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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery 4 Elements of a Research Agenda The six key information technology (IT)-enabled capabilities discussed in Chapter 2 represent broad areas where there is significant potential for the application of IT to enhance disaster management. These IT-enabled capabilities are used here to provide a framework for organizing research and development needs and opportunities described in this section as part of a research and development agenda. This chapter is intended to provide an initial sketch of the kinds of items that would ultimately appear in an IT roadmap for disaster management. The committee sought in particular to identify technologies under investigation that may hold largely unrecognized promise for advancing disaster management, though more apparently promising technologies are described as well. Developers of a roadmap could use this survey as a starting point for developing a fully articulated plan, including a detailed set of research directions to be pursued. In developing this initial sketch of a research agenda for use in an IT roadmap, the committee made some assumptions about the continuation of a number of technology trends occurring independently of the needs of disaster management. The agenda is not aimed at influencing the direction of these trends, which the committee believes will continue regardless of the research agenda identified here. However, an IT roadmap would have to assume the continuation of current trends as a necessary foundation for the development and commercialization of major aspects of the disaster management research agenda and should incorporate them as base technology trends. Roadmap developers may need to account for
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery deviations from those trends should they occur. The technology trends assumed are as follows: Continued improvements in the cost and capabilities of all aspects of computing and data processing, including computer processing power (“popular” form of Moore’s law), storage capacity, energy efficiency, and network bandwidth; Continuing increases in the capability in the existing commercial cellular network: more capacity for voice and data, as well as new classes of handsets with long-battery-lifetime data capability, and increasing functionality; Continued progress toward transforming communication systems from vulnerable and unreliable direct links to more robust, distributed, and self-repairing grids using new approaches in mesh networking and adaptive radios; Continued progress toward universal compatibility of all communication and computing technologies by basing them on the underlying Internet technology (i.e., “IP everywhere”); Continued growth of open source software methodology to allow rapid creation of new, high-reliability applications built on the experience base of existing ones; Increasing use of high-volume commercial technology components in specialized systems in order to spread component development costs over a much larger base, to build systems more rapidly by exploiting existing components, and to increase reliability through increased field experience; Rapid spread in the availability of low-cost, ubiquitous public wireless data networking, especially at the municipal level; Continued improvements in linking geographic information to existing and future data applications (e.g., Google maps), and all types of databases such as geographic, medical, building plan, toxicology, weather, and image databases; and Continued rapid progress in biochemistry, electronics, micro-mechanics, and nanotechnology that can be expected to lead to cheaper, smaller, and better-performing sensors, actuators, and other devices. Under each key IT-enabled capability, technologies are listed roughly in order of their current position in the technology pipeline. This is necessarily only an approximation, as many technologies consist of multiple iterations and incarnations that vary in their degree of readiness (and value) for application in the field. For each item listed, a brief description is provided, indicating both general and specific directions for potential advances and some example applications for disaster management.
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Some of the technologies listed with one capability area may apply across a number of capability areas. They have been listed with the capability area that they appear most likely to advance. Similarly, many of the technologies are interconnected. They may need to be combined to effect improvement in a specific application, such as better assessment of structural damage. Advancement in one area may be predicated on advancement in other areas: for example, improvement in energy technology to power mobile devices is required before advances in several other technology areas can be widely exploited. This report does not make a detailed assessment of these interdependencies. However, identifying and planning for them would be a major part of the development of a technology roadmap. MORE ROBUST, INTEROPERABLE, AND PRIORITY-SENSITIVE COMMUNICATIONS Exploitation of cellular, wireless networking, and Internet Protocol (IP)-based technology. All of these commercially available technologies can be applied more systematically in disaster management practice to improve communications resilience by adding redundancy and standards-based interoperability. Effective use of these technologies requires enhancing operational procedures among public safety and emergency management organizations. They should seek to employ alternative communications capabilities and implement fallback communication strategies when communication resources are overloaded or impaired (e.g., text messaging in place of voice calls). The opportunities for integrating mature and maturing technologies into disaster management are abundant. The struggle is not so much the usefulness of the technologies, but the processes and structures, which limit their implementation. Box 4.1 details characteristics of cellular technology that hold potential for improving disaster management. Redundant and resilient infrastructure. Many communications problems are caused by the destruction of communication devices or communication lines and by the loss of power. These are often the result of damage to physical structures (buildings, cell towers). Hardening the infrastructure is an obvious way to reduce failure of equipment and lines and reduce the chances of power loss. While it is not economically infeasible to harden all relevant equipment for worst-case scenarios (worst-case hurricanes and earthquakes, terrorist attacks), improvements are certainly possible. Mobile cellular infrastructure. Cellular system capabilities could be modified and satellite communications links could be integrated to enable quickly deployable communication systems for use in disasters.
