Edited Version April 28, 1999

EIIP Tech Arena Online Presentation

National Emergency Management Information System"

John Cormack

Computer Specialist
FEMA Information Technology Services Directorate

The original unedited transcript of the April 28, 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 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 we will review the procedure.

Background information for today's session may be found at <http://www.emforum.org/varena/990428.htm>.


Amy Sebring: Today we are pleased to welcome John Cormack, Computer Specialist, assigned to the FEMA Information Technology Services Directorate. John will present an overview of the National Emergency Management Information System (NEMIS) that has recently been deployed.


Amy Sebring: John has been involved with the development of NEMIS since 1995. Welcome, John, and thank you for taking time to be with us today.


John Cormack: Thank you. I hope the information is helpful. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to spread the word on NEMIS. NEMIS is the way that FEMA is processing disasters today and into the future. FEMA is committed to improving the delivery of services to disaster victims by using Information Technologies to improve the functioning of Federal programs with our State partners. SLIDE 2.


John Cormack: NEMIS was developed to automate disaster management processes. The system was designed by Federal and State program managers. Participation of State representatives was coordinated through NEMA.

NEMIS is an integrated system, in that, once information about an incident or disaster is entered in the system, that information is fed to all of the modules of the system and does not have to be entered again.

By providing the States with access to NEMIS, the States are able to view information in the system, as well as monitor and participate in the management processes. SLIDE 3.


John Cormack: NEMIS is a nationwide distributed system extending to the States and territories through the 10 FEMA Regional Offices. States access NEMIS through direct connection to FEMA Regional offices, modem, or the World Wide Web (under development). SLIDE 4.


John Cormack: I have captured some NEMIS screens to show you the look and feel of the system. The Main Menu, shown here, provides access to each of the activities and program areas within NEMIS.

There are 6 Modules of NEMIS:

1) Emergency Coordination includes incident monitoring and reporting, preliminary damage assessments, declaration processing, public information, and donations.

2) Infrastructure includes all aspects of the Infrastructure Support Program.

3) Mitigation covers the Hazard Mitigation and HMGP programs. Mitigation Grant requests and management with the States will be added shortly.

4) Human Services includes all areas of services and automates access by the states to process Individual and Family Grants.

5) NEMIS Wide Covers information and capabilities common to all users, activities and provides access to reports and information. NEMIS also makes extensive use of image processing.

6) Emergency Support provides access to personnel systems, financial systems, and is where Requests for Federal Assistance and requisitions are funded. SLIDE 5.


John Cormack: "EmMgt" is where incidents are monitored. FEMA has incorporated EIS InfoBook, a commercial-off-the-shelf, COTS, software package as the software tool for incident monitoring and reporting. States will be able to input incident information to the Regional Offices and view incident information in NEMIS. States will be able to input incident information to the Regional Offices and view incident information in NEMIS. SLIDE 6.


John Cormack: "PDA" is where Preliminary Damage Assessments are done. Here is look at the "General" tab in the PDA Module of NEMIS.

Information about an incident input to the system automatically populates other modules. Pertinent information relating to the PDA will be found under each of the tabs. SLIDE 7.


John Cormack: FEMA has developed a Donations Coordination module in NEMIS. This module is available to States and volunteer organizations to automate the offer of goods and services and for organizations looking for those goods and services to locate and acquire them. The Donations Coordination module is available for use by the states and volunteer agencies for all events and is not restricted to those where there is Federal involvement. SLIDE 8.


John Cormack: The IS module of NEMIS automates all of the processes of the Infrastructure Support program. Access is provided to both State and FEMA users. NEMIS uses image processing, by scanning and entering photo images, documents, and technical drawings. This greatly improves the processes of submission, review, and management of Infrastructure projects. SLIDE 9.


John Cormack: The MT module of NEMIS automates all of the processes of the Hazard Mitigation program. Again, the system provides access for FEMA's State partners to participate in the management process. The MT module of NEMIS also makes extensive use of scanning and processing of digital images.

