Edited Version May 31, 2000 Transcript
EIIP Tech Arena Online Presentation

"EM/2000 --
Specialized Software for EOCs "

David Hancock
Director of Development
Specialized Disaster Systems International

Amy Sebring: Moderator
EIIP Technical Projects Coordinator

The original unedited transcript of the May 31, 2000 Tech arena presentation is available in EIIP Virtual Forum Archives <http://www.emforum.org>. The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier reading and comprehension. Typos were corrected, date/time/names attributed by the software to each input were deleted but the content of questions and responses are as stated by each participant. Answers from the participants to questions by the audience are grouped beneath the appropriate question to facilitate meaning.


Amy Sebring: Welcome to the EIIP Tech Arena!

For the benefit of any first-timers, if you see a blue web address, you can click on it and the referenced Web page should appear in a browser window. After the first one, the browser window may not automatically come to the top, so you may need to bring it forward by clicking on a button at the status bar at the bottom of your screen. Then you will need to bring your chat window back to the top in the same way.

We will start with a presentation, and then follow with a Q&A session for your questions and comments. Right before we begin the Q&A portion we will review the procedure.

Please do NOT send direct messages to the speaker or moderator as it makes it difficult for us to follow the discussion.


Background information for today's session may be found at <http://www.emforum.org/varena/000531.htm>.

Our subject today is an incident management software package, EM/2000 by Specialized Disaster Systems International, and we are pleased to have their Director of Development, David Hancock with us to provide an overview.

One of the company's guiding principles is to provide a product, designed not only FOR emergency managers, but BY emergency managers, and you can see from the bio posted on the background page that Dave previously served with Durham/Durham County, North Carolina Emergency Management Agency for ten years. Welcome Dave, and thank you for taking the time to be with us today.


David Hancock: Thank you, Amy and thanks to the EIIP forum for allowing us to participate.

Specialized Disaster Systems International, Inc. is the developer of the EM/2000 software system. EM/2000 is written on the Lotus Notes/Domino platform. This allows us to leverage the communications and security aspects of Notes and Domino without having to develop these capabilities in-house.

Our motto is, "By Emergency Managers, For Emergency Managers". Our employees have a combined experience of over 100 years in local, state and federal emergency management ranging from rural to urban areas.

We are especially proud of Henrietta Alleman who was presented the Director's Award by FEMA Director James Lee Witt recently for her work as a member of the Hurricane Liaison Team at the National Hurricane Center in Miami. Our experience gives us the ability to recognize and plan for the unique needs of the emergency management community.

EM/2000 is successfully managing emergency operations center (EOC) and daily activities in 10 states, Vancouver, British Columbia, and the national EOC in Australia. On the local level, hundreds of counties and cities use EM/2000 to coordinate their operations.

EM/2000 is a collection of 13 inter-related databases plus a customization manager that allows you to customize common fields to your terminology, and a search engine that allows you to search all databases at once. These databases cover resources, contacts, incident and message tracking, and situation reports.


EM/2000 uses an Windows NT, DEC Alpha, or IBM AS/4000 server to host the databases and to provide the ability for users inside and outside of the EOC to coordinate their activities via Lotus Domino which runs on top of these environments.

Users not in the EOC can use the Internet, NT Remote Access Services (RAS), or a direct dial-in to the server to exchange information via Lotus Domino's replication feature.

What does this mean to an Emergency Manager? It gives you the ability to work collaboratively with others from anywhere. It also gives you an additional level of redundancy. All of the data on the server can be stored as a replica on the client so that in the event of a server, network, or other communications failure, the users can switch to their client machines and keep working.

When the problem is fixed, all data entered on the client is synchronized with all the data entered by everyone else via replication.


Don't worry about all those "tabs" that you see at the top, those are just different workspaces for current projects that I have underway. Notice that the replicator allows me to decide whether I want to only send, only receive, or send and receive depending on the directions that the arrows are set to point. This was an example of a replication with the North Carolina server where no data was exchanged. This replication is automatically scheduled to run in the background.