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Intelligent spectrum sharing. Spectrum shared more flexibly between commercial and public safety users and better use of spectrum through improved radio technologies and policy continue to receive significant focus. It is for this reason that this report mentions spectrum issues only in passing, though the committee views dealing with spectrum issues as an important component of any technology roadmap. Multiple input/multiple output (MIMO) wireless systems. Antennas, coding, and modulation could be improved to enhance radio performance. MIMO wireless systems take advantage of miniaturization to incorporate an array of radios and antennas in both the handsets and base stations as an economical way to increase user capacity. This technology has demonstrated a multiplicative increase in capacity and spectral efficiency; dramatic reductions of signal fading thanks to diversity; increased system capacity (number of users); and improved resistance to interference. Fundamental research is needed to fully realize these benefits in practical wireless systems. Non-voice communications for first responders. Voice is a natural communication medium, and first responders are trained to use it reliably under stress. Unfortunately, even the best-trained person is limited in the amount and kind of information he or she can process using voice communication. Careful integration of voice input/output with data applications could extend users’ ability to process information from a broader knowledge base while reducing cognitive overload to leverage the scarce asset of trained operators. Integrated voice/data/video. Separate systems for different modes of communication are inherently inefficient (although separate systems may provide useful redundancy), and integrated communication provides economies of scope and scale. By providing users with a more general purpose device, new applications can be more easily introduced. Many technologies (e.g., IP-based, cellular) naturally provide both voice and data communications in an integrated fashion: that is, they use a single infrastructure, set of protocols, and terminal device. Adaptation of the technology, such as the development of special terminals that meet the robustness requirements of first responders or that also provide access to existing communication infrastructures, may be required. Policy-based access control mechanisms. Access control lists (ACLs) are used extensively today for enforcing policies governing the type of access (e.g., read, read/write, print) a user has to information. Policies are hard-coded into ACLs, but having the policy hard-coded causes management and security problems. Research into mechanisms for implementing ACLs that eliminate these problems promises to provide the flexibility and ability to operate in the inherently dynamic environment of a disaster.
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery BOX 4.1 Opportunities to Better Apply a Maturing Technology: Commercial Cellular Technology Cell phone technology has several salient features today for communications in a disaster. Cellular technology provides communication that is logically defined. Whom one communicates with is defined by who is dialed or by logical talk groups rather than by who happens to be within radio range. This implies that one can exclude conversations within radio range as well as communicate with users beyond this range via networking technology. Cellular technology communicates with other technologies, both wireless and wire-line. Cellular communication interconnects with many different cellular radio technologies, with traditional landline phones, and with Internet-based phones. Both point-to-point communications and logical talk group communication is possible. Nextel using Motorola iDen technology has led the way with walkie-talkie-like talk group technology. Other cellular technology vendors are following suit. Cell phones send both voice and data. The data include short messaging service, Internet access, and communication control data used to operate the system. Applications other than voice are already available. E-911 provides a localization application. (Many E-911 implementations use the Global Positioning System [GPS]; other technologies are available.) Camera phones can take pictures or short videos and send them. Cell systems can have information services that broadcast local weather, traffic conditions, breaking news, and so on. The hardware cost of cellular handsets is low relative to that for land mobile radio (LMR) handsets, in part owing to the economies of scale from so widely adopted a technology. Cellular handset battery life is quite good. A phone with low activity can last many days. A busy phone can have hours of talk time. Cell phones have many inherent personal digital assistant capabilities, such as memo pads, alarms, and searchable phonebooks. Cell phones are small and lightweight, a fraction of the equivalent LMR radio. The keyboards are small, but many handsets include hands-free voice dialing. The handsets are designed to be quickly reprogrammed with different cell phone numbers, service provider profiles, and network configurations. In some cases this can be done over the air. Cell phone interfaces come in packages other than handsets and can be embedded in Software-defined radios. Software-defined radio (SDR) technologies provide software-controlled configurability of radios and their incorporation into networks. Remote configuration of frequency bands, interference management, operational and control protocols, and security options offer the promise of flexibility, easy incorporation across heterogeneous organizations and applications, and life-cycle cost reductions through high volume. (See Box 4.2 for further discussion.) Delay-tolerant networking. Current communication systems that depend on point-to-point links are vulnerable to disruptions but have the advantage of very low delay when they are working. Distributed systems are inherently more robust because they can reroute traffic as needed, but
