Archive for the ‘Emergency Management’ Category.

Webinar on CAP Use Cases from an IPAWS Perspective

Giving a talk on the ways to use CAP using the new IPAWS CAP 1.2 interface at noon tomorrow (15 Feb 2012). Details:

Integrated Public Alert and Warning System (IPAWS) Joint Developer/Practitioner Webinar
Using the Open Platform for Emergency Networks (OPEN) for Public and Private Alerting
Wednesday February 15, 2012 12:00 Noon Eastern

In addition to its role as message aggregator for public alerting, IPAWS-OPEN enables the interoperable sharing of emergency alerts and incident-related data between incident management systems that comply with non-proprietary information standards.

During our next Webinar, System Architect Gary Ham will describe how IPAWS-OPEN provides support for exchanging alerts within a single response organization, between one or more response organizations, with all response organizations, and/or with the public. He will also explain how the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) scope element is implemented by IPAWS-OPEN for public and private alerting.

This program is intended primarily for IPAWS-OPEN developers and testers; however, emergency management practitioners who are interested in learning more about IPAWS incident management-related capabilities are also encouraged to participate. Please make plans to join us via Live Meeting. As always, your questions and comments are welcome.

IMPORTANT: The audio portion of the program will be delivered via your computer speakers. The Live Meeting client must be used in order to receive the audio. Please review the instructions available from: prior to the program.

Login to MS Live Meeting for visuals: The following login link can only be used 30 minutes prior to the scheduled meeting time:

The National EAS Test and IPAWS-OPEN

Funny thing about the national test held on Wednesday 9 November. It was a test of the old stuff; not the new. IPAWS-OPEN and the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) were not even part of the test. It worked – with glitches – but it worked. The glitches seemed to be mostly about garbled messages and misinterpreted tones; things that the text and Internet-based IPAWS-OPEN solution are designed to prevent. I am confident that the next test, when it happens, will go MUCH better from that standpoint.

The comments about the national test that were most amusing were the ones that connected the National test with an attempt by the federal Government to “take over the airwaves and the Internet.” The internet was not even used. I am not going to comment on whether the Government wants to regulate (or over-regulate) the Internet. That may, or may not be, depending on your personal political perspective. What I can say his that FEMA’s IPAWS program is absolutely not involved in that sort of activity. Input can come from the president, but it can also come from local authorities at all levels of government using alert origination tools provided mostly by private industry. Dissemination is the same. It is primarily voluntary; using a Government provided query architecture that allows local agencies and information providers to weed out unwanted material, making it the very opposite of a Government forced content push. Finally, the “last mile distribution” is almost completely through commercial providers and/or a very wide variety local government controlled software from the commercial sector. So, while IPAWS is designed to provide a way for the president to get an emergency alert to as many people as possible at one time, its architecture is actually built with local alerting and local control at its very core. Check it out for yourself. I will be at the annual International Association of Emergency Managers (IAEM) convention in Las Vegas next week. Drop by the IPAWS booth to say “hi” and to get a live demonstration. Good stuff.

IPAWS-OPEN 2.0 Interoperable Connectivity Underway!

I sent out the first 8 sets of credentials to independent interoperable systems this week.  The test environment can now actually be used.  Those of you who are familiar with FEMA procedures know what it took.  Whew!!!!

For those who may not be totally familiar with IPAWS-OPEN, Check my permanent page on IPAWS.

IPAWS-OPEN 2.0 MOA Approval Process Has Begun!

It has finally happened.  The process for getting access to the IPAWS-OPEN 2.0 Test capability is in place.  You must fill out a request questionnaire first.  This questionnaire will soon be available on the FEMA IPAWS web site.  Until it is available, makers/developer/program managers of emergency management software and Alert dissemination systems can send email to “open AT”  requesting the questionnaire.  We will use that information to construct a Memorandum of  Agreement that you will sign and return to me.  I will obtain a valid Government signature and return the MOA to you along with a programmers Manual, valid system endpoint for the IPAWS 2.0 web services, and an x509 signature to be used in accessing those end points.  Please be patient.  There is some pent-up demand and it will take a while before everyone is taken care of. We will be giving priority to current OPEN operational systems and to EAS dissemination systems that need to help broadcasters meet the infamous “180 day clock.”  But we will get to you.

Twitter Weekly Updates for 2010-07-18

  • Success Tweeting Headlines from IPAWS-OPEN Alerts. Follow @dmopenstate if you want to be spammed during the upcoming demos. #

IPAWS-OPEN Not Fully International

Rick Wimberly’s Emergency Management blog identifies the fact that I stated that IPAWS-OPEN could make international connections. BUT………
U.S. regulations make inter-nation connectivity fairly difficult, if not impossible, unless there are treaties and/or formal diplomatic agreements in place. So, it can work with Canada where we have both agreements in place and a real need for cross-border civilian population alerting. With other nations… not so much. Just a clarification.