The States enter information on their proposed plans, agreements, and applications. FEMA provides guidance, and does reviews and approvals in the system. FEMA can view information input by the States and the States can view and monitor the review and approval processes. SLIDE 10.

[SLIDE 10]

John Cormack: The HS module of NEMIS automates all of the processes of the Human Services program. Individual applicants call a FEMA tele-registration center where their application is entered into NEMIS.

When the registrant is requesting benefits for property damaged in a disaster the application is forwarded to an inspection contractor who dispatches an inspector to survey the damaged property. The system then takes the information from the inspection and auto-determines eligibility and benefits. The system then approves payment and the information is forwarded to the Department of Treasury for electronic deposit or for a check to be mailed to the applicant.

Again, scanning of documentation to support a victims claim, when needed, can be done electronically, vastly reducing the time to process claims, the storage space needed to store the claims, and the time to retrieve the claim when questions or inquiries arise.

For the disasters that have been processed using NEMIS, FEMA has been able to cut the average time for issuing benefits to individuals from 7 - 10 days to 2 - 3 days, for those applicants whose claim can be determined by the system. NEMIS has been able to auto-determine over 90% of the applicants processed in the system.

The Individual and Family Grant program is now fully automated. The States, responsible for managing the program, are provided access to NEMIS where all of the processing of IFG grants is done. The time involved in processing grants has also been slashed, speeding the delivery of funds to disaster victims.

FEMA is currently using Version 1 of NEMIS. The next major release, Version 2, is scheduled for later on this summer.

Should any of you have any questions or if I can help you in any way, you can reach me at my office in Washington at (202) 646-2614, or at <John.Cormack@fema.gov>. Over to you, Amy.

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much, John. I am sure we will have a few questions. 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. We now invite your questions or comments.

[Audience Questions]


David Crews: John, how do you envision NEMIS will support ESF-5 when it initially deploys and before the Disaster Field Office is up and running?

John Cormack: Currently, EIS Infobook is used to generate the Situation Report. Information that is entered into NEMIS can be viewed by all of the ESF's and the State.

David Crews: There is no access to the Internet when the DFO is not up and running. Also the EIS InfoBook requires a data base and mapping beyond the reports generator.


David McMillion: What is the relationship between NEMIS and FEMIS? Are they inter-operable?

John Cormack: I am not familiar with FEMIS. I have been locked into NEMIS for 4 years.

David McMillion: FEMIS is the CSEPP program automated information system.


Amy Sebring: How many disasters has NEMIS been used in so far, John?

John Cormack: About 20. In six out of the ten regions.


Leo Frishberg: How will NEMIS integrate information coming from EMERS (FEMA's Emergency Management Electronic Report System), if at all?

John Cormack: Again, I apologize, I am not familiar with EMERS.


Jaroslav Pejcoch: Is NEMIS used also for international activities or is it solely a US system?

John Cormack: Currently, it is only used for US disaster declarations.


Amy Sebring: Do you anticipate that access to NEMIS may be extended to the local level at some point in the future?

John Cormack: We have the capability to extend access to local jurisdictions. However, that access is a condition negotiated with the involved State and the appropriate FEMA Regional Office.


David McMillion: Are the traditional InfoBook tabs accessible in NEMIS?

John Cormack: Yes. We contracted with EIS to create a Super Tab for FEMA.


David Crews: From your response about ESF-5 and EIS InfoBook, I gather that only the "reports generator" is being used and the data base entries and mapping has not been used by DFO staff. Is this a correct assumption on my part?

John Cormack: There are extensive number of reports available in NEMIS. All aspects of disaster management use NEMIS for information collection, processing, and reporting access to specific reports and information are limited to the functions performed by the various NEMIS users.


Jaroslav Pejcoch: To the communications, do you use for the whole system some special communication infrastructure or is it based on some common or public base?

John Cormack: NEMIS uses the FEMA telecommunications system, the FSN.

FEMA owns and operates its own network of switches. We lease T-1 connections between nodes.


Jaroslav Pejcoch: Is the information held and processed by NEMIS treated as classified?

