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May 2014 Online EditionIAEM Bulletin
Advancing the Future of Disaster Technology
during the Joint Interagency Field Exp...
May 2014 Online EditionIAEM Bulletin
Future of Disaster Technology
(continued from page 24)
technical specifics (e.g. d...
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2014 may iaem bulletin jifx


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Article from the Virtual Social Media Working Group of the JIFX experimentation.

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2014 may iaem bulletin jifx

  1. 1. May 2014 Online EditionIAEM Bulletin 24 Advancing the Future of Disaster Technology during the Joint Interagency Field Exploration By Mary Jo Flynn, MS, CEM, and Brandon Greenberg, MPA, CEM (continued on page 25) From the IAEM-USA Emerging Technology Caucus1 1 This article was provided and peer- reviewed by the IAEM-USA Emerg- ing Technology Caucus. H igh impact and high visibility disasters have revealed the increasing proliferation and widespread use of mobile devices, social media, photos, videos, and other sensory data and channels as information sources. This information can be helpful in planning for, responding to, and recovering from disasters and emergencies. However, the amount and speed of available information, in addition to an inability to quickly identify, aggre- gate, verify, coordinate, and contextualize information gleaned from social media, leaves data often unused and unactionable. Quarterly JIFX Addresses Complex Challenges in Homeland Defense To address technology gaps across a variety of disciplines (including information sharing), the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate, in partnership with the Office of the Secretary of Defense and the Naval Postgraduate School, hosts the Joint Interagency Field Exploration (JIFX). Each quarter, JIFX participants utilize different methods of interac- tion, all of which focus on end-user input, which reflects and address the most complex challenges identified by those directly engaged in home- land defense and security. JIFX 2014-2, held Feb. 10-13 at Camp Roberts, California, offered participants an opportunity to participate in an experiment looking at the usefulnessof social media and data to address agency mission objectives and pre-existing information requirements to achieve enhanced situational awareness and decision support. Exercise Participants Taking part in the three-day event were members of the DHS Virtual Social Media Working Group, including individuals from Anaheim, Emergency Management; San Francisco Department of Emergency Management; Johnson County (Kan.) Sheriff; New York City Office of Emergency Management; The George Washington University; Wright State University; Humanity Road; U.S. Health & Human Ser- vices; U.S. Northern Command; the National Guard; and many others. They tested how useful information gleaned from social media sources could have been during Hurricane Sandy, if it had been easily available. Several technology companies participated as well, offering their tools for the purposes of testing how to identify, leverage, integrate, and visualize social media and other types of data within an operational environment. Scenario The scenario was based on actual data collected during Hurri- cane Sandy, and included several “moves” that spanned the pre- event, onset and response, and recovery phases of the incident and included weather conditions, storm effects on Critical Infrastructure and Key Resources (CIKR), ongoing response efforts, population actions, and social media. Practitioners and technologists worked together to identify what type of information, if any, could be leveraged from additional sources to inform emergency response deci- sion-making during the event. The group focused on specific informa- tion needs from within these various areas, specifically focusing on mission requirements; applicable keywords; potential thresholds to assist with prioritization of available information; the essential elements of the information needed; and Participants in JIFX 2014-2, Feb. 10-13, 2014, Camp Roberts, California.
  2. 2. May 2014 Online EditionIAEM Bulletin 25 Future of Disaster Technology (continued from page 24) technical specifics (e.g. detail, format, update frequency, visualiza- tion method, etc.). As the exercise progressed, participants concluded that the available data, which had been stripped of personally identifiable information (PII), was not detailed enough to produce a clear picture of events as they unfolded. Difficulties arose as well. In the discussions between the technologists and the participants (end-users) regarding the specific objectives, requirements and applications of the available technologies, it became apparent that there was a significant discon- nect in concept, meaning and terminology that must be addressed in order to support future technol- ogy development. Since the exercise plan was already built around a storm scenario, the group decided to switch to an actual incident – the Nor’easter poised to hit Atlanta, Georgia, and the East Coast on Feb. 12-13. The exercise was modified to allow all technologists to perform work in teams, while subject matter experts provided information on data needs for decision-making and appropriate visualizations. Subject matter experts provided a real- world link to actual impacted communities through Humanity Road, which officially activated to support response to the event, and through other connections estab- lished during the exercise. Lessons Learned The transition to a live scenario proved informative as technologists attempted adjust their solutions to the needs of emergency managers in real-time. One key finding was that technologies need to focus on (1) anomaly and change-detection, and then (2) enable the decision makers to inquire further about other potential impacts or why such a change or event is taking place. Another key finding was that while an automated search may help to build situational awareness, full accounts are still best made by the experts, who can contextualize information better and faster than information systems. Despite decisions still being made by an individual, the technologies demon- strated at the JIFX provided signifi- cantly greater insight into situ- ational awareness when integrated with other data sources and tech- nologies. Participants identified several additional lessons learned, including: The need to identify informa- tion requirements, both individually and in “packages” (e.g. groups of information that, together, satisfy various questions). There is a need for better categorization and discoverability of available data to ensure potential resources are identified prior to an event. Mission objectives must be pre- identified and defined to align with technical requirements to ensure technology is leveraged effectively. Establishment of baseline monitoring capabilities will be useful in determining the occurrence of events or anomaly detection. While automation of analysis will help in minimizing the time required to identify useful informa- tion, manual input and/or consider- ation will help to ensure the veracity and applicability of found informa- tion. Definition of relationships between multiple information sources, including cascading effects and additional information require- ments, will assist in further contextualizing information as it relates to the operational environ- ment at hand. Due to the volume of data available, filtering queries as defined by pre-existing mission and informa- tion objectives may prove more useful than filtering all results. Conclusion The shift from scenario to live event clearly demonstrated a need for real-time analysis of technologies to accurately determine the useful- ness of tools. Additionally, the removal of all PII presented a challenge to government agencies needing crucial life-saving informa- tion. Additional consideration is necessary in order to best identify how to move forward in trend analysis, ensuring information that is accessible – whether limited by various policies and legal consider- ations – is used efficiently and effectively. THE IAEM BULLETIN The IAEM Bulletin is a benefit of membership in the International Association of Emergency Managers. The IAEM Bulletin is in its 31st year of providing news and resources for IAEM members. The Bulletin Archives are available online for Members Only at