during an incident of saying that we need better abilities to visualize data, or we need to harness data that is out there that we don’t see or know about and bring it together so we can incorporate that information into a better response, or better information for the public to support their needs to and provide them the services they need.

At the same time, it helps us build the community and collaboration between many different sectors that are out there. It’s not always about public/private partnerships. It is about our communities. At least in the United States, and I know some other countries, I know we have a great capability of our volunteers through the volunteer organizations—VOAD, CERT teams—we’ve put a lot of effort in training, collaborating and connecting.

At the same time, we can do more. CrisisCamp gives us the ability to bring those people together. Do you have to be a technology person to come to or participate in the CrisisCamp? No. You can do a lot of things without it. During some events, we had people who are very afraid of computers, but they would sit down behind a computer and they could accomplish some things. That was a great thing to see in some of the CrisisCamps that I witnessed.

One of the challenges that I am sure all of us have been following in the nation is the debt crisis that we have. That is putting a great hamper on our capabilities to provide public safety services because budgets are being cut. I know that in my area, King County, we are the thirteenth or fourteenth largest county in the United States. We have a couple of million people, and we have 39 cities and 180 plus special purpose districts to work with.

That is a lot of work. It requires a lot of support and time. We are losing our budgets and getting cut from our grant funding all the way to our normal budget funding to support. How do we accomplish our responsibilities and requirements doing it with less?

CrisisCamps also help provide us with that ability to communicate with each other and find better ideas and going to people who might have experience in logistics, public affairs, or building technology who can look at it and say we can do this with a open source tool or a pre-existing product, and we can modify it rather than build it from scratch.

It gives us a much larger identification pool. So that is a very nice and powerful thing to help build that community.

[Slide 3]

Some of the things we have done in the past—one is that CrisisCommons is a global footprint. We have conference calls all over the world, and we have to schedule them at different times to support that. We have the capability and technology to communicate and work with people all over the world.

I have worked with more people in Nairobi, Japan, New Zealand, Poland, Canada—all over the place I never would have worked with as an emergency manager. That’s a great capability. Having that global footprint is a very powerful tool to help us overcome the challenges we are faced with or needs we need to support.

During Haiti, which was one of our biggest and our forefront events—we had over 65 events that happened in eight countries—so, 65 CrisisCamps. That is a significant number, especially in the short period of time. It happened in over 30 cities, which is a great visual, but not all cities were working by themselves.

For me, being in Seattle and working with the London CrisisCamp—the London team was taking on projects in the morning, and we would take over in the afternoon and just rotate through technology and the capability of continuing their projects. None of us in Seattle wanted to wake up during the hours of London time, but we wanted to support that project, so we just kept going while they were sleeping, and they took over the next day.

During Haiti, we had over 2,300 highly skilled volunteers that were helping us. That’s a hugem huge response team. Any emergency managers out there would love to have 2,300 members of your support team for your ECC or EOC. It would be a management challenge, but at the same time, what a powerful workforce you would have.

That workforce is out there—we just need to harness it together and build that collaboration. Does your support team need to be local? Actually I say, no, it doesn’t. You need to have some local presence, but you can have it be global. With that, you can globally respond to events. That’s what we are able to do.

We worked with Haiti, but we also did a lot with Christchurch. We took the Christchurch camp down because it was getting old with the information of the earthquake, but it was a very powerful tool. We were using some software called Ushahidi as a mapping tool for crowd sourcing to identify issues that were out there from the public and from emergency responders so that others could see it and get better coordinated information.

It was a very powerful tool with some amazing numbers—the statistics are out there. If you have questions about that, our contact information is at the end and we can help you find those.

With Christchurch as a success, Japan, because it happened immediately after Christchurch, there was a lot of awareness and there is still a lot of support. Communities come together drastically when there is a major event. CrisisCommons not only wants to harness that, but we want to harness it when there is not a disaster. The best time to prepare and respond is when you are not dealing with a disaster but are preparing for it.