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery equipment and other devices. For instance, a sensor might have use a cellular interface to report data, or a tracking tag could use the cellular infrastructure. Cellular can operate robustly under high traffic loads. When the load of the system exceeds capacity, calls will have to be blocked. The question is whether the network still maintains control over who gets blocked and what kind of communication can take place. This depends on the communication control mechanisms. Most cellular standards automatically expand their communication control capacity as the demand on the network increases. They can maintain control of the network with network overloads that are many times the capacity of the traffic channels. To a common user, voice calls will be blocked and the system unusable. Other users can be given priority access to the available channel and may experience little or no blocking. Though voice calls are blocked, the common user may still be able to send other types of communication such as short message service, a phenomenon noted after the July 2005 London bombings and after Hurricane Katrina. These features of cellular technology can be exploited for disaster management. The difficulty is whether this is done using commercial cellular infrastructure or building a parallel or supplemental infrastructure. Cellular technology is, of course, exploited for commercial purposes by cellular service providers. Commercial cellular service is provided throughout most populated areas. The cellular industry expends billions of dollars per year to expand the number of cell sites.1 The area of coverage and capacity continues to grow steadily, along with the growth of subscribers and the types of services to which they subscribe. Building parallel infrastructure for emergency services is clearly cost-prohibitive. Yet, both public safety communications officials and cellular infrastructure owners have valid concerns about piggybacking disaster communications on existing commercial infrastructure. Addressing these concerns and overcoming the issues with innovative policy approaches in the spirit of public/private partnership should be a major focus of roadmap developers. 1According to the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, a total infrastructure investment of $25.3 billion was made in 2005 alone. Other statistics on coverage and capacity are available at http://www.ctia.org/research_statistics/index.cfm/AID/10202. this leads unavoidably to longer and less predictable delays in transit. Delay-tolerant network (DTN) architectures and protocols are an effort to address this problem in IP-based networks (e.g., the Internet), particularly those operating in environments characterized by very long delay paths and frequent network partitions, such as mobile or extreme environments that lack continuous network connectivity typical in disasters. A focus of DTN research is to provide interoperable communications in such environments. Passive and active embedded links and relays. These devices hold promise for enhancing communication in buildings, rubble, and underground. Building construction has been modified and existing buildings retrofit-
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery BOX 4.2 Software-Defined Radios Advances in digital technology are making possible a new generation of communication devices that can be configured in software to operate on different frequency bands, in different modes, and to present different operational and control options to the user. Such “software radios” can be reconfigured remotely (“over the air”), enabling the rapid reassignment of wireless devices among different preexisting networks. Rapid reassignments can provide several important end-user capabilities. First, allowing the radio to switch between many standard modes will facilitate connectivity between incompatible networks and allow individuals to move smoothly between task groups operating on different legacy systems. Second, adding sensing and reasoning capabilities creates so-called cognitive radios that can dynamically adapt to the current user traffic needs, radio congestion, spectrum and operational policies, and radio capabilities to optimize overall communication efficacy; the addition of these capabilities is a precondition for several novel proposals for expanding the spectrum available to first responders in disasters. Finally, in extreme conditions, such as high noise or poor propagation through a building, the user can select radio modes and frequencies that will optimize their connectivity. Because of the critical importance of power and cost to disaster management communications systems, there should be a limited number of well-regulated modes for such radios to use, as determined by both research and current practices. This would allow mobile units to be optimized for efficient use of each of these modes. The more attractive option of having a completely flexible radio that can process an arbitrary signal will probably remain impractical because of the energy requirements of complex computations at gigahertz frequencies. Many challenges remain before such systems will be available, such as how various radios get informed as to which traffic they should copy and which traffic they should ignore, and how that gets done dynamically, in real time, and securely (if necessary). ted with technology improvements for better earthquake survivability. Similar advances are possible to improve the resilience of communications infrastructure. These advances may allow wireless communications into and out of the building and through the rubble of a destroyed building, through passive means such as embedded tuned conductors or active means such as embedded relay arrays, similar to the emergency lighting systems already mandated. Policy-based routing and congestion management. Transmission congestion occurs during periods of high volumes of communication when information arrives faster than the network can handle it. Policy-based routing and congestion management could make it possible to prioritize and schedule transmission according to a specified policy. A policy-based framework would permit the behavior of the system to be modified with-
