Posts tagged ‘Interoperability’

FY2011 SAFECOM Guidance on Emergency Communications Grants

The new guidance is out. It includes Emergency Data Exchange Language (EDXL) Standards including the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP). This may be an option for agencies trying to buy an IPAWS connected alert origination tool. In order to actually connect to IPAWS, the tool must conform to CAP and the IPAWS profile of CAP in particular. See Section 5.3 on page 30 of the following document. Happy hunting!

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.

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

NIEM National Training Event and OASIS Interoperability Summit

Attended combined NIEM National Training Event and Oasis Interoperability Summit in Baltimore last week. What a week!!

    All of the following Items are from that event:

  1. Participated in live demonstrations of interoperability by 11 separate commercial vendors, all using the DM-OPEN Backbone. Messages included Common Alerting Protocol sent from an actual Chorine sensor, NWS Tornado Warnings in CAP with the full polygon showing on maps used by multiple vendors, EDXL-DE wrapped Hospital Availability Messages, and EDXL-DE wrapped NIEM Amber Alert Messages, with accompanying Style sheet and reference base-64 encoded picture data used in full display. A professional videographer filmed the demonstration activities and interviewed key players. The edited video will be made available by OASIS. I will post the link when it is available.
  2. Moderated NIEM NTE panel titled “Coordinating the Development and Adoption of Emergency Data Standards With the Ongoing Development of NIEM.” A format of 5 separate questions with short answer to each question by all panel members in turn was well received, both by the panel and the audience. Answers were lively and interesting. There were many audience questions as well. The NIEM organization recorded all panel sessions, so this panel will be available for review in its entirety.
  3. Acted as a panel member in a second NIEM NTE panel titled: “Playing Well With Others”—NIEM and External Standards. This was a half session panel that stirred lots of interest and did not afford adequate time for all audience questions. Its recording will also be made available by the NIEM organization. Both panels made is clear that there is real cooperation between standards bodies and progress is being made to ensure that the value of all standards is recognized as a federation real capabilities. While some technical and “turf” issues need to be understood better, the folks involved look forward to the future with a positive attitude and a real belief in success.

Special Thanks to Donna Roy (NIEM Director) and her crew for a great event, and to Bill Kalin (Contractor to DHS Science and Tecnology) and Jane Harnad (OASIS) for organizing a superb demonstration and to all of the vendors for showing real interoperability in action. Standards do work!!!

Alerting UICDS via DM-OPEN

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).

A Question for Vendors of Emergency Management Software

I wrote a little ditty that explains the value of what FEMA’s Disaster management program offers to vendors, open source developers and even contract developers in the Emergency Management and Public Warning Domains. It is a question that users of such software might ask their vendors. Take a look.
See my Contact Info if you would like some help getting started

Are you OPEN? [1]

Can you connect using standards?
Are you open to all?
Or are you a silo?
Using “standards” to stall?

Our open web service
Connects all kinds of apps.
A middleware instance
To share more than “CAPs.”[2]

We have a web service
Based on EDXL [3]
That helps apps connect
Yet encapsulate well.

Hard wired integration
Is not what we do.
You connect via service
As captured by you.

You decide layout
And your design form
But connect to all others
Using standards as norm.

We make it straightforward.
Your connection is clean.
The boundaries work well.
You control what is seen.

You have the power.
We provide pipes,
For transferring data
Of all defined types.

With data described
Using DE [4]
So intelligent routing
Can come to be.

We provide access.
You set the rules
In the tags that you set
In the DE through your tools.

We then connect others
As desired by you.
And they get your data
As you want them to.

They can format the layout
In their own way.
Connected, yet separate
With their own say

Into how to display
And how to reuse
And so can all others
Unless you refuse.

You can work independent,
Yet use standards to share.
The best choice to ensure
Service to all; everywhere.

Gary A. Ham – May 14, 2009

[1] FEMA – Disaster Management Program – Open Platform for Emergency Networks
[2] OASIS Common Alerting Protocol
[3] OASIS Emergency Data Exchange Language
[4] OASIS EDXL Distribution Element