EMForum Presentation — November 20, 2013

The National Information Sharing Consortium (NISC)
Sharing Tools and Best Practices to
Improve Situational Awareness and Interoperability

Sean McSpaden
Membership and Outreach Coordinator, NISC
Principal Legislative IT Analyst, State of Oregon Legislative Fiscal Office

Amy Sebring
EMForum Moderator

This transcript contains references to slides which can be downloaded from http://www.emforum.org/vforum/NISCoverview.pdf
A video recording of the live session is available at http://www.emforum.org/pub/eiip/lm131120.wmv
MP3 format at http://www.emforum.org/pub/eiip/lm131120.mp3 or in MP4format at http://www.emforum.org/pub/eiip/lm131120.mp4

[Welcome / Introduction]

Amy Sebring: Good morning/afternoon everyone and welcome to EMForum.org. I am Amy Sebring and will serve as your Host and Moderator today and we are very glad you could join us.

Our topic today is the National Information Sharing Consortium. Our guest will provide an overview of this relatively new organization and I am sure he will invite your organization to participate.

[Slide 1]

Now it is my pleasure to introduce Sean McSpaden, Membership and Outreach Coordinator for the consortium, he serves as its first Director.  Sean also serves as Principal Legislative IT Analyst for the State of Oregon Legislative Fiscal Office, and previously served as the state’s Deputy Chief Information Officer.  

Welcome Sean and thank you very much for taking the time to be with us today. I now turn the floor over to you to start us off please.


Sean McSpaden:  It is a pleasure to be with you all this morning.  As Amy indicated my name is Sean McSpaden and I have had quite a history in the Oregon State Government—fifteen years working for the Department of Administrative Services, served about five and a half years as the Oregon Deputy State Chief Information Officer and now I serve as a Principle Legislative Information Technology Analyst for the Oregon Legislative Fiscal Office.

The consortium itself is an organization that is near and dear to my heart.  I served as one of the five founding members and also as the consortium’s first chair until August of this year.  It is my pleasure to have the opportunity to give you an overview and update on the consortium and as Amy indicated I invite you all to participate on a more active basis in the future.

[Slide 2]

As the slide indicates the National Information Sharing Consortium was formed in 2012 by a memorandum of agreement signed by Oregon and our partners in the Commonwealth of Virginia, State of California, City of Charlottesville, Virginia and City of Charlotte, North Carolina.  The memorandum of agreement is at its heart a voluntary reciprocal agreement to share items of value with one another like governance documents, information sharing plans, standard operating procedures and ultimately software code and documentation.

I want to reinforce that any sharing that occurs among or between the members is done on a peer to peer basis and is entirely voluntary.

[Slide 3]

The consortium’s mission is, generally speaking, to bring together a very diverse group of leaders involved in Homeland Security, public safety and emergency management and response and to leverage the community’s efforts related to the development, sharing and governance of technology, data and best practices.

It is very important work we are doing now across the nation to share the work that we have all funded with very scarce taxpayer dollars and resources.  We found ourselves in June 2012 struck by the realization that we were all continuing to essentially pave the same set of road in various parts of the country.  We were repeating one another’s efforts.  We weren’t sharing in the way we should particularly when we were using taxpayer dollars and resources to get all of this work done.  

We have established a vision for the future that is primarily focused on enhancing situational awareness, information sharing and resiliency capabilities in every community across the nation.

You’ll see in the next few slides the kind of diversity that we have in our membership and our board.  That makes this consortium a very unique organization among its peers across the country.

[Slide 4]

We place a great level of importance on diversity in membership.  We have tried to attract folks from a variety of different domains.  As an example, the International Association of Fire Chiefs is a member organization.  The National Emergency Management Association is a member.  

Those particular organizations along with various information technology and GIS associations are focused on a singular domain.  However, in this particular space, in emergency management and in Homeland Security matters, it will take professionals from each of these domains to get the job done at the end of the day.

