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.
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.
The italics below contain a Facebook entry by Neil Bourgeois to his friends, repeated with his permission:
Remembering those who sacrificed all on 9/11. Also remembering everyone who made DMIS Fastrack happen after that. You would be pleased to know that the next generation DMIS and INTEROP has a bright future, which was built off a firm foundation that many of you worked so hard to put in place. Also remembering Charlie Bell, he would also have been pleased to see how far things have gone.
Charlie Bell was the original Marine Corps Program Manager for what is now FEMA’s DM-OPEN and DM-Framework. Charlie died before he could see his vision fully operational, but it was his vision that started the program, even before 9/11. Charlie, your vision became our passion on 9/11. It is now well on its way to becoming a national asset. You can be proud. We miss you, but we know you are watching.
I have been studying the National Information Exchange Model (NIEM) fairly extensively over the last few weeks. I have even read the NIEM Naming and Design Rules document from beginning to end. I will admit that I went into it with something of a jaundiced view. As a veteran contributor to the DoD data model and an outside observer of the GJXDM (recently), and a large scale IBM model (a long time ago), I have real reservations about the usability and maintainability of any all-knowing, all-seeing model. I have, at least at this point, become a believer in NIEM. Why? Because NIEM accepts the notion that a federation between separately name-spaced models makes sense, both within NIEM, and with external standards defined outside the heavy NIEM NDR discipline (or defined with a different heavy discipline). The notion of defining an Adapter for NIEM use of other standards is a brilliant concept. This, combined with the Information Exchange Package Documentation (IEPD) methodology for documenting the contextual use of data used in exchanges has made me a fan.
The problem with this “federation of standards” concept is that it makes tools (and “auto-magic” validation) harder to build. As a result there is a tendency to try and force all of the standards back into the all-knowing, all-seeing model. It is a seductive idea, but not a good idea. Let’s look at a very simple example: EDXL Resource Management uses the Customer Information Quality (CIQ standard) for Person Names. This allows internationalization for all kinds of different Naming structures and for a wide variety of Addressing schemes. NIEM (as a national model) is much more U.S. centric, particularly in the use of PersonName tag. Both CIQ and NIEM are appropriate in their respective namespaces (and the NIEM NDR respects this fact by allowing for the adapter wrapper for external standards). If we try to combine the two standards by defining CIQ elements as NIEM elements directly in order to make the subschema generator work more easily, we blur important distinctions that were developed for good reason.
So, we need to use NIEM IEPD methods. They are excellent. But we must resist the desire to force single definitions for concepts that may appear to be the same, but actually differ due to the context in which they were defined. In other words, do not force a merger of conceptual domains, unless they actually are the same. NIEM lets us federate in the building of an IEPD. We should take advantage of that capability.
I wrote a poller for DM-OPEN that posts alerts received in DM-OPEN to the prototype Unified Incident Command and Decision Support System (UICDS). This gives posters of Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) alerts the option of using DM-OPEN as a mechanism for also posting to UICDS for use by systems connected to that capability. Two successful demonstrations to date: a month or so ago at the Virginia Department of Emergency Management and today in McClean, Virginia for some folks from DHS. We posted alerts from NC4’s E-Team, CellCast’s Eagle, MyStateUSA, and DMIS Tools (also a DM offering) to UICDS where the alerts were provided to to a UICDS RSS feed and plotted on maps using Alert Sense (where proper locations were identified in the input CAP message).
The message: DM-OPEN can be a “connection multiplier” for its interoperability partners. In this case a single connection yielded 4 new partners (and possibly many more in the future).
I just just singed an agreement to go back to work for DM-OPEN. I will be sad to leave my friends at the DMV. They had truly become family to me. But the Virginia Commonwealth budget issues were just to much to overcome. Still, I believe they will carry on with a successful redesign project. I always said that my goal was to become dispensable. I guess It happened just a little earlier than we planned.
Luckily, I have been able to return to my roots in Emergency Management. I am now working with the folks at Eyestreet Software to revitalize FEMA’s Disaster Management – Open Platform for Emergency Networks. More later on this very real mission in life.
The new poller/poster for FEMA’s Open Platform for Emergency Networks is now on Source Forge. Lee Tincher from Evolution Technologies reworked some of my old code to make in work directly with both Oracle and MySQL databases. I must admit that his solution is much more robust than my original test code. On the other hand, I did write the foundation connection code. :–) Let’s hope we get a lot of interest. This could make emergency alert sharing in a non-proprietary environment actually work. Even better, lets make it work in a multi-proprietary environment using OASIS EDXL Standards for communication through a level playing field Government supplied middleware infrastructure. This was my dream when I worked on Disaster Management. Maybe it can actually happen.
The Disaster Management – Open Platform for Emergency Messages (DM-OPEN) was recently moved to hopefully permanent quarters at the Stennis Center in Mississippi. After a bit of testing, those of us who believe in the Emergency Messaging as Government Infrastructure concept have noted that response time has improve significantly. This should my the work that Lee and I are doing to extend open source connectivity for OASIS Emergency Management Standard Messages easier to sell to other vendors and government programs. Let us build to CAP, EDXL-DE, EDXL-RM and HAVE. Folks, it is there. It works. Lets use it, so they cannot take it away!
Lee Tincher from Evolution Technologies is building some new open source connection code for DM-OPEN that adds to my previous test code. This addition will include database connection code for oracle and MySQL that will let developers retrieve Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) alerts from DM-OPEN and directly put them into a relational database for further processing. We plan to put the updated code up on the EM Forum site for others to use as desired. Cool stuff. Eventually we plan to add to this code so that it handles Emergency Data Exchange Language (EDXL) Distribution Element (DE), Resource Messaging (RM), and Hospital AVailability Exchange (HAVE). Emergency Managers every where – While I am of some assistance, Lee is doing real work that supports you! I am sure that he will appreciate your gratitude and support.
The new OASIS Emergency Management Resource Message is about to be released for Public Comment. I will link it here just as soon as it is available. It has been a lot of work, but is finally in very good form. Schemas, message examples, and complete specification document will soon be available.