Edited Version March 28, 2001 Transcript
EIIP Tech Arena Online Presentation
"Emergency Management Content and Collaboration:
Incident Master Portal Fills the Gap"
CEO, Essential Technologies
Amy Sebring, Moderator
EIIP Technical Projects Coordinator
The original unedited transcript of the March 28, 2001 online Virtual Tech Arena presentation is available in the EIIP Virtual Library Archives (http://www.emforum.org/vlibrary/livechat.htm). 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 to participants questions are grouped beneath the appropriate question to facilitate meaning.
Amy Sebring: Welcome to the EIIP Tech Arena! Today we are featuring Essential Technologies Inc. in a session entitled "Emergency Management Content and Collaboration: Incident Master Portal Fills The Gap."
I am pleased to introduce Dr. Jim Morentz, CEO of Essential Technologies. Jim has been a pioneer in the application of computer technology to Emergency Management and has continued to refine and expand on his original software package while developing several other products and information management strategies. An internationally recognized expert in the development and application of new technologies for environmental and emergency management, Jim has also played an integral role in developing the Comprehensive Emergency Management (CEM) philosophy and process, that has since been adopted throughout the United States. For further information about Jim and Essential Technologies, please see the bio on today's background page.
Welcome Jim, it is a pleasure to have you with us. We turn the floor over to you now.
Jim Morentz: Hello everyone. Thank you for joining me today for a look at some history and a glimpse into the future of emergency information management. I've been developing emergency management software for a long time --- sometimes it seems a very long time. I started with a refugee management system for the Department of State that was used throughout Africa in the late 1970s. That led to the U.S. Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance Lessons Learned System that was used for more than a decade to chronicle response to more than 250 different disasters. If you want to know how long ago that was in computer-age, take a look at this old picture of the computer that ran those systems.
By the way, that is a younger Jim Morentz working on the computer. Since then, computers got small, fast, and cute, but not me!
Domestically, the first national computer system for emergency preparedness was our National Emergency Assistance Programs Index fielded to all 50 states by the National Governors Association from 1980 through 1984. That experience inspired me to create the first commercial emergency management system for personal computers, the Emergency Information System released in 1982. We actually sold two copies for ATARI computers in 1983.
1984 was a banner year when we released a CP/M version for the world's first portable computer, the Osborne, which at 24 pounds crushed more than a few vertebrae halfway through an airport. With all that going for us, we sold eight licenses. With a price of only $1,800 each, you had to have faith that this was a good business to be in. But 1985, it turned the corner, as you can see from this first major installation of ours at the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency.
Then, IBM PCs had gained a foothold --- and we sold 50 Emergency Information System licenses. Faith and unfounded confidence were being rewarded. We released the first mapping software for emergency management --- again pushing the envelope by offering maps on computer displays that could only provide four colors and 320 by 200 pixel resolution.
The rest is history, so to speak. In 1986 the passage of the Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) put hazardous materials planning by industry and government to work. Computers got faster, screen resolution more than doubled, 16 colors were available, and we sold 400 licenses.
In the intervening years, the EIS software became Essential Technologies, Inc. and more than 15,000 licenses have been sold in 30 countries. The most important U.S. national emergency response organizations use our software as do hundreds of city and county fire, police, and emergency management agencies.
Now that you know how I got here, let's talk about the future. The future is not computer software, it is information solutions. Sure, you have to write some code to make things work, but anyone who tells you that they have a computer software package that is going to make your job easier, make you more effective, help you out everyday, and save you money doesn't know what your job is.
Your job is information not data. It is decisions, not discussions. That's why our mission has always been to get you the right information at the right time in the right form to do YOUR job better. Where do you get that information? Well, the best part of the answer is: You don't have to type it in anymore. Now, the World Wide Web and the Internet add to your local data to bring you the future of emergency management. But, not the unstructured, WWW where you search for "stuff" and occasionally find a "gem." Do you know that if you go to FirstGov and search on emergency you get 105,817 sources of information. Try sifting through there to find the current reading on a stream gauge near your town.
The job of the software vendor, now, is to make sense of all the richness of information and turn it into a tool for your improvement. With that, I bring you Incident Master.
Incident Master combines contingency and emergency management applications with an ever-changing Content and Collaboration Portal.
The operations software (driven by the Outlook-like buttons on the left) helps you better manage contingencies of all types by using operation logs and messaging, activating procedures and plans, managing assets and personnel, providing job descriptions and work-flow, forecasting risk and analysis, and employing outstanding briefing capabilities.