We have placed a great value on diversity not only in regard to profession but also geographical and jurisdictional diversity, including some of our more recent counterparts across the border in Canada and to include some international organizations and non-governmental organizations.

[Slide 5]

Just to give you a little view into the growth the consortium has experienced over time—as I mentioned the organization was formed in June of 2012.  We started with five founding members.  Fast forward to nine months or so—we had grown to twenty-four organizations including several international organizations and our first private industry partner, ESRI.

[Slide 6]

From that point to present day, as of October of 2013, we have grown to 64 organizations.  It includes several international associations and non-governmental organizations.  Our reach now has extended beyond North America and is beginning to have an international feel.  The 64 members represent 100 plus state and local government, civilian and military, now tribal government, academic and non-governmental and private industry partner organizations across the U.S. Canada and beyond.

[Slide 7]

As with any organization as Amy indicated we are very young—in business a little more than a year now—with any organization you can expect transitions.  I served as the organization’s first chair.  As my role in Oregon state government and community has changed, so has changed the leadership of the consortium.

With our growth the charter and bylaws of the consortium called for a growth in the board to make sure we were representative of the entire set of community members that comprised the consortium.  We moved since February 2013 an organization of about 24 or so members and six board members—now as of October 2013 we have 64 member organizations and we are now represented and led by a thirteen member board.

I believe the two vacant positions have received nominations and would I expect in the next month or so the consortium will have seated all the board member seats.

[Slide 8]

As I mentioned early on in the presentation, one of the core values of the consortium and the benefits of being a member of the consortium is gaining access to member and practitioner developed resources.  We have begun to share a whole variety of items of value including methods to gain access to the Department of Homeland Security geospatial information infrastructures, HSIP GOLD data, also the American Red Cross services—we’re making sure we share methods of access to data.

We are also sharing sample MOAs in our governmental agreements and contract terms and conditions.  In this space that becomes very important because when one jurisdiction hires a vendor or develops a particular item of value like a GIS enabled situational awareness viewer or common operating picture they need to ensure they have contract terms and conditions that allow that product to be shared.

I’ll get into in a few minutes how we have begun to share technology across the consortium and a part of that is that we have had contract terms and conditions on purpose that allow us to share freely one governmental organization to another—it’s a small detail but very important.  We have begun to share and conduct technology assessments, case studies and presentations, software code and documentation, and lessons learned from our various programs and projects.

Some of you on the call may be familiar with Virtual USA pilot program that was sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate.  Many of the founding members and subsequent members of the consortium participated in regional pilots since 2008 and 2009.

One of the other roles I played here in Oregon and the Pacific Northwest was to serve as the chair of the technical working group for the Virtual USA Pacific Northwest pilot.  Through those pilot programs we learned a lot about information sharing, not only within our own community and jurisdiction but cross-jurisdictional, regional and ultimately national information sharing and the ability to visualize that data in common operating pictures that were jurisdiction specific or shared across a region or the nation.

We also have begun to launch a variety of initiative focus working groups focused on Virtual USA transition, on the deployment of ArcGIS online and also a series of U.S. Canada cross border initiatives that will be conducted between now and 2017.  I’ll talk about these committees later in the presentation as well.

[Slide 9]

The value of the consortium can be felt in many ways including the sharing of software coding and documentation between partners in a particular state, region, across the country and now internationally with across the border sharing of data and technology.  I’ll talk very briefly about what you are seeing here on the slide.

On the top row from left to right depicts a variety of widgets or micro programs that the State of  Oregon deployed as part of its viewing which is called RAPTOR (Real Time Assessment and Planning Tool for Oregon).  I see that Keith Moen from Oregon Emergency Management is one of the attendees on this particular web conference.  Keith is now responsible for RAPTOR deployment across Oregon.

