Edited Version March 24, 1999
EIIP Tech Arena Online Presentation

"The Open GIS Consortium's
Disaster Management Special Interest Group"

Lance McKee
Vice President, Corporate Communications
Open GIS Consortium Inc.

Louis Hecht
Vice President, Business Development
Open GIS Consortium Inc.

Jim Farley
Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies
University of Arkansas

The original unedited transcript of the March 24, 1999 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 Virtual Forum Tech Arena!

For the benefit of our first-timers, when 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.

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 I will review the procedure.

Background information for today's session may be found at <http://www.emforum.org/varena/990324.htm>.


Today, we are pleased to welcome Lance McKee, Vice President, Corporate Communications for the Open GIS Consortium. Lance will give us some background on the OGC and it's newly formed Disaster Management Special Interest Group (DM-SIG).

Also on hand with us are Louis Hecht, Vice President for Business Development, OGC, and Jim Farley from the University of Arkansas' Center for Advanced Spatial Technologies.

Please do not send private/direct messages to our guests during the session, as it makes it more difficult to follow the discussion. Please hold your comments and questions until Q&A.

Welcome gentlemen, and Lance, will you please start us off.


Lance McKee: Let me just say that the Open GIS Consortium (OGC) is a 180 member organization dedicated to open systems geoprocessing. The disaster management community has an opportunity in OGC to participate in developing interoperability technology in of disaster information network requirements.

We have recently formed a Disaster Management SIG, chaired by Elaine Padovani of USGS, which meets to review these requirements and discuss a range of issues related to how the private sector can work together with agencies to develop technologies that support interoperability among systems used by the participants in Disaster Management.

Louis, what would you add, for starters?

Louis Hecht: Open geoprocessing means access to disaster information over the net with any kind of device. It also means the ability to get information fast, in a way that supports decision-making. OGC is looking for requirements, this is our top need right now.


• We need to know how people and organizations handle and cope with disasters

• We need to know how they would like to use or otherwise impose technology for support

• What kind of technology, how should information be delivered

• how should it be framed (text, maps, simple query)

Our white papers, discussion papers are full of these kinds of questions and related discussion which are available at the OGC web site.

Lance McKee: OGC has begun a Web Mapping Technology Testbed.

Louis Hecht: Jim, can you add a few words?

Jim Farley: Sure, Louis. As Lance and Louis have indicated the OGC established a Special Interest Group or a SIG to focus on the special problems for sharing data, information and other technology that may be associated with the community of Disaster Management.

This SIG was established in December of 1998 and will meet to discuss a range of issues at each OGC Technical Committee meeting to be held at international locations over the next 12 months. See <http://www.opengis.org> for complete information on both OGC and the DM SIG.

What I'd like to try and do is establish the framework which has been created to address these issues and then provide a little background on the process and some of the initiatives and the technologies that are under consideration and evaluation.

The first set of objectives for the DM-SIG involves capturing needs and requirements of the affected communities in each phase of the DM Life Cycle, expressed in terms of a technology business model and road map as to:

1. Data requirements

2. Technology requirements

3. Communication Infrastructure requirements

4. Interoperability requirements (information sharing and service) across user communities, across information communities, and between sectors (e.g. public,- private etc.)

5. Stakeholder acceptance for protocols and expressions for technology, process and information flow within use case scenarios

6. Functional requirements of the DM community articulated as components in the abstract specification being authored by the Technical Committee of the OGC

7. Interface requirements to support both the architecture and the assumptions made in regard to the functional capabilities of that architecture

Based on this set of parameters we have begun soliciting input in regard to requirements and have also begun to formulate a workplan for identifying technologies and creating prototype environments and applications.

I'd now like to go over some characteristics of a possible architecture and then cover some of the technologies and platforms that we see as being highly relevant.