Some of the things we worked at as well—some of the flooding around the world and some tornadoes we have had in the Midwest—what is important for us to understand is that we cannot replace emergency operations. It is a local activity and event that takes place with a lot of time and preparedness and a lot of mandates that are regulated by government, but it can support it.

We want to make sure that people understand that CrisisCommons is not a replacement of emergency management. It is not the new version of how to do emergency management. It is collaboration. It is an incorporation of doing it together and using some tools that are new but at the same time tools that are tried and true and proven from the past. We want people to understand that.

Some great things that CrisisCommons has done—Heather had the opportunity to testify in front of the Senate Homeland Security Committee. It was nerve-wracking for all of us watching—I’m sure she was more nervous. What a great opportunity for us to be recognized by such an organization and the government being able to know that we are making a difference and we are helping impact the change of future technology of emergency management and public safety.

That was one of our major events that was a very powerful tool. Alongside of her, just testified in front of her, was Craig Fugate, the administrator from FEMA—I believe the president of the Red Cross, as well as someone from Google, and an emergency manager from North Dakota. That was a great visual because it showed all the different dynamics—private sector, NGOs, local government, and the new world we participate in—this technical, virtual community.

That is something we are helping promote and educate people on.

[Slide 4]

Some of the things we learned are important to understand because it helps us direct the future and direct the change that needs to be made. Disasters can create opportunities for innovation. Obviously, during disasters, everyone in emergency management knows that rules can change. It provides opportunities for some of that change to take place, because it needs to get done now and it needs to get done right way, so let’s do what we need to do so we can get that assignment or mission task done.

That’s an opportunity for us to help with that change. At the same time, people are willing to look at solutions. They are willing to find—during a crisis you identify your problems. Unfortunately, those problems sometimes get identified in the wrong way, but they are great for us to learn. That is something that is important for us to go after—to always look at the after action reports.

Especially now, with the mobile technology out there that is just phenomenal, is the rise of the crisis crowd. It is the public telling us what is going on. People using the Flipcam or iPhone and taking pictures and video and uploading it as YouTube reporters, and providing that on-site situational awareness which is a powerful tool, but we need to find ways to better harness that information.

Not only to harnessing, grab it, and find it, but try to train the public to better use it, to be better reporters and tell us better information so we can actually share that information out to multiple agencies and multiple infrastructures.

Disasters are very beneficial. They help strengthen programs. They help bring awareness. They help understand the importance of training and good leadership. They also bring us the ability to bring that community and focusing on that community gathering and collaboration.

The last thing on the page is the importance of remembering that CrisisCommons is not a replacement of emergency management. No one can do that. Disasters are local. Even if it is a major disaster, it happens locally in multiple areas of that region that had the disaster, because it is the community that exists there. It is the people that go to the same grocery store. It is the people that live in that neighborhood that check on their neighbors, who prepare and provide that opportunity to support themselves. It is that CERT team or volunteer mentality that is important.

That is one of the reasons it is good to have CrisisCamps before a disaster, because it allows everyone to get inside. I work in a secured facility. To get into our building you have to go through some checks. Those checks are harder to get done during a disaster. When it’s on a Monday—it’s quiet and a beautiful, sunny day—come on down and we can get those checks done so we can build that credential and not have those small roadblocks turn into big roadblocks before us.

[Slide 5]

We continue with things we learned. I mentioned the importance of After Actions. After Actions in the technology world are kind of limited. People don’t necessarily talk about it. In most After Actions I’ve ever seen, they always have as the problem as "we had issues with interoperable communications", and they leave it at that.

One of the things we need to help encourage more is documenting that better. Some things we are working on is how to educate and provide awareness for things you should document better, challenges, so teams of volunteers could help you with that. If you are having problems communicating with the hardware, workflow management, or using alternative tools, or hand radio issues, or technical issues of not having the ability to collect data, or there is too much data to collect.

We have the ability to help define standards and practices. Incident management protocols—we can go into that policy discussion, which I want to stay away from today. We all know we have a lot of policy issues. Everyone has their own version. It is an infinite number of policies out there. Some of them I don’t know how or why they were created, but they were, so we have a mandate to follow them.