On the top row you’ll see a widget called the Geoportal Find Data widget and moving to the right something called the My Oregon widget.  Those two widgets allow access to data within Geoportal servers or particular Geoportals that are based on ESRI’s ArcGIS  Geoportal server toolkit.  The My Oregon widget allows for peer to peer information sharing utilizing RAS services.

Moving to the right there is an Area of Concern tool that allows buffering, the identification of critical infrastructure in vulnerable populations within a particular buffer area.  Moving farther to the right on the top there is something called Oregon KPI or planning tool.  On the bottom left is the Virtual USA My Library widget that allows a user to log-in to the virtual library to access all the content that is jurisdiction specific that is being shared by partners or being shared as common data across the entire community.

The bottom center is the Oregon Special Event Console that is a widget shared to Oregon by City of Charlotte, North Carolina.  They utilized a very similar tool for their work in the Democratic National Convention that occurred in September of 2012.  Finally the RAPTOR configuration tool—this allows a user to establish special configurations of the viewer either by event type—flood, fire, earthquake, tsunami—or by ESF (emergency support function).

The folks who are involved in each of the emergency support functions don’t necessarily need to have access to all the data or see all the data that might exist or might be connected to the viewer at any one time.  Instead they are likely focused on emergency support functions specific data that helps them do their job.

[Slide 10]

This slide depicts how we have shared one of the tools—the My Oregon widget that allows peer to peer sharing of RAS service data in a web map service format.  On the top left I show the original deployment within Oregon’s RAPTOR viewer.  We then shared that particular widget in the bottom left with Charlottesville, Virginia and on the top right with Charlotte, North Carolina and the bottom right with the Commonwealth of Virginia for deployment within the situation room view they’ve deployed.

As you see they have a very similar look and feel.  We shared something that Oregon developed with Oregon taxpayer dollars with jurisdictions across the country.

[Slide 11]

On the flip side we have also been the beneficiary of technology that has been deployed in other jurisdictions.  On the top left you’ll see the Democratic National Convention Events Console that was originally deployed in the COBRA viewer, which is the situational awareness viewer of Charlotte, North Carolina.

You can see it in the top right deployed within the RAPTOR viewer.  On the bottom left I show the KPI tool, the planning tool that the City of Charlottesville, Virginia deployed in their viewer and on the bottom right I show how that was connected directly to the RAPTOR viewer.  One of the things that enables this kind of information sharing is the deployment of a common viewer technology.

It really didn’t matter to us as a consortium or early in the Virtual USA program which type of viewer it might be—Open Source or the Google Enterprise viewer.  In this case it just so happened that of the 35 or so original participants in the Virtual USA program 29 had deployed ESRI’s ArcGIS viewer for Adobe Flex of one version or another.  

The fact that we all deployed similar technology allowed this kind of sharing to occur on a very streamlined basis.  In some cases the connection and deployment of these widgets only took a half hour or so—just tremendous acceleration of the sharing of capabilities that are proven and tested in the field, which is also another important point.

You’re not just deploying the next cool gadget or widget that might come along—you actually have the benefit of another jurisdiction deploying in their own environment, testing it out, ensuring from their perspective that they believe it has value for the community, making others across the nation aware of these kinds of tools through the consortium and then sharing the technology, sharing the knowledge and sharing the capability.

That is how we are going to all get better at this very quickly.

[Slide 12]

Finally I’ll show the same kind of information sharing that occurred from Kentucky Emergency Management.  Some of you may know that Kentucky Emergency Management has deployed a variety of tools—one of the tools is the MASS (Mutual Aid Support System) and a complementary technology that plugs into their viewer, KAATS, the Mission Ready Package widget.

This was shared from Kentucky Emergency Management to a variety of folks including the Canadian government as part of an exercise that occurred in March of 2013.  At the bottom left you can see the deployment of the Mission Ready Package widget in the CAUSE viewer.  It was also shared in a variety of formats, both as a web app and as an ESRI ArcGIS viewer for Adobe Flex widget with Charlottesville, Virginia and the Commonwealth of Virginia for deployment within the Governor’s situation room.