There are a range of "scenario types" that we are postulating, these include:

• Client-centric --- a single client will engage in "pulling" information from multiple data stores at regular intervals over a period of time to simulate situation monitoring, analysis and decision support. This scenario tests the capacity for domain experts (e.g. utilities, national weather service, emergency response personnel etc.) to "publish" their data in a way that supports consumption by other groups. This scenario also exercises data integration in preparation for building the enterprise

• Data-centric (push) --- multiple, heterogeneous clients and devices will feed data and information to a single corporate repository of information designed to maintain information that the community of disaster managers, decision makers and public service officials needs under the Disaster Management Life Cycle. This scenario tests for the ability to compile and maintain crucial near real time "enterprise" data that drives strategic decision making and is the basis for public announcements.

• Data-centric (pull) --- multiple, heterogeneous clients and devices will access a single corporate repository of information designed to maintain information that the community of disaster managers, decision makers and public service officials needs under the Disaster Management Life Cycle.

This scenario tests for the ability to maintain and disseminate crucial near real time "enterprise" data that drives strategic decision making and is the basis for public announcements, logistic decisions and early warning.

• Server-centric --- server side interfaces that support access to and delivery of data and services to light weight handheld and mobile devices will be demonstrated. This scenario tests the capabilities of server-side technologies and applications to complementary client devices and applications in support of locating, evaluating and accessing geospatial information and related services for decision support.

Scenarios like these four and others that emerge from discussions in the SIG will then be framed in a series of possible system architectures that could support the delivery of technology.

Two of the first that have been postulated to characterize some of the DM requirements use a database centric model to explain the nature of the interactions.

The first, the "disaster cartridge"

The disaster community may well want to leverage itself using architectural concepts that are flourishing in other areas and technology domains. For instance, the database communities notion of a cartridge or a blade which "bolts" special purpose capabilities onto a pre-existing engine that supports general purpose functionality may be very useful as we try and manage the complexity inherent in disaster management.

In this architecture uniform front and back ends are developed that support data access/distribution and user interfaces etc. In the DM community this might be used to mange the communications and the modeling/analysis which are effectively (e.g. coordination across the hierarchy, lead agencies in coordination, identification of support roles, emergency broadcasting etc.).

To manage other, idiosyncratic aspects of a disaster event (or those that are or unique to that event type itself) disaster cartridges or blades might be developed. These cartridges could be used to absorb specialized data (e.g. GOES satellite, NextRad etc.), to produce customized reports (e.g. DOPPLER, coastal inundation forecasts) and to "push" these data into the diverse information communities packaging it in ways that are appropriate for the device configurations across the community in question.

A schematic of a cartridge based architecture in support of DM applications is available. Amy, SLIDE 1.


Jim Farley: A second perspective on this architecture uses the notion of domain special objects or "business objects" to meet specific needs.

Second, disaster "Business Objects"

Once the idiosyncratic or unique aspects of individual disaster events are accommodated by implementations of interoperable technology there will still be work to do. A range of middleware that captures the domain rules and business model for individual actors in the disaster scenario will need to be developed as well. These too will come in two flavors.

Constants for the aspects of the disaster event that are ubiquitous across disaster types and variable or special case components that are customized to a specific type of event (e.g. hurricane, flood etc.).

One can also imagine disaster objects that come with "hurricane methods" or possibly hurricane objects that come with methods for the wireless display of DOPPLER images for emergency response officials in the field. Amy, SLIDE 2.


Louis Hecht: Jim, these objects will also have to address privacy, legal and liability issues, right?

Jim Farley: Absolutely, what we have done to this point is set the stage and create a framework. We now need for domain experts to come and give us the benefit of their expertise in a range of areas.

There might also be DOPPLER objects that come with methods that let them display themselves using an appropriate "depth of information" across a range of wire base and wireless devices likely to be in use during an event. Producing an exhaustive set of these objects an creating plausible descriptions and viable interfaces for them is part of the work of the DM SIG.

Schematic of an component architecture built using disaster based business objects is provided.

Jim Farley: Amy, that's about all I've got for now.

Amy Sebring: Thanks so much Jim and both Lance and Louis for the intro. we will now get to 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.

