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The ability for Government leaders to ensure Public Security is facilitated through a platform for information and resource sharing which rapidly routes the right information to the right people for optimal decision-making.  The decisions faced by government leaders are focused on saving lives, protecting property, and minimizing economic disruption within the impacted community.   Private organizations, NGO’s, IGO’s, Charities, and other governments share a stake in the sustainment of communities affected by Terrorist Events, Natural Disaters, Pandemics, or Civil disturbances.  Yet we continue to observe difficulties in effectively preparing in advance, to eliminate the issues which can be easily managed through advances in technology. Over the past several months, I have discussed the mutually agreed upon need for information and resource sharing with members of the Preparedness Directorate in the Department of Homeland Security, with State Emergency Operations officials in Virginia during the VERTEX 2007 hurricane exercise, and most recently at the International Safety and Security Conference in New York City ISSC Conference site.   Recently, reports from both Canadian Federal Government and US Federal Government have indicated the emergency management information technology supporting data sharing, interoperability, and administration June 2007 Government  Insights , and May 28, 2007 Federal Computer Week.  Yet the information and resource sharing required will inevitably be demanded through stakeholders in the community, and also within the extended network to provide the bridge betweeen public and private critical infrastructure, the businesses which manufacture or serve the citizens, the health organizations which ensure that air and water quality are safe, and that sanitation is maintained to reduce spread of diseases, and the Public Safety organizations which man the police, fire, and EMS services that maintain order.  Among the vast network of transactions before, during and after emergency situations, massive efficiencies can be realized by leveraging existing technologies and aligning to the standards agreed upon to the greatest extent.   Yet the cost for aligning resources is difficult to justify in many organizations already strained with making their numbers or spending on the most needy programs. 
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  1. Mark Fultz
    I completely agree with your assertion – public security is better achieved if available technology were used to enable information and resource sharing.  Nearly without exception, access to accurate and timely information throughout a crisis will be neither accurate nor timely.

    Since September 11th 2001 there has been a slow but steady stream of findings (investigations, hearings, commissions, and special panels) all concluding access to, and the sharing of, information and resources amongst government agencies and allies is insufficient.   The Director of National Intelligence (DNI) and the Department of Homeland Security were borne out this realization. But in spite of the collective efforts of many, Hurricane Katrina gave punctuation to the claims Homeland Security already suffered from ineffective information and resource sharing after only a few years in existence. These flashes of failure only place more pressure on these agencies to find solutions faster, all while bigger and more lofty requirements are identified, like Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA).   MDA aspires to provide situational awareness across multiple security levels to local, state, federal and international government users.  As if this program did not already have a considerable challenge, it also plans to provide alerts and notifications to foreign and domestic civil users who in return will hopefully report activities that add value to the authorities’ situational awareness. MDA is an actual requirement advocating for a hypothetically possible platform to be developed to support all stakeholders in any domain. 

    So… in addition to government or official information users I would ask not to lose sight of the information needs inherent in any responsible person.   Any person charged with the responsibility of protecting life and property needs information from any number of sources: informative, instructional, directive and authoritative. These sources combine to enable responsible people to make the best decisions possible for their families without impeding the constructive or official actions of others.  These persons, like fishermen off of the coast of Indonesia for example, are some of the most legitimate stakeholders in their community who will likely play an important role in any future public security challenge. Although I am stressing the individual user group, I am completely agreeing with your point that routing information to the right people rapidly would optimize decision making.  In conflict, to make the best decisions possible, senior leaders attempt to focus the majority of their resources and energy on the threat. In spite of their best efforts, senior leaders can be overwhelmed by the unpredictable actions of one of largest groups in the battle space: civilians.   Whether referred to as civilians or noncombatants during a conflict or the public during a crisis, they constitute the same disenfranchised group when excluded from the process.   Exclusion leads to predictive behaviors – the first is usually a belief that hope is a course of action and staying put will work out which may be counter to an official request. The second is an overinflated sense of personal risk that drives irrational behavior focused on only one action: to be in constant motion without consideration of the law or others. 