[Slide 13]

We have not only shared software code and documentation but we have also shared methods of access to public and secure web map services.  These two examples show how Oregon was able to connect to the Department of Homeland Security, Geospatial Information Infrastructure, and the HSIP GOLD RAS services.  We documented the methodology for accessing that data.

We shared that method with other jurisdictions and I think there’s about a dozen to maybe twenty jurisdictions that have accessed that important resource.  As some of you on the call may know the previous singular method for this data was the distribution of DVDs.  You could only access that information in times of a federally declared emergency or disaster.

This method of access through RAS services allows for persistent access over time for all facets of the emergency management continuum.  Essentially you have access to this important data in peace time and in times of war, disaster or during an active event.  We also do the same thing in partnership with the Red Cross.

They have begun to expose more and more of their information—the National Shelter System information, any of the locations of their assets across the U.S. and the world.  They provide access in the same manner.

[Slide 14]

As we progressed about a year after our foundation we made a series of announcements.  Most of the founding members and early members of the consortium had some involvement in the Virtual USA regional pilots that occurred 2008 through 2013.  Importantly we have maintained a very strong relationship with the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate and in particular the First Responders Group.

In May of 2013 struck a memorandum of agreement or licensing agreement with the first responders group to take over or assume the user administrator responsibility for the Virtual Library.  We are now in the process of working with the 100- 200 or so users of the Virtual Library that are located across the country and the federal, state and local government level.

We are in the process of evaluating a long term go forward strategy with the First Responders Group that is expected to be implemented by October of 2014.

[Slide 15]

The second announcement we made was in June of 2013 just prior to the ESRI International User Group meeting in San Diego.  The announcement focused on the consortium’s adoption of ArcGIS Online as a Virtual USA technology platform.  I emphasize “a” because we recognize there is no panacea or silver bullet for information sharing in real or near-real time across this entire very broad continuum of Homeland Security, public safety, emergency management and response.

It is going to take multiple tools and again, technology and data and information sharing are only one or two facets of a broader continuum of activity that needs to occur—governance, standard operating procedures, training and exercises, testing and usage—are other focus areas of the consortium and others in the community we need to pay attention to.

With that said the adoption of ArcGIS online as a Virtual USA technology platform was very important for the consortium for a variety of reasons.  The fact is that the federal, state and local government level jurisdictions across the country in some cases en masse have been adopting ArcGIS Online as a an information sharing platform in the emergency management community and in government proper for human services, for economic development and natural resources.

All the data that is being shared in those communities is also very relevant to the emergency management and public safety community.  It was important that we had the same kind of information sharing mechanism.  It will allow us to federate or tie together multiple ArcGIS Online portals.  We are in the process of doing that now.

In part we are testing out the theory and capability through the exercise that is occurring in the Central U.S. Earthquake Consortium region that is centered around the Commonwealth of Kentucky in an exercise called the CAPSTONE 2014 Exercise.  It will occur or complete in June of 2014.  

We are working with eight primary states and another twelve states that are surrounding the CUSEC region as part of that exercise and we deployed multiple ArcGIS portals for the partners’ use in that exercise and we plan to publish lessons learned some time in the fall or winter of 2014.

[Slide 16]

Another action we have taken as a very young organization is the adoption of our strategic plan.  We did that in July of 2013.  As the slide indicates we have a variety of primary goals focused on situational awareness at the national level, the enhancement and standardization of information sharing capabilities, the support of the Emergency Management Assistance Compact and mutual aid efforts across the nation, and as an organization we have to focus on sustainability.

It is oftentimes very easy to start something.  We want to ensure this is an organization that stands the test of time and that can be sustained for the long haul.  We’ve got a great focus in that area.  In the next month or so the NISC board will adopt and post an eighteen to twenty-four month action plan and that will further focus our efforts from the strategic to the tactical so we stay on point in the next eighteen months to two years.