How does the technical volunteer fit into some of these policies, because we have never had this type of tool, and the policies were never designed for that? How can we get into that process of changing those policies and giving good advice and directions to be able to do so?

Prototypes of new tools and technology probably should not be deployed during a disaster, but unfortunately a lot of times that is how they are done. How do we help implement that so that it can be done beforehand? CrisisCamps are a great way of doing that before a disaster and having routine CrisisCamps, regular one or two a year in your community, can help test and try those things, but also bring up new ideas in that environment.

We need to use our tools every day. We have some systems in my facility we never use except for during a disaster. That is one of our worst fears—having to turn it on. It’s like what Amy said at the beginning of the call—it is always that challenge turning on the connection of bridges.

Amy does this on a monthly basis or more, and she tests it. That’s a good practice to do. Do we test our technology and equipment? In our facility, our duty officers rotate every week and one of their assignments every Tuesday and Wednesday mornings is to radio check.

They check all the equipment— they go to the speaker phones, the conference bridges, video conference, secure phone—they check everything and check it off to make sure things are working so they can identify problems, and then I get a ticket to support to fix it and deal with whatever it is.

Those are good practices. Are we doing that? Do we have enough time to support that, or do we need some of the volunteer support community to help us do that? Especially as technology is changing faster and faster and it challenging for us to maintain.

[Slide 6]

What lies ahead—I love that line. There are so many things before us. The future is unknown. The future has so much opportunity and we have the opportunity to go down a path and shape it and do stuff. How can we do some things? What can we do? We can do a lot of things.

First of all, we need to socialize and incorporate this volunteer community of technology people. There were 2,300+ people who volunteered for the Haiti response. Were they all technical? No. But they all came together because technology got them together so they didn’t have to go to Haiti to do the work.

I’ve never been to Haiti, but I worked a lot for Haiti during those times. Why do I need to be in Haiti to do it, and have more requirements and logistical needs to support myself in Haiti versus being at home and going to the grocery store, having running and flushing water? I can still support and help people. We need to harness that and build that together, not just for our local, but for others.

The emergency managers online know that if there is ever a problem in Texas or Denver and they need support, there is a handful of people who are more than willing; who will probably reach out before they are being reached to for support through small mobile messages through Twitter or Facebook to ask what they can do. That is the community and we need to build that.

One of those communities which is an initiative that CrisisCommons is supporting is the SMEM (Social Media for Emergency Management) it is huge and growing daily. There are great players out there doing amazing things and through this technology, we have the ability to know what is going on.

Some of my colleagues and friends from Philadelphia to New Mexico, to as close as Vancouver, Washington have the ability of sharing what they are doing. I can know about it and say that it is a great idea. Can we partner together? Can I use that in my area? All of a sudden now, we have more resources available to us so we can all share that information.

That is part of the next bullet—the crisis crowd. We can do it in emergency management—why don’t we do it during a disaster and before disaster, and give our citizens, who are more than willing to do stuff, to give us information and help them become that volunteer community.

There are over 2 million people in King County. I would love to have all 2 million of them giving me information during a disaster. I would need a little more management support to do that, but I would take as many of those as I could get.

Community based technology—a lot of technology now is becoming simplified enough that does every agency needs to do it themselves? Or we can band together as a community in emergency management in support systems and tools that don’t require all of us to have our own independent version and save some money and support time, but also build sustainability, not just in financial capability, but in tech support.

I am one of the only people in my office that does technical things. I’d like to take a vacation some time and not worry about the office. If I know my counterpart in Seattle or Bellevue, two of our major cities, can support the tool while I’m gone, for the region and not just for the agency, what a great capability for us having some continuity in our programs.

Policy and technical standards are important. Supporting movements that build technology to communicate on an even scale—for example, EDXL is a standard that is a very powerful standard for us. If you have interest in EDXL, please see me on the side and I can give you plenty of information on that.

In using our tools, we can move forward and do things together and build a common capability. CrisisCommons is about that. It is about getting people together and putting them in the room or on the technical tool for support and say, "What are you doing?" "I’m doing this." "That’s a great idea—let’s works together. Can I ask you for more references or more questions?"

