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 www.oasis-open.org. 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 https://www.rkb.us/contentdetail.cfm?content_id=219711.
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 http://www.niem.gov.
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 niem.gov. 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.gov