The Portal content (the green buttons at the top) brings to your desktop analytical tools, exhaustive maps and data sources, educational materials and training, emergency management professional forums, near-real-time event data, and daily features from around the world of interest to us all.
The Portal opens the new world to you. Let's take a brief look at the green content buttons and what they bring to your desktop, vehicle, or home office.
The Today's Features green button allows you to access the latest news, articles, tools, and resources that the site has to offer divided into eight categories: Current Events, Tools & Techniques, Business Continuity, Emergency Planning and Response, EHS Incident Management, Hazard Watch, Research and Education, and Helpful Organizations.
Today's Features is available to anyone who comes to the site and registers. It is updated daily to provide the results of hundreds of hours of searching the Web for the "gems" of emergency management.
The Resources green button provides a comprehensive source of products and services available to help you manage an incident, conduct business continuity planning, and build your emergency management system.
These are the people, companies, products, and processes that we have identified as potentially useful to you and we hope that they serve your needs. Let's take a look at a couple of these. We've brought all the map-searching tools you need right to the Portal. And, a World Clock. And the Code of Federal Regulations. And a dozen other tools that help you work smartest. With more on the way. The Near Events green button has quick links to get to Internet-based near-event data sources to monitor potential or developing crisis situations in your area. These Web sites provide real-time data on observed hazardous events and forecasts/ predictions for developing events.
Again, you can find weather radar (shown in the lower left), but the Portal makes it part of your daily work life. A weekly drought update is right at your fingertips.
But, you really need to search to find those stream gauges, shown here mapped and updated every 15 minutes for the State of Kentucky. And we've found them and bring them right into the portal. Plus, how many hours has your LEPC spent tracking SARA sites or other environmental risks. With Incident Master, all you do is enter your zip code and we deliver exhaustive EPA data on maps like this.
Let me just summarize the other content resources.
The Education button offers a host of lessons, exercises, free instructional materials, as well as training.
The Organizations button presents the professional community of business continuity and emergency management. Included here are many of the familiar (and not so familiar) organizations that make up the profession. Some organizations provide information, others resources, some certify, others inform.
The Archive button stores all the past Today's Features providing a treasure trove of information for your professional growth.
Finally, the User Forum gives you the chance to interact with other people and organizations in your profession, and get the latest information from Essential Technologies.
Now, let's turn to the Incident Master application software. The actual Incident Master Application Software helps you better manage contingencies of all types by using operation logs and messaging, activating procedures and plans, managing assets and personnel, providing job descriptions and work-flow, forecasting risk and analysis, and employing outstanding briefing capabilities.
The Dashboard - Management Tools for Briefing and Oversight: The Dashboard provides leadership with highlights of the on-going operations of the organization. Some of the Dashboard items use graphs to summarize the status of, for example, the availability of Assets.
Other Dashboard tools bring together a wide variety of textual and statistical information into a summary situation report. And still others provide spatial displays of geography or photos of an incident.
Together, all these Dashboard tools give top management as well as all personnel a complete picture of what's happening throughout the organization. You will have better informed staff, more able to make the timely and critical decisions that lead to success.
Operations - The Key to Effective Response: Whether a minor traffic accident or one that results in a hazardous materials spill, building the Log of the incident response is critical to both effective management and legal accountability. The Operations section of Incident Master puts all your management tools in one convenient place.
You create the Log, post Messages about actions to it, make Task assignments, and track tasks to their completion. In addition, anytime you assign an Asset, deploy Personnel, complete a Checklist item, or work on a Task. Incident Master automatically records that activity in the Log, freeing you from mundane record keeping.
This provides a complete and accurate account of an event to inform decision-makers and responders in real-time throughout the incident and for post-incident audits and recommendations.
Plans and Procedures - The Guide to Getting It Done Right: When a Log is opened, SOPs quickly are selected as the best ones to use as a guide to response.
Completing those SOPs makes an automatic entry back in the Log, completing the cycle of planning - responding - accounting that is essential to success. That's why Incident Master delivers such important capabilities in its Procedures section because your success in incident management depends on it.
Assets - What You Protect and What You Use: Asset management in Incident Master is comprised of two interrelated functions. First for the owner of property who desires to protect, repair, and replace a facility to minimize non-productive time after an incident.
Incident Master allows you to compile information about the asset facility, people working there, infrastructure equipment located there, and status of availability.
Second, for the responder who calls upon assets to help end a situation successfully, Incident Master tracks the deployment of the asset on maps, its consumption, replacement costs, and the incident in which it is being used.