    Convenient access to timely information may prevent a large percentage of the public’s unpredictable actions. To enable the greatest number of users’ participation in information and resources sharing, consider employing/leveraging existing commercial technologies that provide centralized control and decentralized use.   By considering the capability of convenience in any solution you actually affect a larger number of users because of convenience’s influence over consumerism.  A good example is a radio or television in every home that is also teamed with the Emergency Broadcasting Service to provide information during a public safety event.   This is what we have today as a primary means of disseminating emergency information, but Hurricane Katrina exposed the simple truth that having one system is not enough.

    Also consider other technologies like General Motor’s On Star system or the subcarrier system available to FM radio stations via the Radio Broadcast Data System. They both provide a functional and effective means of communicating in crisis and can be used to provide instructions to users within a very specific region, or in the case of On Star to a specific geo-location.  The Radio Broadcast Data System delivers text messages to car radios, or those designed for the hearing impaired, by displaying text transmitted on a 57 kHz subcarrier wave. The text need not be the same as what is being put out via the Emergency Broadcast Service.   Officials could display a 1-800 number to be used to call in important observations.  In both examples a centralized controller could communicate critical data to any number of decentralized users with very little effort.  Although these examples are in fact viable, the real value in considering commercial technologies to enhance any future information and resource sharing platform is manifested in IPv6. 

    Today, IP geo-location software provides fairly accurate geo-location of users at the zip code level. This is not as good as On Star, but better than the Radio Broadcast Data System or Emergency Broadcast Service to facilitate a small scale evacuation of a neighborhood without alerting or alarming the masses.   Ideally, future platforms will include information management software to capitalize on IPv6 expansion, which allows sufficient IP addresses to give unique identification to any device imaginable.    If personal mobile devices were all uniquely identifiable and thereby discoverable once IPv6 compliant, then it would possible to use mobile telephony’s Short Message Service or RSS type summary services to communicate crisis related information to a neighborhood without alerting or alarming the masses.   This would require some foreknowledge [read:  database] of who the residents are and an ability to cross correlate each resident to each personal mobile device.   Ideally, the claims that IPv6 should make the identification of each device’s physical location possible will become fact; resulting in a truly dynamic ability to manage information in crisis.   IPv6 with geo-location capability at the device level removes the need to cross correlate resident-to-IP-address-to-device.  Rather, it would allow officials to construct informational boundaries each with a highly tailored message that optimizes flow and execution of any topic… traffic, relief efforts, logistics etc.

    Access to accurate and timely information throughout a crisis requires a platform that would be more inclusive to the individual user, provide highly adaptive and tailored information critical to each user, and via a familiar or comfortable method.  All of this combines to bring a little structure to an otherwise important but chaotic period – a public safety event. 

    In summary it is important to consider the largest and most diverse user group first, determine common methods available to reach this user group… and then build a platform around existing technologies that makes information sharing possible at anytime.  

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    1. Anthony McKinney Post author
      Excellent comments and insight regarding the need for information sharing from your second paragraph.  We have also seen this perspective provided from GAO report on Information Technology Coordination needs  between DHS and State and Local organizations.  
      Unfortunately, this is not a new revelation, and the challenge for DHS and stakeholder organizations conjures up the vision of building the aircraft while it’s inflight!  Organizations which can benefit from situational awareness – and in your context  – GIS integrated solutions can also benefit other community stakeholders.  Many companies are moving forward with GIS solutions which not only enable some such as UPS – with a fleet of vehicles to contribute to the “Green” initiative by efficient routing of vehicles, but also in mapping critical infrastructure – like Pacific Gas and Electric to
      tie electronic maps of their infrastructure into their IT enterprise to track maintenance, asset inventory, and ultimately to improve service quality for the customer.  This is the exact type of information which can be shared in a secure enterprise that supports these types of interdependent systems.
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  2. Luke Ritter
    DoD has developed an efficient, systematic, and coherent strategy to effectively collaborate with the private sector in an effort to mobilize for war. Projection of U.S. military power overseas would not be possible without close public-private coordination and collaboration related to transportation and logistics. DHS can use this paradigm that already exists at DoD as a model for enhancing domestic emergency preparedness and response.

    Ref DomPrep Journal Article: DoD Solutions for DHS Problems (Jan 2006)(www.domesticpreparedness.com)

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