EIIP Virtual Forum Presentation - June 2, 2004
Emergency Provider Access Directory
Empowering Emergency Communications
Robert L. Martin
Director, Partnership Development and Communications
Avagene Moore, CEM
Moderator, EIIP Coordinator
The following version of the transcript has been edited for easier
reading and comprehension. A raw, unedited transcript is available from
our archives. See our home page at http://www.emforum.org
[Welcome / Introduction]
Avagene Moore: Welcome to the EIIP Virtual Forum! Amy Sebring, my
associate, and I are pleased to see you in our audience today.
Today's topic is "Emergency Provider Access Directory (EPAD) -
Empowering Emergency Communications."
It is a pleasure to introduce our guest speaker for this session.
Robert L. Martin currently serves as the Director of Partnership
Development and Communications for the ComCARE Alliance in Washington,
DC. He oversees the involvement of local, state and federal
emergency response agencies in the development of ComCARE's Emergency
Provider Access Directory (EPAD) and serves as a liaison between
project-specific stakeholder leaders, staff, and national member
If you have not read Rob's bio and are unfamiliar with the work of the
ComCARE Alliance, please check out the links given on today's
background page after today's session.
Welcome, Rob Martin! We appreciate you being here and look
forward to your presentation. Rob, I now turn the floor over to
Robert Martin: Thank you, Avagene, and welcome everyone to the EIIP
Virtual Forum and today's update on the Emergency Provider Access
Directory (EPAD), a developing resource tool currently being designed
to empower emergency communications. Today's session will provide you a
quick overview and answer four basic questions: what, why, who, and how.
First, stated simply, EPAD is an electronic database registry. It
is a self-maintained registry of emergency service agencies. It is NOT
the be-all-end-all solution to solving emergency communications
problems itself, but it is an empowering tool being specifically
designed and developed as a means to help achieve that lofty and
EPAD will become a secure, nationally coordinated, non-proprietary,
GIS-enabled directory of emergency authorities and public service
providers that will enable nearly instantaneous, interoperable
communication and accurate notification of emergency events and all
That is the vision. This vision is nothing less than to promote a
comprehensive "end-to-end communications system" to link the mobile
public to emergency agencies, and to link those agencies together. EPAD
is a tool to help accomplish the agency-coordination component.
EPAD is NOT a directory where individuals and the general public will
be able to log-on through the public internet and register themselves
to receive alerts, weather information, or sports scores. Several
systems for providing those kinds of services already exist.
Rather, EPAD is a shared comprehensive resource for authorized
agencies. And by "agencies" we mean local, tribal, state, and federal
emergency response organizations and service providers, as well as the
media, hospitals, utilities, schools, and private corporations.
EPAD will help provide real-time automatic routing of messages via
internet protocol to-and-from authorized agencies based on their
geographic and resource-specific areas of responsibility.
EPAD is being specifically designed to enable and empower other
technology. Approved agencies simply register their emergency
contact information (particularly their computer I.P. addresses), what
information they want, and the area for which they want it. This will
be locally determined based on applicable processes, policies, and
procedures. That is what EPAD is being designed to accomplish, now to
consider the important trigger question of why.
To answer this most appropriately, first ask yourself a few additional questions:
Do you have a data communication system linking your agencies or are you still relying exclusively on voice communication?
Can all the emergency agencies in your region quickly share information without making separate phone calls to each one?
What about in your state? Can the state or federal government share information with your local leaders?
Do your local agencies have a directory of other emergency provider agencies, and if so, how is it kept up to date?
Are your local providers included others' directories?
Are those directories up to date?
As basic as it may sound, there is currently no comprehensive national
directory of emergency provider agencies. Most organizations struggle
to maintain phone numbers, email addresses, and basic contact
information for their own, limited uses.
Rather than everyone involved in emergency services creating and
maintaining their own disparate directory systems, we think it's much
easier and more cost-effective to involve constituents and participate
in a standardized national directory development process.
One integrated and shared directory system will result in more
resources-both time and money-being available to serve other important
areas rather than in building and maintaining multiple, redundant, and
even conflicting, individual directories. This is why we need
EPAD. This is a critical missing link in the infrastructure of
the emergency response community in America that impairs the ability
for any of these agencies to respond together with other agencies in a
rapidly coordinated manner to individual or mass emergencies.