Please indicate to whom your question is addressed, and we are now ready to begin with your questions or comments. And audience I warn you, if you don't have questions for these gentlemen, they may have some questions for YOU!

[Audience Questions]


Jim Mesite: Anyone. Are you also looking at existing systems to see what they can already do, rather than reinventing the proverbial wheel? Example: EIS, Softrisk, etc.

Louis Hecht: Yes, absolutely. We need to know who these groups are that we may not know yet. Your help in identifying them is always welcome.

Jim Farley: That's right Lou, The DM SIG is an open forum and we hope to draw in any and all interested representatives from the community and industry.


Amy Sebring: Louis, can you tell us about where you are in the process now, and what timeline you have developed for future activities?

Louis Hecht: We are in requirements discover stage now. We will remain in this stage for most of this year. We are preparing a testbed project which will be unveiled in April, hopefully this will stimulate additional participation. We expect this testbed to be approved at year end and we look for funding between now and then.

Jim Farley: This will be a draft document that will be shaped by the SIG over the next 6-9 months and initiated as a funded projected in early 2000 if all goes well.


Avagene Moore: How is the OGC and the DM SIG working with international interests?

Jim Farley: OGC will be holding meetings of the SIG in Enschede, Netherlands, the UK and Tokyo over the next six months, in addition to meetings in the US. We hope to garner significant input from around the globe so that the testbed and the work of the SIG reflect international concerns and the international flavor of this community.


Terry Birkenstock: Hi Jim, Louis, and Lance - This is addressed to any or all of you. The scenarios types you mention are very interesting --- are you going to focus eventually on just one or two of these or attempt to address all that are relevant based on input from the DM community?

Jim Farley: We are keeping all options open at this time. Again, we hope to get input and direction from the community. Remember, we are technologists and facilitators, not the domain specialists. Over the next year we can assess both cost and relative priority or level of effort. The most important thing is that whatever we set out to do is scoped in a way that ensures it can be accomplished.


J. Spinney: Jim, I would like to recommend a group I know of in Houston, who is doing some interesting videography delta analyses of Hurricane hit area's. Please see <http://www.visidata.com> for further info on the group.


Amy Sebring: I would like to ask if you are working with some of the agencies you mentioned?

Louis Hecht: DoD, NASA, USGS, TEC, are all working with us. We have 182 members, all are involved in various ways both in US and elsewhere.


Larry Cochran: Is there a single agency which has the lead operational role in DM in the US?

Louis Hecht: FEMA is the designated lead agency for Disaster in the US. USGS, NSF, DoD, NASA, and NOAA all play participatory roles from a data standpoint.


Larry Cochran: Is FEMA expected to be the funding agency for development, too?

Louis Hecht: This is a question that we do not know the answer to at this time. Politics is at play.


Amy Sebring: We need to wrap up but I would like you to tell folks how they can participate. Is there an email to send comments?

Louis Hecht: Yes. Visit our DM SIG or send to me or Jim.

Final Question:

J. Spinney: Does USAID and the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance participate?

Louis Hecht: No. These groups are not yet active.

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much for being with us today gentlemen and we are very hopeful you will be successful in your efforts.

Louis Hecht: Thanks very much.

Jim Farley: Thanks much to all.

Amy Sebring: Now, Ava will tell us about next week.

Avagene Moore: Thank you, Amy. Next week, Tuesday's Round Table will be led by the State and Local Emergency Management Data Users Group (SALEMDUG). Preston Cook, SALEMDUG President, will lead the discussion on March 30 at 1:00 PM EST.

Wednesday, March 31, 12:00 Noon EST, we are proud to announce Student Day!. This unique presentation is an opportunity to bring emergency management students together with emergency management practitioners for dynamic exchange. The session should prove to be not only useful but fun. Plan to be present for both the Round Table and Student Day in the Virtual Forum next week! Back to you, Amy.

Amy Sebring: Thank you, audience. We will adjourn for now, but you are invited to return now to the Virtual Forum room for open discussion.