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery out having to re-implement it and would also allow automated response to deal with congestion. Self-managing and repairing (autonomous and adaptive) networks. Autonomous and adaptive networks that are able to reconfigure and repair themselves could improve infrastructure robustness, even when infrastructure has been partially destroyed. These networks are envisioned to be unattended systems, with applications relevant to disaster management ranging from environmental sensing to structural monitoring and emergency response. Advances may result in communication infrastructure that supports need-based connectivity without boundaries and with minimal human intervention. Such a capability requires research not only on low-level communication (i.e., connectivity) but also on connectivity management and adaptive computer-based learning and management systems. Location-based monitoring of communications infrastructure capacity and adaptive access to available communications channels. IT systems with these capabilities would allow matching of the message form to the fastest, most appropriate network environment available to each user. Automated routing could allow senders to put out a message and let the system figure out how to get it to the right recipients. Speech interfaces. Visual displays and input schemes that are familiar in the office environment are not always suited to the needs of disaster responders. In particular, the use of visual displays in the field, particularly in highly mobile and/or high-stress activities with difficult visibility conditions, can create unwelcome distraction and even induce a form of disorientation that can be extremely risky. As speech-recognition and speech-synthesis capabilities improve, speech-command and audio-output interfaces become increasingly feasible. Tactile interfaces. These are user interfaces that employ touch for input and/or output. Examples of existing tactile interface technology include a Braille reader and touch screens. In hostile and loud environments, auditory contact may be difficult. Advances in tactile interfaces, like the vibrating ring on a cell phone, offer promise for improving communications in these environments. Adaptive mesh networks. Although data networks are frequently described as self-healing in case of damage or disruption, many actual networks have been constructed more for economy than for resilience. Compromises have led to the creation of single points of failure and relatively inflexible routing schemes. Wireless “ad hoc” meshes would include the capability of rapid provisioning of voice and data service in disaster-stricken areas, a feature that could also enhance the reliability and capacity of day-to-day networks. If wireless ad hoc mesh networks were coupled with advanced, distributed machine-learning algorithms, these
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery networks could continuously optimize their capabilities with minimal human intervention, minimizing the cost and delays associated with that. Adaptive mesh networks also offer the opportunity to use distributed computing techniques for increasing analysis and decision-making resources beyond those available to any single node. Standards as “middleware.” Various terms such as “service-oriented architecture” and “enterprise service bus” are used to describe a data-interoperability strategy based not on centralized interconnection services, but rather on direct connections between diverse IT systems using standardized data representations. This is basically how the Internet works. Such intermediary data standards can enable interoperability among data systems without reengineering the systems themselves or adding new layers of technology. (See Box 4.3 for a more detailed discussion of service-oriented architectures.) Advanced power sources. Improvements in power sources including fuel cells and tritium could have profound effects on the ability to deploy and use IT in disaster management. Often, the lack of infrastructure-based power, the limited life of batteries, and the bulkiness of “portable” batteries or generators limit the scope and range for application of IT. Any chemical fuel generator or storage system—battery, fuel cell, turbine, compressed gas, flywheel, and so on—has basically the same fundamental energy limit of the chemical binding energy between atoms. Battery capacity is increasing slowly as these devices are better engineered, but major advances in chemical batteries are highly unlikely. (Box 4.4 describes these technologies in more detail.) Mobile power source efficiency and energy management. At least five techniques could be employed and advanced to improve the efficiency of powering mobile devices: harvesting energy from the environment, using passive radios that modulate reflected radio signals rather than generating radio signals directly, reducing interference by better traffic coordination, improving power source recovery and redundancy, and efficient spectrum sharing. (Box 4.5 elaborates on each of these techniques.) IMPROVED SITUATIONAL AWARENESS AND A COMMON OPERATING PICTURE Radio-frequency identification (RFID) technology holds promise in a number of areas critical to disaster management. Early prototypes exist of systems for tagging victims with treatment and other information useful to medical responders. Longer-range RFID tags and readers will make it possible to continuously track victims as they move through the system from evacuation to treatment centers. Tagging of assets will also aid in