Our country's 9-1-1, public safety, government, transportation, and
public health agencies face heavy communication and interoperability
challenges. Highlighted garishly in the recent 9/11 commission hearings
is the critical need for "interoperability" in emergency
communications. Traditionally that term's use has been confined
almost entirely to the realm of voice two-way radio systems used by
field first-response agencies for at-scene communications. But this is
far too limiting. The interoperability challenge extends well beyond
The problem of regional, state or national communications is
particularly acute because, remarkably, many of the nation's 80,000
emergency agencies still have little to no data communications
capability at all. Of course EPAD won't change any of this
capability, but its availability will encourage and help motivate
positive change. Make sense so far?
So... who is developing and coordinating EPAD? Well, EPAD is a
project of the ComCARE Alliance, funded in part through an initial $1.7
million federal grant from the Department of Justice, and supported
through the work of eight constituency Working Groups. The Working
Groups include leaders and forward-thinking representatives from local,
state, and federal agencies, emergency medicine and EMS, emergency
management and alerting, public safety, business, and transportation.
Each is coordinated through ComCARE.
For anyone who may not know, ComCARE stands for Communications for
Coordinated Assistance and Response to Emergencies. We are a
broad-based non-profit national coalition of more than 90
organizations. ComCARE members represent diverse interests,
including those of nurses, physicians, EMTs, dispatchers, 9-1-1
directors, emergency managers, transportation officials, wireless,
technology and transportation companies, public safety and health
officials, law enforcement, automobile companies, consumer
organizations, telematics suppliers, safety groups, and others.
For a current list of our membership see http://www.comcare.org/membership/memberlist.html.
The common thread in this diverse coalition is that all our members are
working to encourage the deployment of life saving communications
technologies that will enhance America's public safety response
network. They share our vision for a coordinated "E-Safety
So then, how is EPAD being developed and how will it be
sustained? To really understand why and how EPAD is being
developed, it's important to appreciate from where it comes. EPAD
is not one person's idea or one organization's proprietary product. It
truly comes from a shared vision. Many organizations have
identified the need for a national data communications and information
technology architecture based on open, non-proprietary standards and a
shared, "spatially aware" directory of network users.
The beginnings of EPAD date back four years to the recommendations of
the National Mayday Readiness Initiative (NMRI) sponsored by ComCARE
and the US Department of Transportation and involving many allied
industry organizations. Initial discussions actually go back even
further to the recommendations encouraged in the Wireless
Communications and Public Safety Act of 1999, which called for a
process of statewide, coordinated planning for emergency communications.
But it was in 2000 when NMRI formally called for a wide variety of
specific steps to upgrade the nation's emergency response
communications and information technology infrastructure and the
initiative for EPAD was born. Different emergency agencies' information
systems -- computer-aided dispatch systems, emergency-management
information systems, public health systems, wireless data systems in
the field, and many others should be able to all exchange
This need abruptly became more urgent on September 11, 2001.
Several local technology trials and subsequent discussions followed,
coordinated by ComCARE, culminating in the awarding of the grant last year from the U.S.
Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, through assistance
from Senator Conrad Burns and other political leaders.
The EPAD project has made significant progress since the beginning of
2004. It is being formally managed and activity is being tracked in
order to achieve the
four major goals specified in the grant proposal. Those goals
Sustainability plans include the development of a long term
organizational plan and revenue model for prudent fiscal management,
administered through the direction of a public/private EPAD
to engage key constituencies (that includes YOU!);
to design, implement, test and deploy technical facilities for a national EPAD;
to demonstrate and evaluate the role of EPAD in at least two statewide and one nationwide demonstration applications, and;
to institutionalize EPAD as a sustainable program (which is KEY.)
The biggest challenges aren't so much technical as they are
institutional. It's not a question of ignorance or willingness.
It's typically a question of steeped tradition, "turf," and political
and organizational barriers to "intra-connectivity." Achieving
systems interoperability in today's high-tech, modern world should be
simple. Private industry has already developed and proven
standard methods for linking diverse data systems into a coherent
national and global architecture. Myriad "islands" or "silos"
already exist capable of accomplishing this. They just need to be
Populating EPAD will require a concerted and coordinated initiative
within each state and region. The Governor and other political leaders
will need to bring all parties involved in emergency response together
to register their information into the directory.
While enormous political and operational challenges with legacy systems
obviously exist, connecting end-to-end communication for emergency
providers is an undertaking worth accomplishing. Realizing this
potential through the creation of EPAD will dramatically and positively
impact community safety and emergency response.
Success will require the continued efforts of a "coalition of
coalitions," representing numerous diverse stakeholders to enable new
technologies to help agencies help themselves-and each other.