[Slide 17]

In regard to current activities, Virtual USA continues to be a primary focus area for NISC.  From our founding the consortium has been supported by and we worked in partnership with the First Responders Group within DHS on a variety of topics including governance and certainly the deployment of new technologies including Virtual USA and the ArcGIS Online portal.

We are now beginning to work with our partners on a vision of the deployment of a public safety cloud computing environment of which Virtual USA will be a part.  Many on the call may be familiar with First Net.  Some time in the next five to ten years, if all goes as planned, the entire community will have access to high-speed public safety broadband network.  

That network’s transport is the ability to access things that are connected to the network like situational awareness viewers, like geospatial libraries and portals and like a variety of other applications.  We need to get ahead of that.  We need to make sure that partners from multiple jurisdictions can effectively and in a streamlined way access that public safety cloud computing environment and be able to obtain services or information from a variety of resources that might be located in any corner of the country.

We have a group of folks that are beginning to think about that—certainly our 64 member organization group.  There is more to come on that.  It will be a focus of the consortium for some time to come.

[Slide 18]

In addition we are working with First Responders Group on a variety of incident management information sharing initiatives including the establishment of Incident Management Information Sharing Committee as a sub-committee of the White House Information Sharing and Access Interagency Policy Committee.

That is a mouthful.  Suffice it to say we are working with the White House Information Sharing Environment, the program manager Kshemendra Paul.  We are co-chairing a workgroup that is in the process of being formed with the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate’s First Responders Group.  

We’ll be working on IMIS capability and maturity model and also will continue to expand our efforts in the areas of technology and interoperability and in the establishment of a private industry advisory group.  In addition to those activities we continue to hold monthly webinars.  Because of the government shutdown we did not have an October webinar but we were able to reschedule and hold a webinar on the GeoCONOPS which is sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security’s CIO’s office that was held on November 14.

In talking with Amy the EM Forum has connected to those resources.  Since 2012 we have held about a year’s worth of monthly webinars and certainly this group and EMForum.org participants should have access to those resources.  We continue to focus on data and technology code sharing.

[Slide 19]

As I have mention several times in the previous slides we have begun to expand our efforts and strengthen our partnership with Canadian government both at the national and provincial levels.  In March of 2013 there was an exercise that tested interoperability and information sharing and real or near-real time between a variety of resources in Canada and the Virtual USA Library and other resources like IPAWS.

That was a very successful endeavor.  If you would like to find out more about these kinds of cross border information sharing pilots please visit the NISC website.  I’ll flash the address to that website in a slide or two. We are working very closely with our partners and we are very excited about the expansion of the consortium into Canada.

[Slide 20]

This is a recap slide of the consortium.  We are a 64 member organization at this point in time.  We represent 100+ state and local government, academic, non-governmental and private industry organizations in the United States and Canada.  

We have a current focus on public safety but as I alluded to during the presentation, what we are doing here in the area of Homeland Security, public safety and emergency management and response—the lessons learned that we are gaining—the mechanisms for information sharing—I fundamentally believe  can be applied to any area of government.

We need to pay attention to that and share beyond this community.  In the top right I reiterate the kinds of information and kinds of items of value we are sharing with one another and we are trying to grow our collective knowledge and collective capability through partnership with one another.  The consortium has been a great vehicle for that.

[Slide 21]

To one and all on the call and those who might have a chance to review the audio or video of the web conference at a later time, I ask all of you to consider membership in the consortium.  I really believe we are stronger together than we ever could be on our own.  I fundamentally believe we can accomplish much more together than we could ever dream of accomplishing in our individual jurisdiction.

The majority of us are utilizing scarce taxpayer dollars. We ought to leverage those dollars to the maximum extent and I believe the consortium has been and will continue to be a great vehicle to do that.

[Slide 22]

That concludes my presentation.  I look forward to answering any questions the group may have.