Now I would like to show you some examples of EM/2000 in action. Last week, on Thursday the 25th of May, severe storms moved through central North Carolina and EM/2000 was used to manage this event. The hardest hit areas were between Greensboro and Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

The red "X" on this Tracker view denotes an incomplete resource request, the green check is a complete resource request, and the "i" within the blue circle is an informational message.


If you look at Message #7810 you will notice that having a statewide system allows counties to coordinate mutual aid requests between themselves. In this instance, Orange County was offering a 1250 KW generator to Guilford County. Guilford responded and let them know that they no longer needed it.

If we open up this message we can see the details of this offer. Please note that the creator and the last user that modified the message are tracked. My name appears because I opened the message and changed a telephone number. You will also notice that I prefer to work late at night!


On the next slide you can see the response that was relayed back to Orange County by clicking on the "Respond to Message" button above the body of the message.


Today we are working with AOT, the developer of MaxResponder <http://www.maxresponder.com>, at their headquarters in Lexington Park, Maryland to integrate MaxResponder's mapping functionality into EM/2000 for a Project Impact endeavor.


By the end of the year we plan to have EM/2000 Release 3, our web enabled version available for our users. It will also include integrated Incident Command System (ICS) forms and damage assessment modules.

In order for us to have time for your questions I'd like to open up the floor now. Amy, please lead on from here.

[Audience Questions/Comments]

Amy Sebring: Thank you for that overview and for persevering Dave, and we can get into some more detail during Q&A. Audience, please enter a question mark (?) to indicate you wish to be recognized, go ahead and compose your comment or question, but wait for recognition before hitting the Enter key or clicking on Send.

Before we start, I would like to take this opportunity to introduce Bill Lent, Chief Operating Officer of SDS, who will assist with responding to your questions. Bill, welcome and will you please introduce the other member of your staff?

Bill Lent: Amy, on with us is Henrietta Alleman, our National Sales Manager.

Amy Sebring: Thanks Bill. The awardee previously mentioned. We now invite your questions/comments.

Bill Lent: Also participating is Mike Morrow of EMIS Technologies, our Canadian Distributor

Amy Sebring: Welcome Mike. Any questions for any of these folks?


David King: The obvious one. What kind of cost?

Bill Lent: Cost depends upon the extent of the system and we generally provide a proposal when requested. We have a statewide contract in Florida that gives our published prices.


Allen Jakobitz: I think the problem Washington state has had in the past with different systems we have tried is that we don't have a daily use and it was, therefore, never accepted. What are some of the DAILY uses you would recommend to new users?

David Hancock: When I was an emergency management coordinator in Durham, NC, I used the Contact Manager regularly. The Incident Planner and Checklists were useful for day-to-day events, and in NC, we developed "in-house" an incident reporting database that users can report into via the web or as a "mail-in" database from their EM/2000 client. At the state level they produce daily incident reports using this system.


Amy Sebring: Bill, you mentioned a statewide contract in Florida. Is that an example of a well-integrated state/local system, and are there other examples? NC, e.g.?

Bill Lent: The most extensive system is in North Carolina where there are about 165 workstations on the state server and all 100 counties participate as well as the Cherokee Nation.


Chris Effgen: Is there a demo version or online demo version available?

David Hancock: There is an on-line demo at <http://www.sdsintl.net>.

Bill Lent: Please note that a demo can be downloaded from the EMIS Technologies site linked to the SDS web site.


Chris Effgen: Are these the Florida situation reports that we can see on their site?

David Hancock: Yes, those are generated via EM/2000.


Ben Smith: What sort of basic hardware and software is needed to run EM2000 in an EOC? Server, software, etc.

David Hancock: The server is preferably a NT box with a 450Mhz or greater processor, 256 MB of Ram, 4 GB hard drive. The client should be a 333 PIII with 128 MB of RAM and min. 500 MB of available hard drive space.


Avagene Moore: What type of tutorial and technical support is provided for new users? How much time (approximately) does it take to learn the software?

David Hancock: Technical support is 24/7, we provide a tutorial manual with the software and training is normally 8 hours for systems administrators, and 16 hours for users. However, in the throes of a disaster I have trained users in as little as 10 minutes on the applicable functions that they would need.


