ESF 5 and the HSOC must continue to address the role of the collectors and providers of data and information to the responding community. This would be greatly facilitated by the use of standardized databases by all emergency responders, but also requires identification of procedures and deadlines for the provision of data and information to FEMA and DHS, as well as policies and procedures for pushing data and information to the responders and higher headquarters of all agencies. This will require procedures for making data available to the larger response community as well. More broadly, the committee finds that information flow between entities participating in disasters must be improved, particularly between responders in the field, field offices, and emergency operations centers.
This and earlier sections of the report have drawn attention to a host of problems that currently impede communication to and from the field. While many forms of action might help to address these problems, in the committee’s view the best strategy would be to invest in intensive preparedness exercises, in which all aspects of communication can be tested.
RECOMMENDATION 6: Interpersonal, institutional, technical, and procedural communications problems that currently inhibit communication between first responders in the field and emergency operations centers, emergency management agency headquarters, and other coordinating centers should be addressed through intensive preparedness exercises by groups involved in all aspects of disaster management. Such exercises should be tailored to focus on clear objectives with respect to the use of geospatial data and assets. They should involve decision-making representatives from all levels of government, as well as other relevant organizations and institutions, and should be coordinated nationally so that common problems can be identified. They should be realistic in their complexity and should allow participants to work carefully through the geospatial challenges posed by disasters, including the difficulty of specifying requirements, the difficulty of communicating in a context of compromised infrastructure, and the difficulty of overcoming logistical obstacles.
Ideally, all data could be accessed through a distributed network from local sources. This would guarantee that all responders are working off the latest version of the data. However, numerous experiences have shown that data can be lost, servers and networks can fail, and power and communication systems can go down. In order to guarantee effectiveness