So, that's what EPAD is about in a nutshell. For more information
about EPAD and the ComCARE Alliance, I refer you to our website at http://www.comcare.org/projects/epad.html. Be sure to view the EPAD Flash Introduction.
That concludes my formal remarks and I now return you to our moderator.
Avagene Moore: Thank you very much, Rob. EPAD sounds like a very interesting project
and a useful tool. I am sure our audience has questions for you.
[Audience Questions & Answers]
Bary Lusby: I understand the need for the national registry, but isn’t
the communication backbone already being developed by the Disaster
Management Interoperability Services? Have you looked into their
Robert Martin: Good question, Bary. Understanding the need is only part
of the struggle as everyone feels their (usually proprietary) solution
is the "answer." Disaster Management Interoperability Services is
one of these we refer to as "silos" or "single-purpose." EPAD
would enable that system (and others like it) to send and receive
queries beyond the scopes of itself. Hopefully that makes sense.
Carlton: Given silos and such, will EPAD allow silos connected to migrate toward shared data, hence a national directory?
Robert Martin: Yes, EPAD is being specifically designed as a shared
non-profit resource. It is out hope that silo systems will use it
as a resource.
Ray Pena: I'm the Emergency Manager for a metro area. A major event
occurs. How do I/can I use EPAD? What can EPAD do for me that other
systems that I know and trust aren't already doing? Start at the
Robert Martin: Great question, Ray. The truthful answer is no other
system out there is doing what EPAD plans to enable. Right now
when a major event occurs you have a list or a directory of some kind,
no doubt. Typically this is a list of phone numbers perhaps (you
can tell us better actually) or maybe you have a list of email
addresses or pager numbers. EPAD will enable a single
geo-spatially oriented query. You can use your own technology of
choice to send a message to everyone authorized and registered for that
kind of event in that specific area WITHOUT your having to know who
they are (or keep that list updated yourself).
Joe Sukaskas: Although you have not provided any details, I gather that
EPAD is a web-based service. How would EPAD function when/if the
Internet is either very congested, or just plain down? By the
way, the "Sample EPAD Web Interface" link does not provide what I would
consider a sample or screenshot; if that sample interface is up and
running, how can we get there?
Robert Martin: Okay Joe, let me answer in two parts. EPAD is
Internet protocol based. We're using the public Internet right
now for trials and tests but that isn't necessarily where the
production EPAD (or EPADs?) will reside. In the not too distant
future we can see the creation of separate and secure Internet protocol
networks specifically for DHS use (for example). EPAD will grow
into itself as it becomes mature.
Part two of your question is related to the existing prototype.
The prototype we've used to register people to date is at
http://epad.us. It was programmed by DICE Corporation to test
the technical feasibility. You can go try to register yourself
right now and walk through the screens. That is how you'll be
able to get to the sample screens. Even though the production
version won't look like what you see there now. The RFP for
an "alpha" version of a production EPAD is going out next month.
Robert Weeks: From the field stand point (city EOC), how will we be
able to access and feed data that is usable up-state and beyond that
will help us? Does EPAD dead head at the County EOC? How is the
priority packet coding working out?
Robert Martin: Robert, I see three question marks there. et me
start with data accessibility. EPAD is being spec'ed and designed
to import/export using standard XML. ComCARE has helped
develop two data sets already, CAP and VEDS. That's the Common
Alerting Protocol and the Vehicular Emergency Data Set (for telematics
like OnStar and ATX). If you have tools available that can
interface through XML then you'll be able to use EPAD.
To the other part of your question - the County EOC might be the
authorizing body in your area, but not necessarily in another. That
depends on local policy and EPAD won't change any of that.
For priority packet coding, that's more a question for the tech-types,
but solutions will be recommended by the vendor(s) and specs will be in
AJLee: What is EPAD’s model for qualifying and credentialing its
resources? If I'm using EPAD while under the gun, how can I be
sure I'm being connected with the right resources?
Robert Martin: Excellent concern. EPAD is being specifically
designed to be super-redundant and "self-healing" using technologies
that already exist in private enterprise. As to content
qualifying, that's what our advisory working groups are working on
right now. To be frank, the matter of who has a right to
authorize that XYZ agency is really XYZ agency with authority for that
area, changes from place to place. So, for testing it's been easy
to link properly credentialed users, but that will change as the system
Amy Sebring: Do you feel that in order for EPAD to be viable, it will
need to achieve a critical mass of registrants, and if so, what is the
strategy to reach it? (If you build it, they won't automatically
come, in my experience.)