Amy Sebring: Thank you very much Sean. That is really impressive in terms of how much you’ve managed to accomplish over the past year and a half or so. How much does membership cost?  For government organizations there is no cost.  Is that correct?

Sean McSpaden:  That is correct.  On the consortium website, either now or very soon you’ll see a couple of items.  One is a member guide and the other is a sponsor guide. We have been very clear that we want to ensure there are as few as possible if any barriers for government organizations to join the consortium.

At this point we have a variety of member categories.  For federal, state and local and international governments there is no charge.  For non-governmental and academic organizations there is no charge.  There is a nominal fee for private industry partners but very affordable in terms of entry.

The benefit to the private industry partner is that we plan to form a private industry council that we hope will enhance the level of communication and access between our private industry partners and the balance of our membership.

[Audience Questions & Answers]

Art Fuller: You have accomplished a lot!  What are the top reasons orgs have reluctance joining as a partner?

Sean McSpaden: That is a great question.  From my own perspective there are a variety of reasons as I have talked to folks around the country over the past year or year and a half that some of them have experienced some reluctance at first.  Members do join on behalf of their organization. Part of the reason we have done that is to ensure continuity of membership.

We want to make sure that in particular state and local organizations are taking the lessons learned and the information that they gain or items of value they are able to exchange and receive and they are applying it to their entire jurisdiction or at minimum to their own agency. Oftentimes folks who hear about the consortium may not be in a position where they can immediately sign on behalf of their organizations.  

Another that we have encountered is that we are a very young organization—only a year and a half—so some have taken a “wait and see” approach.

I think there are other reasons but the last thing I would mention is that as I alluded to in the presentation I think the consortium is very unique among its counterparts.  We do not represent a singular profession.  Folks who think about emergency management may naturally gravitate toward the National Emergency Management Association or the International Association of Emergency Managers.

If they are in the IT space they may gravitate toward the National Association of State Chief Information Officers or NGIS, the National States Geographic Information Council.  So on that point folks need to hear about the consortium and see the kind of impact we are having.  That takes some time.

A number of the members that have joined since February were on my initial contact list.  It simply took some time for them to see this was an organization that was going places and making an impact and ultimately they saw that, got excited and wanted to be a part of what we are doing.

Cam Barnard: How do you 'radiate' information among the consortium? i.e. How do members of the consortium discover what others are doing?

Sean McSpaden:  We do that through a variety of means.  One of the primary areas is through the monthly webinars.  We try to highlight and feature member work.  If you look back at our webinars on the consortium website we’ve had the state of Maryland talking about things they are doing.

We have had the Red Cross.  We have had the Pacific Disaster Center.  We have had the state of Oregon and Charlottesville, Virginia.  These are member driven webinars.  Typically we haven’t had any vendors present information although that likely will change over time as we increase our focus on sponsorship.  That is one of the primary ways.  

Another way we do it is our participation in regional pilots.  As an example I mentioned the CAPSTONE 2014 exercise.  Many of the participants in CAPSTONE 2014 are consortium members.  We are applying resources there.  We are learning together. Ultimately we are going to leverage one another’s work and produce a series of lessons learned documents and best practices out of that particular exercise.  

Those are two primary ways we do it.  The third is in participating with organizations like EM Forum and presenting information at national events. I have spoken multiple times to the National States Geographic Information Council.  I have talked about the consortium even at the National Association of State CIOs and also the ESRI conference on multiple occasions.  That is my area of domain. As Amy indicate I’m a former Deputy State CIO for Oregon so I gravitate toward technology.

Some of our other board of director members are emergency managers or fire chiefs and they do the same kind of outreach in their own domain areas.

Amy Sebring:  Do you have meetings for members?

Sean McSpaden:  The primary meeting we have had—we do have a member summit.  We held our first member summit in July of 2013.  As we are a very young organization we have held off on face to face meetings in part because the bulk of our members are state or local government—we are trying to attract more federal government participants—in that space there has been great difficulty in out-of-state travel.