People - Your Most Valuable Resource: You need to use your people wisely, have them well trained, assure their professional certifications, understand their skills, and track their participation in incident management.
Incident Master does all this in order to make certain that your most valuable resources are protected and effective. But, above all, the operations management tools provide the best available means to assign personnel, track their performance, and record their actions automatically in the Log.
Job Descriptions - Guide Your Staff to the Right Answers: Everyone has a job description. And in the emergency field it includes daily work and the critical tasks undertaken during an incident.
What do I do today? What do I do in an incident? The answer to these questions varies according to the person asking them - and we believe that your software should be able to handle that variety.
As a result, you tailor Incident Master to meet the information management needs of the individual. A division director might need only to view the Dashboard and a personnel availability roster. A logistics specialist should be able to follow their SOPs and have exactly the right information to support every decision.
Everyone can have his or her own Job Description in either a text listing format or a graphical format that provides instant links to exactly what they are supposed to do -- reducing training, speeding performance, and assuring accuracy.
Impact Models - Forecasting Risk to Understand Response: Essential Technologies offers several Web-delivered predictive or assessment models that encourage accurate evaluation of the risk of hazardous events and the preparation for response.
The models include the ALOHA chemical plume dispersion model developed by NOAA and EPA plus two models developed especially for Incident Master and other Essential software, BLAST! and NBC Warning!
Together these represent the finest analytical tools for chemical releases, bombings, and nuclear and biological terrorist releases.
OK. Now that you've seen this overview, how do you get access to all this great information? The Incident Master application software, obviously, you have to purchase. (Sorry about that!) But, Today's Features on the Portal is available to anyone who registers at the site at <http://www.incidentmaster.com> (Don't you all rush out and do it now, there is still lot's more useful Q&A to come.)
The whole portal is open only to all Essential Support Plan members who already own any version of Essential EHS or contingency management software, Portal subscribers, and authorized guests. For a limited time, however, we'll be offering access to the whole Portal to all of you who joined this forum. After registering at <http://www.incidentmaster.com>, follow the instructions to email <AccountManager@Essential-Technologies.com> and say you are from the EIIP discussion.
In conclusion, I invite you to do as hundreds of people have already done and make <http://www.incidentmaster.com> your home page, bringing this important information every day to your desktop. The combination of content, collaboration, and application software is the future of emergency management, and you can jump-start the future today with Incident Master.
Thank you for your attention. I'd be happy to answer any questions or take comments (except about my 1979 haircut!).
[Audience Questions & Answers]
Amy Sebring: Thank you, Jim. We now invite your questions/comments.
Chris Waters: Are there any sites in the Charleston, SC area that have purchased the software and that I can contact?
Jim Morentz: Our older, LAN and client server software is around there, but not Incident Master yet.
Tony Redden: Has the National Guard fielded this?
Jim Morentz: They have our other software, but Incident Master is just now reaching the market.
D. Seth Staker: Have you any users that have fielded the software?
Jim Morentz: The biggest upgrade we've had to date is FEMA and they are beginning deployment already in the HQ Ops Center.
Ed Pearce: What about usefulness for the private sector? Corporate Business Continuity / Emergency Response?
Jim Morentz: We have a petrochemical company that has come on board. The whole product was changed significantly from our older government product as a result of our participation with numerous corporate BCP efforts over the years. You'll find especially that asset management fits the "inside protection" and "outside support" models very well.
Avagene Moore: What type of learning curve is required to get up to speed with the software? Is there a tutorial and online support?
Jim Morentz: This is very fast learning. We've cut our 3-day class to a day and people are being training online in half a day to begin effective operations. We recently had an instance where a prospect was looking at the software, had an accident we created a version of the software on our servers and in 2 hours they had 5 people up and using it.
That's pretty exciting when compared to the struggle technology has previously forced on us.
We do most of our technical support by email. There is extensive online help that leads you through it and inside the portal for "users only" we will be conducting seminars like this one in the future.
Art Botterell: Congrats, Jim, think you've nailed it this time. Can you say a little about how users are ensuring reliable access to Incident Master over the Net?
Jim Morentz: First of all, IntrAnet is important to understand for an EOC operation used inside a building or within LAN/WAN, this is just like "normal" software. Once you step outside into the Internet, then reliability is external and you have to be prepared. Our customers are finding that the right ISP, a good connection (DSL, cable modem, and of course the higher speed connections), all assure reliability. But most important is to understand that sometimes you won't be able to connect which puts you right where you are today and when you CAN connect, the world is a beautiful place.