Robert Martin: Absolutely Amy. What we call "critical mass" is
key. We already have certain regions crying out for this NOW,
while others are standing around waiting to see. The so
called "early adopters" always get to work out the bugs first I
suppose. Our strategy has been that ComCARE is in a somewhat
unique position to tackle this shared resource right now. We are
targeting areas where the tools and support already exist to show that
this isn't "just another bright idea." So far no one else is
proposing a non-proprietary solution and no one else has received
funding for such a thing. But it needs to happen in some fashion
in the same way the public internet happened - driven by the people who
Carlton: Has a list of candidate state or local projects/systems been compiled for possible candidate EPAD trials/tests?
Robert Martin: Yes. Actually the grant calls for 3 tests.
That's our initial seed money to pay for at least 2 regional and 1
national trials. We completed a first demonstration in March in
the Pacific Northwest. And are currently working on a national
capitol region trial (mid-atlantic states). The national trial
will be in the Fall and involve anyone who wants to participate.
It will be themed around a "national emergency alerting month" and
culminate in a day here in Washington to call awareness to the fact
that agencies all across the country can (and ARE) sharing information
in real time using internet protocol and XML. More on that
will follow so watch the ComCARE website and subscribe to our update
e-zine "This Week in E-Safety" to be sure to receive notice.
Also, if a particular state or agency wants to partner with ComCARE to
help find funding for additional trials and tests we're definitely open
Isabel McCurdy: Rob, is EPAD a closed system? Wondering if we Canadians will be able to access too?
Robert Martin: Good question! EPAD is an open system.
That's why it's different from what's currently "out there" It's
just that initial funding is from USDOJ for feasibility trials here in
the U.S., but we're already talking with Canadians (and some in the
U.K. too) about this.
Rick Tobin: One qualification of a vendor that should be considered is
their E&O for terrorism products, whether plans or materials or
services. Some companies are not telling their insurers the full
extent of what they do. The Feds indemnified some companies, but not
all. If there is a lawsuit due to poor performance, and an
insurer backs out because of misinformation, losses could then falls on
the jurisdiction. Have you looked into this in your screening
Robert Martin: Good point Rick. On this I have to honestly say,
"I don't know." (Mama taught me to admit when I don't know
something which is often.) The RFP is still in development.
I will absolutely inquire about requirement to ask about insurance for
Ray Pena: You mentioned earlier that Emergency Managers would be able
to activate agencies/people they don't know and lists they don't
maintain. We derive benefit from maintaining that information. Will I
lose that benefit by signing up with EPAD?
Robert Martin: Hmmm, this question is threat vs. benefit. We
would absolutely expect you to keep doing what you're doing in
maintaining typical contact information for specific purposes.
But consider a non-typical purpose - how can you get info from a
neighboring state or jurisdiction (or one across the country) quickly
when an emergency need arises? The only way is to share
lists. We've also found that self-registration is the only way to
ensure they are up to date and then to actually USE them. Agency
information changes less than individuals, but it does change.
The benefit you realize from EPAD is that of a shared resource so you
have to give some in order to receive the same though.
Avagene Moore: Rob, is EPAD envisioned as a free service or a fee-based subscriber service for the broad EM community?
Robert Martin: Ah, in getting toward the end of our time we have to get
to the dollar question! Free is always nice, but nothing is ever
really "free." In order to have a viable and sustainable and
useful shared tool someone has to pay for it. So, to answer your
question succinctly, it's going to be fee-based. We just don't
know what kind of structure exactly will work best yet, but it will
likely be based on subscription.
Carlton: City and County EOCs call on the Sate EOC for State assistance
and to qualify for State or Federal funding for declared
disaster/emergency incidents. Will EPAD respect that so as not to
compromise expense reimbursement as EPAD allows requests to conceivably
cut across the chain of command?
Robert Martin: Great point and I'll make my answer quick. EPAD
won't work in an area where it doesn't respect the chain of
command. It has to.
Anyone with further questions can email to firstname.lastname@example.org .
Avagene Moore: That's all we have time for today. We greatly
appreciate your efforts and time on our behalf today, Rob. Thank
you! And we wish you great success as you continue the EPAD work.
Please stand by a moment while we make some quick announcements.
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Again, the transcript will be posted later this afternoon and you will be able to access it
from our home page.
Thanks to all for being here today. Special thanks to Rob.
Help me show our appreciation to him. The EIIP Virtual Forum is