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery BOX 4.3 Service-Oriented Architectures Service-oriented architectures (SOAs) model computing applications as networks of “black box” functions, each characterized by a published network interface based on shared technical standards. Instead of the tightly coupled integration of software modules on a single computing platform, SOAs build applications by selecting from among a range of services over a network in order to support a needed function or business process. SOAs promise numerous benefits, including several of particular interest to disaster management: The ability to utilize multiple sources of a single service, which can help eliminate single points of failure due to disaster effects; The ability to scale up applications efficiently during sudden surges in demand by concentrating resources on the particular services that present bottlenecks; A reduction in the “switching costs” associated with migration from one provider’s services to a competitor’s, thus maintaining competition, reducing “lock-in” effects, and “future-proofing” the application as a whole; and Enabling support of exceptional or ad hoc business processes by the rapid assembly of services into new configurations (sometimes called real-time integration). However, as SOA-based applications evolve to mirror business practices more closely, the actual design and evaluation of such applications become less and less a technical problem and increasingly a direct concern for the end users. Consumers of SOAs are increasingly called on to perform rigorous analyses and documentation of their requirements and practices. This can create conflicts with resource-bound emergency managers, who may perceive such rigor as a threat to their autonomy and their freedom to adapt to circumstances. A great deal of research remains to be done on the interface between service-oriented IT architectures and their users. Of particular importance is determining the most convenient and rapid methods of collaborating with end users in the processes of SOA design, evaluation, and adjustment. resource discovery and tracking, allowing real-time views of deployment and status that can be used for optimizing effectiveness. Embedded, networked sensors. As the density of a sensor network increases due to sensors’ reduced size, power, cost, and ubiquitous connectivity options, the data they return change in quality as well as quantity. Complex or subtle spatial and temporal patterns become visible that could not be resolved before. At the same time, increased data processing power and enhanced presentation techniques allow the analysis and fusion of these dense data streams into usable situational awareness and analytic products. Routine information fusion. Often, combining (fusing) information
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery BOX 4.4 Advanced Power Sources The foundation of a reliable wireless communication system, whether built using mobile units or remote sensors, is a reliable and long-lasting power source. The complex networks envisioned in this report will require a means to provide that power in a lightweight, long-lasting package that can be recharged, if necessary, onsite. In addition, to the extent that it is desirable to move from simple voice communications to transmission of more complex data at higher rates, the energy requirements will increase even further. Over the past several decades, the aggressive shrinking of electronics has reduced the cost, size, and power of electronic devices at a rate of nearly 50 percent per year. Unfortunately, over the same time interval, chemical batteries have been improving only slowly, with average specific capacity increases of less than 7 percent per year. Since there are no new elements available, the ultimate performance of chemical batteries is well understood, and the slow year-to-year improvements come only from steady engineering advances. Many alternatives have been proposed, from fuel cells to flywheels, but ultimately they all depend on the strength of chemical bonds and will not be able to provide truly dramatic improvements in capacity. To improve the capability and reliability of portable IT equipment dramatically, there appear to be three possibilities beyond the small improvements expected from steady engineering of existing batteries. The first is to make full use of the rapid advances in the performance of electronics to reduce the power required for each function. This is critically important for computation functions such as coding or data acquisition, but less important for the communication function where the energy is consumed by generating a strong-enough radio signal to reach the intended receiver. The second route to improvement is to design the communication network from the ground up to be energy efficient. For example, a higher density of readily deployed small base stations or repeaters will allow the handsets to reach the network with a minimum of radio power. Also, changes in protocols, coding, and signal processing can make substantial improvements. Finally, abandoning chemical power sources and adopting some form of nuclear power can provide substantial improvements, since the energy per atom available in a nuclear process can range from several thousand to several million times that for chemical energy. The first generation of such cells has energy content greater than 10 times that of the best chemical cells, and the theoretical limit for the useful life of these cells is at least 100 times that of chemical cells. This technology is based on the use of tritium, a radioactive isotope of hydrogen that can be easily encapsulated, is not chemically toxic, and emits only beta radiation that cannot penetrate the skin. This technology has been in commercial use for years to power emergency lighting and provide other specialty-task illumination needs where an external power supply would be unacceptable. Moving to other radioactive materials, like those already incorporated in smoke detectors, can increase the limiting energy densities by another factor of 1,000 or more, though the engineering problems of gathering that energy efficiently are not yet solved.