What a great capability, because we are a very small community locally in our local jurisdictions, but globally through technology, we are the globe. We have a huge capability. What is great is knowing how emergency management happens in other countries, and asking each other how we do things. What a great tool and great capability. CrisisCommons helps us get to that.

[Slide 7]

Now I’m going to talk about what I do locally. Heather does a lot of CrisisCommons stuff globally—she is on the global scale. I help participate with that as much as possible, but I do a lot of focus work on CrisisCamps in the Seattle and Puget Sound area, which is a blast. We have some great organizations in our back yard.


Microsoft’s home is here. We have a big Google presence. We have Adobe and Amazon. We have all sorts of organizations and private sectors out there who are willing to support and love technology. You see mobile phones everywhere around here. Our State Department of Transportation is one of the highest departments of transportation users of social media because they broadcast everything. I know exactly when a traffic accident happens because they post if on my Twitter feed and I get it. It’s great. We have that capability.

Some areas around the United States and the world don’t have that luxury. CrisisCampSEA tries to work as much as we can not to just support what we need, but to support a global community. One thing we do is collaborate with a group from here—Geeks Without Bounds (gwob.org), a great organization, great people that support wonderful tools, and not just for emergency management. Please check them out. It’s a great tool and great opportunity.

Some things we’ve done in CrisisCampSEA for emergency management focus are some powerful tools. I’m going to quickly give you some background on it and I will let it go and you can ask me more in the Q&A. You can always ask me afterwards, too.

One of them that is really involved that I have worked with as part of my job as well as part of the community is the SAARAA application (Situational Awareness and Rapid Assessment Application). We have a huge need to go out and grab information during a disaster quickly. Normally you get it from a trusted source, like a firefighter, or public works, or police officer giving us information. For example, the I-90 Bridge, which is a huge floating bridge and huge key infrastructure part to our region in Seattle. Is it floating still, or is it on the bottom of Lake Washington? How does that come through and that capability for us to go?

The Situational Awareness and Rapid Assessment Application is a web based tool, but it is also a mobile application that can live on an iPhone soon, but it lives on an Android device now, and you can download it and test it. If you try to find it now, it is a beta version and it has a couple of issues.

Another application is the MADPUB that is a mobile assessment of damage. How many of you have been in a disaster for yourself as one of the survivors and had to fill out the paperwork you need to get hold of FEMA? FEMA has been trying hard to change that and is building better tools and capabilities.

With MADPUB, we can help with that. MADPUB is a project we did last year where we wanted to start streamlining the workflow, not only filling out paperwork for the feds, but you are filling it for the local, county, and state emergency managers. What a great capability if we can streamline all that and share information better.

The last one I’m working on now is under the radar still, but I have no problem releasing it. You won’t get to the website because it is blocked right now. RecoveryWashington.org is the ability for us to build a damage and recovery information mapping tool. It is a crowd source map.

It’s the same things we did for Christchurch, Haiti, Japan, Chili, Pakistani floods, and tornadoes. It is a huge capability for us. We are trying to not deploy it during the disaster—we are trying to deploy it before the disaster and making it a tool that is used on a daily basis. It is not just for disaster information, but tell us where a pot hole is, or a street light is out, or there is graffiti, and using those departments on a daily basis, but during a disaster, everyone is aware.

That one is a little rough, but we are about ready to release it and get it ready for streamlining. One of the nice things about this project is that King County in the city of Renton are the pilots and we’re testing it. We’re not doing it for ourselves. We are taking the mentality like CrisisCommons in trying to educate—we are doing it for the whole state.

It is not that hard for us to let the technology do the work, because the technology already works globally. The SAARAA application can take reports and your GPS locations from anywhere around the world because that’s how it works. We can, on the back end, separate the data and send it where it needs to go.