We used to advertise that DM-OPEN 2.0 would be released this summer and that its follow-on would be IPAWS-OPEN 3.0. We have changed our mind (with good reason). OPEN 2.0 will be IPAWS-OPEN 2.0. IPAWS takes full control of OPEN in mid September. Version 2.0 will be fully functional in terms of basic IPAWS architecture and will be used for IPAWS sponsored demonstrations, interoperability events, etc. OPEN version 3.0 will be needed for Cellular Mobile Alerting Services (CMAS), full compatibility with Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) version 1.2, and full compliance with the IPAWS Profile. Still, a lot of basic capabilities required for IPAWS can be done with OPEN 2.0. It can be used for text based Emergency Alert System (EAS) messages, National Weather Service Non-Weather Emergency Messages, and can be a basis for development by vendors of all types that wish to use a non-proprietary system and protocol for the exchange of messages that use Emergency Data Exchange Language Distribution Element (EDXL-DE) and/or CAP. (And do not forget that National Information Exchange Model (NIEM) Information Exchange Packages (IEP) make excellent content objects inside an EDXL-DE.)

IPAWS Presents to World Conference on Disaster Management

Marck Lucero (FEMA) and I made a presentation to attendees at the World Conference on Disaster Management in Toronto in June about how IPAWS will be able to play in cross-border alerting and how we can use IPAWS-OPEN to connect to Canadian alerting infrastructure in a way that allows resilient connectivity between local authorities on both sides of the border. It is a 17 minute presentation in Quick Time format.

FEMA Interoperable Communications Grant Language – NIEM and EDXL

The Fiscal Year 2010 “Interoperable Communications Grant Program, Guidance and Application Toolkit” has just been published. My first question on seeing the grant language was, Did they mandate real interoperable data standards for software purchased using grant money?

They did. From Page 20:

Grant-funded systems, developmental activities, or services related to emergency response information sharing should conform as much as possible with the OASIS Emergency Data Exchange Language (EDXL) suite of data messaging standards and National Incident Management System (NIMS) guidelines. Additional information on data messaging standards and their applicability may be found at The NIMS Supporting Technology Evaluation Program (NIMS STEP) provides objective evaluations of commercial software and hardware products, and reports on product conformity to standards and NIMS guidelines. Findings from evaluations may be accessed through the Responder Knowledge Base (RKB) website to assist grantees in making purchases. More information on the NIMS STEP can be found at

And Again from page 28 under Technology:

National Information Exchange Model (NIEM). FEMA requires all grantees to use the latest NIEM specifications and guidelines regarding the use of Extensible Markup Language (XML) for all grant awards. Further information about the required use of NIEM specifications and guidelines is available at

NIEM is XML. EDXL is XML. What gives? Who has precedence? Why is EDXL mentioned in the Funding Restrictions section and NIEM in the Administrative Requirements section?

In reality, you can ignore the apparent confusion. The requirements are valid and complimentary. For the most part, EDXL standards are accepted by NIEM as “approved external standards.” So you do not violate the NIEM requirements by using them, provided you use them as-is, in their entirety. If you use use individual elements (or a subset of elements) from an EDXL schema) in a way that does not validate against one of the schema standards, you are actually violating both EDXL and NIEM unless you document the use of those elements using the formal NIEM Information Exchange Package Documentation (IEPD) methodology as defined at So if you want to use a system that uses EDXL-Common Alerting Protocol (CAP), EDXL- Distribution Element (EDXL-DE), EDXL-Resource Messaging (EDXL-RM), and/or EDXL-Hospital Availability (EDXL-HAVE), go ahead. You are within the terms of the grant language. But if you modify (aka “improve”) the standards in any way, you must go through a formal IEPD process.

If, however you have requirements for information exchange that are not met by existing standards, NIEM offers you the opportunity to reuse existing NIEM IEPDs, build a new IEPD from existing NIEM data definition resources, or build an IEPD from a combination of data definition resources. It is a well-defined process that is designed to maximize reuse and minimize redundancy in data structure definitions supporting emergency management dat exchange requirements.

So, to summarize, if the software you are considering for purchase/development with your grant money reuses EDXL Exchange Standards and/or NIEM IEPDs, you are home free. If not, the system needs to define its exchanges with other systems following NIEM IEPD development rules as found at

The Best Emergency Alert Network

The link below is to a blog entry by Rick Wimberly concerning all of the alerting systems shown at the IAEM conference in Orlando this week.

The basic premise is that there is no “best” alerting system and that the best alerting system is system of systems for alerting purposes that each have different traits and capabilities. I AGREE WHOLEHEARTEDLY. In fact, the activity where I currently work, FEMA’s Disaster Management Open Platform for Emergency Networks (DM-OPEN), is designed to allow communication between different alerting systems, such that they work together as a system of systems. At the IAEM conference, 10 different systems were using DM-OPEN to share the alerting function and it worked well because all were using the OASIS Common Alerting Protocol as a basis for exchange.

DM-OPEN also showed the ability of multiple systems to share OASIS Emergency Data Exchange Language Distribution Element (EDXL-DE) wrapped content. This content included NIEM IEPD Content (Amber Alerts) and OASIS Hospital Availability, but could also have included any defined data structure known to parties on at least two ends of the exchange. So, does this make DM-OPEN the best emergency information network? I might want to think so, but my thoughts are actually similar to Rick’s. I believe that no single network solution can legitimately call itself the best. Instead, it takes a constantly improving “network of networks” in combination to provide emergency managers with the best information available. In this arena, DM-OPEN does have a place. Because DM-OPEN connectivity is based on publicly available standards, it can connect network to network, as well as system to system as long as those systems are open to standards-based connectivity. So, DM-OPEN is not THE network or THE system. But if anyone else tells you theirs is THE solution, I would say they are blowing smoke, and that they need to learn to work with others.

Gary “Grandpa” Ham