Cam King: Jim,what is the purchase and maintenance costs for the programme?
Jim Morentz: There are so many variables to this that we really need to give you an individualized answer. But it is the least expensive offering we've ever made. It all depends on whether you own and operate the software, use an outside hosting organization, or host it through, for example, a state for all the counties.
Amy Sebring: While we are waiting for Steve, perhaps you could elaborate on the licensing options, Jim?
Jim Morentz: You can purchase the software and your only continuing costs are for annual maintenance. You can lease the software through a third-party hosting organization that means you pay (usually monthly) for access to the software.
Steve Charvat: This may sound like a loaded question, but Jim, can you please tell us, in a few short sentences, what differentiates your new product from your competitors? You don't have to use brand names, just want to know what functions puts you guys on the "cutting edge."
Jim Morentz: Steve, a loaded question from you? Never! Sure.
Three things: First, the feedback from our installed base of more than 13,000 licensees in 30 countries around the world helped direct the development of this product.
Second, Incident Master is used interchangeably with our older product, meaning that they share the same database (Access, Oracle, SQL Server). Meaning that when someone sitting on a LAN with the EIS/GEM product saves a record, the Incident Master user located on the front seat of a car or at home sees the results of that information. This means that all our current customers move seamlessly into the Web era.
Third, we have raised the bar in terms of executive presentation of information. Sure, there are still all the databases and lists, but the Dashboard and some of the things I didn't show you provide the best summary briefing tools that I've ever seen. Does my enthusiasm show?
Rick Tobin: Have you considered development of wireless applications so staff with PDAs could participate remotely?
Jim Morentz: Definitely. We did that for the first time with our Y2K Command Center software. You could report incidents, select protocols to follow, and really expand the scope of response with a Palm Pilot. I fully expect to have that capability operating with some of the crucial parts of Incident Master this summer.
Amy Sebring: Jim, any hints you would like to give us about your future development?
Jim Morentz: Our Web development will move into more daily activities, especially for corporate users, Workplace accidents (which occur in corporate and government) and the linkages to OSHA reporting requirements are going to be a real time-saver for everyday use and this fits in with the rest of our suite. Also, our associates in Canada are focusing on the corrections institutions as a market with some excellent add-ons to our products.
Amy Sebring: Excellent presentation, Jim. Thank you very much for being with us today. We very much appreciate your time and effort. Please stand by a moment while we take care of some business.
We will have a text transcript posted later today, and reformatted versions with links to the slides at the end of the week.
If you read our monthly newsletter for March, we announced that unless we found some funding for this effort, we were going to have to call it quits. Avagene and I have been working at our usual pace since Oct. 1, 2000 with no pay and we can no longer manage it.
Unfortunately, despite our best efforts, we have been unable to find a funding source that would allow us to keep this a free service to the Users, so today's session is the last until further notice. We will leave the site up, and will keep the mailing list functional. If anything changes we will notify you via the mailing list. We certainly hope it will and that we will be back! We love doing this and believe in its value.
We have been extremely grateful to all the participants who are the ones who have made it a success in non-financial terms! Not only all our speakers who have been willing to donate their time, but you the "audience." We especially appreciate our "pledgers" and other regulars who have been with us throughout the years. And we are always delighted to see the new faces that continue to come in. Before I start blubbering, I will turn it over to Ava.
Avagene Moore: Thanks, Amy. Jim, thank you so much for your presentation. We wish you continued success with Essential Technologies. FYI: there were 57 people who logged in today. Very good audience!
This is an emotional day for both Amy and me. The EIIP Virtual Forum is undoubtedly the most rewarding work I have done -- I am sure I speak for Amy as well. There is little more I can add to Amy's words. We are still hopeful and will let you know if we find funding to support us. If any of you have any ideas or are able to fund our efforts in part or whole, please let us know.
For our Partners and EIIP Mail Lists, there will be a newsletter for April -- please look for that the first of next week. It will be available from the homepage as well.
My sincere gratitude to you, the audience, for your loyal support and participation. I would be remiss if I didn't mention how much I appreciate the work that Amy has done the past 4 years. Thank you, Amy! This would not have been possible without you.
Also, Isabel McCurdy and Lori Wieber have been of great assistance to us working behind the scenes. And there have been a number of other interns who worked with us over the years as well. Thanks to you all! Back to you, Amy.
Amy Sebring: Thank you, Ava. 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. Please help us express our appreciation to Jim for today's presentation.