[Slide 8]

We’ll talk about the CrisisCamp tour. This is a pilot tour for us to be able to test and see. What we’re going to be focusing on is the Southwest, some of the bigger cities—Los Angeles, Phoenix, New Mexico, and some of the capabilities where we’ve seen great success with SMEM, CrisisCamps, and a community.

We are going to be having CrisisCamps or BarCamps, depending on what agency we are with, but it is really to build those technology and community bridges together, get people together to build better tools, and have them meet together, and as CrisisCamps, be the neutral party and forget what happened in the past if something has happened, and look forward to the future and the cool things we can do together.

I say "cool" not just in technology, but in cool, innovative things that can help change how we prepare, respond and recover from disasters. In working for our communities and looking forward to that, let’s change and move forward.

One of the things I want to do personally, but is also a great thing to do at CrisisCommons is—what is out there? Who is using what? Do we need to build better standards? Are there standards for emergency operations centers and command centers and coordination centers to have certain standards of technology?

Should we make sure they have solid and redundant internet connections? Should they have the ability to use Twitter or Facebook or video and web conferencing? What should we have as technology as it is changing so fast and grant funding is limited? What should we look forward to at the next level?

There has always been a standard at EOCs that you should have a desk, a phone, a computer and chair for ESS or ICS positions. Let’s expand that to the technology side and make sure we are providing the tools and go together with the result so the survey and say, "In order for us to meet the technology, we have looked at the surveys, we’ve gotten information, and we need this type of funding to support that. Feds, what kinds of support can you do to provide better tools to respond to our communities to provide better customer service and better response?"

That CrisisCamp tour is going to be happening later this month, toward the end of September for closing out National Preparedness Month. We are working on some of those details. We are having one of our first conference calls this afternoon and getting that all together. You can find more information on that as it comes out on the CrisisCommons website.

[Slide 9]

Tour details—best practices, situational awareness recovery tools, the opportunities from data sources, social media implementation and roles—these are some of the things we will be talking about. Huge capabilities and opportunities—if you have any questions about that, feel free to see me or Heather or the community about that. A lot of us are willing to help.

[Slide 10]

I wanted to say thank you for the opportunity to talk to you and share a little bit about what CrisisCommons does and the cool things we can help with, and the vision that can be before us if we can harness together and build better communities, friendships, and foundations so that when any of us have a disaster, we know have not just our local teams to build off of and rely on, but we have a huge community that is global that is willing to support us.

It is fun and exciting, but we also know we are doing something phenomenal. We are helping people who we wouldn’t have been able to help in the past, but we are helping them now. I will let Heather speak now.

Heather Blanchard: I think you covered it quite well, and I just want to echo our gratitude to the EM Forum for having us and for all of you. I know a lot of you have been very supportive of our efforts.

I want to underscore that CrisisCommons is an all volunteer community. People are providing their time when they can and this is not a replacement at all. We like to think of it as a place of innovation. CrisisCamp is really an impromptu state. It’s free and it’s a free concept where anyone can participate. We think that is a powerful tool.

What it is really meant to do is connect all the technology communities in a local area and bring together emergency management. In any given town as Pascal said there could be hundreds of technology groups that are in that local town. Every town has a Department of Computer Science. If you connect those resources and being talking before the event, there could be some valuable support during events that could provide some kind of surge capacity.

When I worked for DHS for seven years before, I left to do this. Part of that was, I know what it is like to be in the EOC, and Pascal does, too, and a lot of people who work at CrisisCommons as a volunteer activity know what it is like. What we want to do is figure out a way and have those discussions now—how can technology volunteers be able to support the needs of emergency management during these events?

How can we create a mutual assistance network that really reinforces that? I am in Los Angeles, and if something happened here, perhaps the CrisisCamp may not be able to participate, but San Diego, Seattle, Portland or San Francisco could provide mutual assistance, very similar to compact. It is getting into that kind of forward thinking of how these groups not only can work together at a local level, but start building bridges to adjoining jurisdictions and even going further than that.

This is in its infancy. There are so many things we think we could do. One of the things I have been trying to work on is there isn’t a connection to the EOC. Oftentimes people don’t see the report that could happen. The worst time to show up on the scene during a disaster is in the middle of a disaster. You don’t want 2,500 volunteers showing up, not only physically, but virtually, but to be able to provide them with some productive project that they could be helping the response system with.