We try to hold virtual meetings. I think as we increase sponsorship you will see more face-to-face meetings over time.  That said, we plan to hold a once a year face-to-face meeting likely associated with another national conference.

Amy Sebring:  Do you have any representation on the First Net advisory group?

Sean McSpaden:  We do not.  The consortium is not a named member on the public safety advisory committee for First Net. However if you look at the public safety advisory committee roster a lot of the folks who are named representatives are also consortium members.

In addition most of the folks that belong to the consortium are not only experts or leaders in situational awareness and information sharing in the public safety and emergency management space but they also have a day job responsibility at the state or local gpvernment level for public safety wireless communications and more so now in the planning for First Net and their jurisdictions.

We have a lot of knowledge about this topic.  We are doing outreach to APCO NENA on 911 and a lot of outreach to First Net directly.  Most of us have participated in First Net regional working groups.  I think there is a lot of crossover but we haven’t yet established a formal relationship between the consortium and First Net.  That will naturally come over time.

Amy Sebring:  For newcomers, if you’d like to find more information about First Net we did a program on it last spring and we have it in our archives.  You can look it up.  It is a very exciting area.

Amy Sebring: Are you working in the area of mobile apps?

Sean McSpaden:  We are.  I would mention Oregon with an application called i-RAPTOR.  We have developed a version of RAPTOR.  In Charlottesville, Virginia there are a couple of iPhone and Droid damage assessment tools.  Oregon is also developing a damage assessment module for i-RAPTOR.  There are a variety of other tools across the country.

What I would point toward at this point in terms of awareness of mobile applications—I would point to two sources.  One, and this would be a little broader and not necessarily in the emergency management space only, but the National Association of State Chief Information Officers has created a mobile app catalog.

In the public safety and emergency management space APCO has a mobile application catalog or library they have been developing.  They have been working quite a bit with the First Net team.  Several of our members have deployed those kinds of tools in their own jurisdiction but it hasn’t been a focus yet.  They have been listing them through other sources.

The challenge everyone faces with mobile applications is connectivity and in terms of access to data, data caching.  A lot of the conversations occur around radio caching for public safety wireless communications or equipment or supply caching in times of broad emergency.

The thing these mobile applications need unless you have all of the data connected to or on the mobile device is connectivity.  Unless and until high-speed broadband is deployed across our collective geographies we are at a disadvantage with mobile apps although many jurisdictions are trying to accelerate efforts in that area.

Isabel McCurdy: Do you have to belong to an organization to become a member of the consortium?

Sean McSpaden:  At this point we do not have an individual category of membership.  The board has been asked before and they are considering but at this point you need to be associated with an organization that fits within one of the member categories.  They are very broad.

We have some members that represent non-governmental organizations.  We have some associated with academic organizations, research institutes and the like.  Members join on behalf of their organization and we do not yet have an individual category.

George Davis: Can non-US companies be sponsors?

Sean McSpaden: Yes.  At this point we have two private industry partners.  One is AP GO and the other is ESRI and ESRI has an interesting corporate model so we do have representatives from ESRI and ESRI Canada.  With our expansion into Canada and with our association with non-governmental organizations like Net Hope, which is a consortium of humanitarian organizations across the world—yes, we don’t pay attention necessarily to the origin of incorporation but we want to make sure that folks meet the private industry partner member criteria.

Allen Roark: Sean, will you be at the International Disaster Conference and Expo in New Orleans January 7-10?

Sean McSpaden:  I will not. It is possible that some of our board members who are also involved in emergency management or public safety may attend, but I will not be attending that expo.  If you want to contact me offline I will be glad to talk to you about the conferences we will attend and at minimum what information we can provide you or other colleagues who will be attending that conference.

Amy Sebring:  Are you planning to or do you now do a newsletter?