Amy Sebring: Do you currently have, or are you considering adding a module for management of donations and volunteers?

David Hancock: Yes. That's one we're looking at for Release 3. Florida uses a modified version of our Resource Tracking database.


Amy Sebring: Great. Big need I think, Dave. Is there anyway to take output from this and integrate it into NEMIS?

David Hancock: If we had a copy of NEMIS we could probably look at that.


Amy Sebring: Other comments from audience, perhaps on other areas of need?

Henrietta, would you like to say a few words about your involvement with the hurricane liaison team?

Henrietta Alleman: Sure. I work at the National Hurricane Center during the hurricane season. We hold videoconferences with FEMA Director Witt and all the states that are in danger or effects from the hurricanes. Billy Zwerschke is also an award recipient and works at the center with us.


Amy Sebring: Can you tell us what its purpose is?

Henrietta Alleman: We try to keep those EMs who will be affected by the hurricane up to date on the latest weather information and predictions of where, when and who will be affected by the storms. The videoconferences give the states a chance to hear what other states are planning, especially what will affect them.


Amy Sebring: Thanks, Henrietta. Will you be on the job again this season?

Henrietta Alleman: Yes. Billy and I will be going for updated training the second week of June. And as long as Bill allows me to work at the center I will be there.

Amy Sebring: Thanks, and congratulations to Billy Z also! Ben, next please.


Ben Smith: How are upgrades handled? You have Lotus Notes, Domino, mapping and other packages linked together. What happens when a user wants/needs to upgrade one of the pieces of software? Do you guarantee that it will all still work?

David Hancock: We handle upgrades in an integrated manner. We had an issue with ArcView previously where the ODBC link became corrupted by a change that Microsoft made in their ODBC manager. That is the reason that we are moving to ArcInfo so that we can take advantage of the linkages that Visual Basic provides by staying as close to the Microsoft family of products as we can, we up the chances that our connectivity is there. [Addendum: the reference to ArcInfo should be corrected to ESRI's MapObjects.]


Amy Sebring: Dave, what are the particular challenges of going to a web-based system? Security?

David Hancock: Notes & Domino were initially developed for CIA and military applications. Therefore, they have many levels of security and encryption built in. The challenge is to modify the existing databases so that when the upgrades are issued, the user still has the same fields and the functionality on the web. So it will be as close to a mirror of the functionality in the current client-server based application as possible.

Final Question:

Ken Baechel: Do you use topo maps ?

David Hancock: A topo-map can be brought into a system as a layer. That would be something provided by the user.


Amy Sebring: Any final comment, question before we start to wrap? Thank you very much for being with us today Dave, Bill, and Henrietta. We very much appreciate your time and effort. Please stand by a moment while we take care of some business.

David Hancock: Thanks again, Amy.

Amy Sebring: Avagene, can you tell us what's coming up, please?

Avagene Moore: Yes, Amy, thank you. Dave and Bill, thank you on behalf of the EIIP and all our participants for the presentation today. We are glad to see Henrietta and Mike online with us also.

Next week, Wednesday June 7, 12 Noon Eastern Time, we have a session that should intrigue us all, "What are the Challenges of Teaching Emergency Management Online?" Claire Rubin, Claire B. Rubin & Associates, EIIP Partner, will lead the discussion in the Virtual Library.

Dr. Joanne McGlown, Jacksonville State University, will join Claire and share real world experiences in teaching JSU emergency management courses via distance learning.

J. P. DeMerritt, Futurist, will also be on hand with a couple of scenarios for what we might expect in the future as far as teaching online. We encourage all of you to be present for this discussion of some of the pioneer efforts in online education and its potential for the future of emergency professionals.

That's all for now, Amy.

Amy Sebring: Thanks, Ava. Dave, can you tell us where to go for further info?

David Hancock: For further info go to <http://www.sdsintl.net>. There are links at the bottom of the main page that give you e-mail addresses to all of us.

Amy Sebring: Ok, thanks Dave. Thanks to all our participants today. We will adjourn the session for now, but you are welcome to remain for open discussion. You no longer need to use question marks.