John Cormack: NEMIS information is protected. It is not classified as in national security information but is privacy information and sensitive.


David McMillion: If FEMA is providing NEMIS to the state, is support limited to the super tab?

John Cormack: I am not sure what you mean by support?

David McMillion: Technical software support.

John Cormack: We have a national technical support system in place. It would begin with support at the Regional level and be escalated to our national hotline if not resolved locally.


Amy Sebring: Have you found training and support a significant challenge? Or are you finding users getting up to speed quickly?

John Cormack: Many of the processes in NEMIS are replacing manual and paper systems. Introducing some individuals has been a challenge. Others with some IT exposure have taken to it very well.


David Crews: I work in ESF-5 and have had the NEMIS/EIS InfoBook training. I also have used EIS InfoBook at the local level. It is a very complex system to learn and train on, especially the data base entries and the GIS layered mapping systems. Current levels of training do not support the full use of the EIS InfoBook in the DFO. (My Opinion and Observation). Is there a plan to train to proficiency the FEMA staff and reservists in ESF-5? Proficiency will require continual training.

David McMillion: Ditto.

John Cormack: We have installed a system of servers reserved for training. These servers are available to the Regions to use for training. The intention being that users, once trained, can maintain their proficiency using NEMIS.


Darla Chafin: Training in NEMIS is something those of us, who haven't used it, are worried about. Is there an easy transition from, for instance, ADAMS and paper in the IFG program to NEMIS at the State level? IFG is administered at this time by the State with support from FEMA.

John Cormack: Training, particularly in IFG, is a challenge. Many of the State IFG offices have a minimum staff and only staff up when there is a disaster. We have what we call a NEMIS Disaster Support Team that is deployed to each new disaster taken in NEMIS. That team assess the support needs of that particular disaster operation, and call upon additional resources from the Emergency Training Institute.

There are also a schedule of NEMIS training courses offered by EMI. You can find them on the NEMIS intranet home page at <nemis.fema.gov>. To access this page you must be at a FEMA facility or a state office that is connected to the FEMA WAN.


Amy Sebring: I would like to wrap up with a question about the future, since our time is about up. John, will you be able to stay a few minutes afterward for any additional questions?

John Cormack: I would like to. However, I have received several calls from disasters in progress during this presentation. I would be happy to set up another session where we could discuss any questions.

Final Question:

Amy Sebring: Folks, we will have to follow up via email so we can let you go. You mentioned Version 2 coming out. Does that add features, or do you have further development planned?

John Cormack: Version 2 will add some additional features. There will be additional maintenance releases.

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much for being with us today, John. We hope you enjoyed it and wish you good luck with continued implementation of NEMIS.

John Cormack: Thank You.

Jim Cook: Thanks John, great presentation!!

Amy Sebring: Ava, can you give us a heads up for upcoming events?

Avagene Moore: Thank you, Amy. I am happy to share next week's events and urge everyone to support and participate.

Next Tuesday, May 4, 1:00 PM EDT: SALEMDUG will host our Round Table. Preston Cook, President of the organization will be leading our discussion.

On Wednesday, May 5, 12:00 Noon EDT, we hope to have a discussion of aircraft disasters/hazards. Please look for the May edition of "Emergency Partner Postings" this weekend for a complete schedule of May sessions and speakers, both Round Table and formal discussions. Wednesday events for May 99 will be posted this weekend on the Virtual Forum web site at <http://www.emforum.org/events.htm>. Back to you, Amy.

Amy Sebring: This concludes today's session. Since John must go, let's just say thanks here. Great job John, thank you so much <applause, applause>.

I will have a text transcript up this afternoon and edited version up early next week, including the slides, so you can see what you may have missed if you came in late. An overview is also available at <http://www.nemishome.fema.gov>

Avagene Moore: Amy and all: Jaroslav Pejcoch is online with us today from Prague, New Czech Republic. I met him in Prague 2 years ago. Welcome!

Amy Sebring: We will adjourn for now, but if you would like to remain for open discussion, you are welcome to return to the Virtual Forum room.