Sean McSpaden:  We have had fits and starts with that.  In part we have had a focus on our website but we do send out a newsletter to our member organizations and a broader set of stakeholders.  In the first six to nine months of the organization we sent out a monthly newsletter.  We began to post more and more of that online.

I think you’ll see a URL or web address in the future as opposed to a direct distribution of a file.  We are focused on that.  If you have questions about that, send us an email at either my address or the info at NISConsortium.org ..

Mark Andrus: Have you considered partnerships with state School Safety Centers?  I am the Information Services Associate Director for the Texas School Safety Center and I we are working very hard to implement this type of public safety information sharing with schools.

Sean McSpaden: We haven’t yet established those kinds of relationships but we are very interested in that topic.  One of our members in Alabama—the folks who maintain Virtual Alabama—have had a very strong school safety initiative.  I would be glad to connect you with them if you haven’t already begun to talk about them about the approach they have taken.

We plan later this year or early next year to have a variety of webinars both with Alabama and also our partners in Homeland Security on this topic.  I encourage you to contact me and we will be glad to share any formal information back to EM Forum for posting on the site.

Amy Sebring:  Is the consortium, or members of consortium starting to get involved in cyber security response planning?

Sean McSpaden:  The short answer is yes.  The members themselves are involved in situational awareness, information sharing and public safety wireless communications and a number of them are involved in a variety of cyber exercises that are coordinated through the state emergency management organizations in partnership with Department of Homeland Security.

In the past five or six years there have been exercises called cyber-storm exercises.  They focus on cyber attacks to critical infrastructure and the impact that is felt across a variety of industry sectors.  I think we will have a more focused involvement in the future as conversations around First Net and the deployment of multiple public safety cloud computing environments occur.

The critical piece in being able to access data, information and applications that may not reside within your own data center is identity management and federated access.  Certainly the federal government has had a long history of involvement in this area.  They are trying to tackle it through the connection of Homeland Security and public safety related applications to the Homeland Security Information Network.  

There are organizations like the Georgia Tech Research Institute that are working with DHS and the with the National Association of State Chief Information Officers on something called the National Identity Exchange Framework.  I encourage you to find out more about that.

If you have questions, the acronym is NIEF—I’d be glad to share information about it.  It centers on a public safety or emergency management professional being able to enter a common credential that enables them to have access to multiple resources that might be housed and maintained basically anywhere—anywhere connected to the public safety broadband network.

If we don’t collectively solve this issue we will be back to have 15, 20, 30 passwords or a stack of PIV cards to access one resource at a time.

Amy Sebring:  Are the consortium members working on mining social data especially for geospatial information?

Sean McSpaden:  Yes. If you take a look across the country, state, local and federal government organizations are utilizing social media not only for push communications but also for pull communications.  The challenge we are all facing is in filtering that data, making sure we have some way of analyzing it to understand whether it is of value for the particular event.

You see more and more encouragement of the use of social media tools and on the flip side more situational awareness of viewers or at least enabling the ability to display Twitter, Flickr and Facebook posts that relate to particular events that are occurring across the country.  

It is a dramatic area of expansion. I think you’ll see more technology companies as Google and the like that are enabling their customers to visualize that data but also to make sense of it.


Amy Sebring: On behalf of Avagene, myself, and all our participants, thank you so much Sean for being with us today and sharing this information with us.  We hope the consortium will continue to grow and serve our community in the future.

We are pleased to welcome a new EIIP Partner today, PrioriHealth Partners, LLC represented by Nikiah "Nick" Nudell.  Please look them up on our Partner’s list, and find further information about Partnership on our site.

Our next, and final program for this year will be December 11th, when we will be learning about another exciting organization, the SafeAmerica Foundation.  Please note, if you are not on our mailing list, you can subscribe from our home page and you will get our future announcements.

Thanks to everyone for participating today. Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving holiday. We are adjourned now.