One of the things we are concerned about, but we want to work very closely with and help and guide development of, is the activity between the technology volunteer communities that are already out there and the local emergency management. To put it in plain language, how does this connect?

Right now there isn’t a formal connection mechanism. Do you have a liaison in planning? Right now we hear that there is no formal mechanism and it is difficult to figure out where it would fit. In a lot of EOCs it is geospatial—should we be working with those since we’re doing mapping?

What we have seen is in every crisis there will be people that will gather together self-organized and show up. We would love to see their efforts and time and energy, which are very valuable, used for productive use and there can be a local connectivity that happens before the disaster when business cards are exchanged and if sitting in EOC. Hey can you guys monitor Twitter hash tags and find things that are not popping up in the report?

These volunteers are very skilled. In their day jobs, they are senior vice presidents, they are directors of IT—these are people that have a lot of skills. A lot of them have emergency management backgrounds. If you’re thinking these are people that may not have the skills that are needed, there are so many people that have the skills and want to offer them.

The question is how do you put that to productive use? We want to strive to do that. I urge you to look at the testimony if you go to crisiscommons.org and hit our blog, you’ll see a blog post about participatory crisis management. That’s where we have several documents we wrote for Congress. We talk about the importance of that kind of connectivity beforehand.

The community contributes to the development through their thoughts, and a lot of that comes from a lot of you. There are a lot of great opportunities to explore this. We want to do this together. We are all about collaboration. I’ll leave it there and clarify that we are a volunteer community.

We really want to work to support emergency management. We want to find productive ways to engage before the disaster. We think that is important. Pascal and I are an email away and we would be happy to answer any questions you may have now or follow up later.

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much Heather and Pascal. Now, to proceed to our Q&A.

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Tim Grate: I have been aware of CrisisCommons for a long time as EvaTech (that is his company that has now merged with SC Solutions). We work with nations practitioners to drive EDXL requirements, (the OASIS requirements that Pascal referred to a little bit earlier).They have volunteer quite a bit in the past.

Mark Clemens: How do emergency management agencies connect/engage with CrisisCommons?

Pascal Schuback: We are a volunteer organization, so we don’t have official bat signals yet, so you can’t put that big spotlight in the sky and ask for Batman and CrisisCommons. What is powerful about the tool of technology is that we can hear about disasters. If there’s a disaster, we hear about it. People start talking about it and you start connecting, and you use your contacts and social capital to connect with people.

We have an email address, and Twitter feed, and a Facebook page that you can put out there that a lot of us are monitoring and keeping an eye on. Put the call out on the internet or the Twitter-verse, or Facebook world and say that you have a question or a need—could you help us with this? Or hey we’ve just had an earthquake and we could use some help.

Be descriptive and tell us what you need and what you are looking for. We will connect people together and put it out to the community and have them ask if anybody can help. We have to remind ourselves that sometimes volunteerism is dependent on schedules of life and things, but as we build a bigger community, there are people who might not be all busy at the same time.

My recommendation to get hold of us is that we have the webpage, email and social media channels. Ping us anytime and we’ll do what we can.

Heather Blanchard: The first thing you want to do is build local capacity. For awhile, people have gone to the community, but wherever the town is that you are in, we can give you tips and pair you with a mentor, a CrisisCamp organizer. They can help you develop your own CrisisCamp community in your local area. I can’t emphasize that enough.

Yes, you can come to the global community, but the first thing you want to do is connect with what you have there. It is like preparedness. You have to prepare yourself first before you can prepare the community. We have the same attitude at CrisisCommons. We want to see people engaging their local community first.

If you are an emergency manager, and you put out the call that you want to talk to the technology community in your town, for us that is the best case example. Usually what is happening is that people around the outside of emergency management that care are creating the camps themselves. Often they are trying to pull on the coattails of emergency management and ask them, "Can you come to my camp?"

