Posts tagged ‘Emergency Messaging’

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.

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 Content in an OASIS EDXL-DE (Recorded Live Demonstration)

DM-OPEN in particular is designed to be a great enabler for NIEM and NIEM based messaging. DM-OPEN is based on the EDXL-Distribution Element (DE) which is a NIEM approved external standard for “packaging” content for distribution. The following link is to a recorded presentation from 19 August 2009 (last week) to the DM-OPEN Special Interest Group SIG. This recorded presentation is from a live demonstration of the use of DM-OPEN to transport NIEM IEPD defined content from an originator to a separate display application. It also shows how (when a NIEM IEPD also has the associated style sheet that is now part of NIEM IEPD requirements) that the NIEM content and is associated presentation can be shipped in the same message to recipients. The recording is 40 minutes long. The recording is a little rough in spots, but the content is both illustrative and thought provoking.

The new DM-OPEN (out this fall) will be even more useful as it will allow queries using NIEM compatible keyword and type structures within the DE’s ValueListURN structure (a categorization scheme for metadata about message content). This will make retrieval and re-distribution of NIEM Content more practical and more efficient for DM-OPEN participant applications.

Emergency Messaging Portal Lives On

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!

Customer Information Quality (CIQ) Issues Resolved

We figured it out at the Emergency Management Technical Committee Messaging subcommittee meeting yesterday.   There was an error in the CIQ schema.  We have submitted a fix to the the OASIS CIQ committee chairman.  All is good. Our Resource Messaging schemas work. Yea!!!