It is very powerful for emergency management to say they want to create a CrisisCamp in their town. You use a simple platform. It is free, easy, and we can provide mentors who can help you do it. Pascal would be more than happy to help. I have created CrisisCamps in Washington, D.C. We have people all over the country.

The other thing is that we have a list of people who have expressed interest from all over the world. We can call together that list. If you live in Des Moines, we can put out a call to our community for anyone in Des Moines interested in putting together a CrisisCamp, we put those people together with you and you have your first kernel of people who can begin building that camp.

The second step is coming to the community if there is a specific need. It is a volunteer group and is at the interest of the volunteers. I really think the strongest interest you will ever have is at the local level.

G Smith: How do you incorporate the data collected from volunteers into the data collected by officials in order to develop a common operational picture?

Pascal Schuback: One of the challenges is that there is always the fear perception of trusted agent versus non-trusted agent. I’ve been breaking down that barrier. One thing we are trying to do with the SAARAA application is that it is an application that can be used by both. There are measures in the application. When you submit, it grabs the common information off your phone. It tells me your phone number.

If your phone number is in my directory that you, Mr. Smith, are physically at a public works supervisor, I can take that as a trusted source rather than an untrusted source. When you go to untrusted—think about crowd sourcing way back when law enforcement would go to a crime scene and survey all the people and get testimony from all the people that surround the yellow tape.

That is a form of crowd sourcing. They are going around getting information, they look at it, they communicate with each other, and then say that 80 percent of the crowd said the person in the hoodie in the back corner did it. That is how untrusted information becomes trusted—through the process of crowd sourcing.

If you get 50 pictures through email, Twitter, or Facebook of the I-90 Bridge no longer there, do you still need to send a state trooper or public works person to tell you it is not there? We’ve never had that kind of capability and those kind of reporting numbers coming back to us so fast.

Twitter is self-correcting sometimes. If you say something wrong, someone is going to correct you. Then it gets republished. How do we collect that? In our common operating picture that we are building in the region, we have the ability of identifying if it is a trusted or untrusted source and then convert it to a trusted source.

If you, Mr. Smith, are a person that has been giving me trusted information for two days in a row, and I initiate contact with you, I might put you in my trusted category. A lot of those decisions are based on the fly, at the moment during the disaster we are dealing with, but we have ways to measure and calculate and use that information.

If you are a logistics person and you get the bridge out notification from an untrusted source and you have 50 of them, that might change your course of action on how you provide logistic services for a region. If you have more questions about the common operating picture, send me an email. We’ve been working on that heavily here.

William Miller: I am concerned about the use of social media channels in that, even in spite of good intentions, responding to un-trusted sources can direct resources unwisely. I believe that a separate media source be considered for your organization and a trust mechanism should be used to validate the device and the source. This is also true of the responder; they should also share this process. This can be accomplished thru a trusted third party. - This is an approach that we have introduced at NIST in IEEE p1451.1d.

Heather Blanchard: I can talk about trusted source and untrusted source. If you look at information in a few different ways, the first thing is that right now however your EOC is configured, how are you pulling information from the public?

There are several layers of information. If you were to pull information from the public, however you may do it, that is just one piece of information that you are going to use, and you don’t even have to use it. The fact is that the information is there. You can aggregate it. You can pull it. It is public and it is open.

If you don’t pull that information, you are operating in a blind spot in your situational awareness. That’s a fact. At this point, you have to pull it. You make sure you are able to have those different pieces of information.

Do you make operational decisions from it? No. You should have your official sources. As Pascal was saying, if 50 people and a news crew is saying that this is what is happening, you are going to believe it. If you look at news media, in some sense, what is the difference?

I really think that is an interesting point. I’ll give you a story I gave during the Red Cross data summit. I also shared some perspectives of trusted and untrusted information in the Congressional testimony.

I was in San Francisco a few years ago and my rental car got busted. They busted the driver side window overnight. I go out there and call the city and asked what I should do. Are the police going to come out? No. I had to file the report online.

This is a crime that has been committed and I am providing information for a police report. That police report is used by an insurance company to do a claim. Is that verified information? Nobody came out and took a picture or video. If you look at it like that, law enforcement uses unverified information every day.

During a disaster, to be honest, you don’t have time to verify all these pieces of information. What you need to do is—that is going to be the best information you have. No emergency manager is going to make a decision on operational methods based purely on public information. However, that information is an added piece of operational awareness that they may need to make sure to make that decision.

One piece is not the piece, and if you get wrapped up in having to verify if the information is true, number one, it is impossible in a disaster. Number two, you are going to lose time. If you don’t use it at all, you are going to have a blind spot in your situational awareness.

Gary Timm: How do you use EDXL, and how will you be promoting EDXL on the CrisisCamp road tour?

Pascal Schuback: How to use in daily basis--we have identified and accepted and it is pretty much our policy that all data transactions happen in EDXL format. Any time we exchange information between any of our information systems it will use the EDXL process. We will be updating it to 2.0 as it just got released. Within our web EOCs in the region, share point systems, logistic systems, and emergency communication systems, everything is using EDXL standards and the standards based on that.

Obviously CAP is a little bit different, we are trying to establish for infinite command, and we have those commonalities. You can use whatever system or software you want on your end as long as it coordinates with EDXL we don’t have to worry about issues in the middle.

For the road trip, that is the same thing I want to promote—standards that do not affect how we operate. They do not say that you must do things this way by clicking this button. EDXL is just a standard on the back end that makes sure data can be exchanged in a format. The way I described it to some of my elected officials—think about all the different plugs we have all around the world for electricity—if we could all standardize that.

All the phone jacks—I have an iPhone and an Android—I have two chargers in my car for both phones because they don’t have a standard. It does what I need it to do, but we need to unify it. If I have a firefighter come in who needs to charge his phone, I don’t need to have five different phone cables in my car to provide that support.

EDXL is a tool to identify a standard for us to communicate. That is one of the biggest things I am going to be sharing.

Alex Rose: As someone involved with CrisisCamp in Southern California, I wanted to echo Heather's point regarding the value of nurturing this community at the local level. In SoCal, we have created new relationships between technology developers, emergency managers, public information officers, Red Cross volunteers and academics. While there is a small learning curve for the people on this EM Forum to get comfortable with tools like Google Docs, Twitter and Skype, taking the step will increase the resources available to support your community.

Avagene Moore: For the stops on your upcoming tour, what type of advance preparation is being done with volunteers in those localities? What type of participation do you expect?

Pascal Schuback: Some things we are doing for the tours—we are using existing communities. For example, Jeff Phillips, in Los Ranchos, New Mexico, has an existing community and virtual support team inside his area that is statewide (the square state of New Mexico), but it provides him the ability to connect with all his emergency managers, community supporters, and technical people. He is creating his CrisisCamp or BarCamp for the day.

His CrisisCamp is promoted within all his communities that he works with and the media to get the public involved like we try to practice and preach, to harness everyone together. He has a full day planned, and tonight I will get more information on what he has on his agenda. We are the agent that comes into town and help create that, in the sense that there is a group of people coming into town to talk about these technology tools.

We want all of you there because it is going to help build that community. We are the reason to have an event, to bring awareness—we are the outsiders—we are here for a special event we want to promote and we want to build his community. I look at it more as what he needs.

We will support so that we will build his community up for his community. The stops on the tour are different for every city. Los Angeles is totally different from what Santa Barbara would do because they are two different communities. By going to the local contacts and asking what they need for a BarCamp or CrisisCamp—you guys know better what you need than us on the tour. We are integrating with those people locally on the ground.


Amy Sebring: Time to wrap for today. Thank you very much Heather and Pascal. We appreciate your taking the time to be with us today to share this information and we wish you continuing success and growth with your efforts in the future.

Again, the video and audio recordings should be available later this afternoon. If you are not on our mailing list and would like to get notices of future sessions and availability of transcripts, just go to our home page to Subscribe.

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Until next time, thanks to everyone for participating today and have a great afternoon. We are adjourned.