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery ments: for example, flexible policies that can be changed on the fly and interoperability across different infrastructures. Moreover, the common security goal of data privacy may be less important, since the goal is often to disseminate data widely. Instead, security needs to ensure data integrity, authenticate the identity and role of users, and authorize access to different resources. The network and its applications must also be protected from denial-of-service attacks that attempt to overwhelm resources with invalid requests so that resources are unavailable for legitimate uses. Security research continues to make progress on these issues and has the potential to protect against malicious adversarial attacks as well as benign faults or loss of resources. Biochemical sensors. Identifying unknown substances can require a long chemical analysis using bulky and expensive equipment that is not suited to a rapidly evolving field situation. Rapid advances in electronics and biotechnology are beginning to make possible the creation of sensors capable of detecting specific toxins or deoxyribonucleic acid/ribonucleic acid (DNA/RNA) patterns. Effective use of such devices would help change chemical and biological agents from terrifying, invisible dangers to more manageable threats. Advanced biochemical sensors show the promise of low-cost field analysis tools. As the price of these tools decreases, they can be deployed widely in the environment to enable continuous in situ measurements. A toxic plume could be rapidly characterized as to its source and extent through sensors mounted on small, unmanned aerial vehicles that deploy automatically from rooftops with the first signs of the plume. Infrastructure instrumentation. Both disaster management and continuing social functions depend critically on the status of infrastructure for supplying water, power, communication, sewage disposal, and transportation. Currently, such systems have instrumentation at major critical points of failure—pumping stations, for example—but do not have distributed sensing throughout the network (e.g., to indicate broken pipes). Such sensing is critical for rapidly determining the overall status of the system after a disaster and effectively planning repair strategies as well as optimizing the use of the remaining assets while the repairs are being done. Sensor systems. One problem is how to track a person or event as it passes from the view of one subset of sensors to another. Multiple sensors also pose situational awareness and interpretation issues compounded by bandwidth limitations: what sensors should be given network priority and how multiple, geographically separated streams of information can be fused. Integrated geographic information systems. Long treated as a distinct specialty with a strong emphasis on detailed analysis and modeling, the
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery GIS field is merging into the mainstream of information technology. Base geospatial information and imagery are increasingly used as a context for real-time data in situational awareness and resource-management applications. At the same time, growing numbers of non-IT assets are becoming “location aware” by means of GPS and various wireless positioning techniques. Integration tools are bringing these disparate sources of geospatial information together to enable improved awareness and decision-making capabilities. Portable unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) and (autonomous) robots. The nature of disasters may prevent the normal collection of data by humans or require sensing capabilities beyond human capacity. Robots and unmanned systems deploying advanced sensors may be helpful in obtaining better and timelier information. Unmanned aerial, ground, and sea systems being used extensively by the Department of Defense could be adapted for use in disaster management. During the disaster prevention and preparation phases, unmanned vehicles could be routinely used as unobtrusive mobile sampling agents. During incident response and recovery, small aerial and sea vehicles could be used on demand by field teams to survey general damage and transportation infrastructure (especially bridges and seawalls). New underwater sensor payloads have been developed that should enable unmanned underwater and surface vehicles to monitor structures below the waterline. Small ground robots were introduced at the World Trade Center disaster to aid in searching through the rubble. Small UAVs were used in New Orleans and Mississippi in the Hurricane Katrina and Rita responses. Epidemiological alerting systems. Much more sophisticated uses of IT are becoming possible that offer the potential for earlier warnings and a finer degree of understanding of the spread of infection.2 These systems also hold promise for mitigating the effects of bioterrorism and other emerging epidemiological threats, such as avian influenza. IMPROVED DECISION SUPPORT AND RESOURCE TRACKING AND ALLOCATION Widely available collaboration software and file sharing. Collaborative environments could enable information sharing to reduce duplication of 2 For example, the National Electronic Disease Surveillance System (NEDSS) is an initiative that promotes the use of data and information system standards to advance the development of efficient, integrated, and interoperable surveillance systems at federal, state, and local levels; see http://www.cdc.gov/nedss/. See also ESSENCE, the Electronic Surveillance System for the Early Notification of Community-based Epidemics; available at http://www.geis.fhp.osd.mil/GEIS/SurveillanceActivities/ESSENCE/ESSENCE.asp.
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery effort. An example is distributed whiteboard applications for discussing and communicating decisions. Problems such as volume of traffic, number of sources, and data-consumption requirements must be better understood. A number of fundamental questions must still be answered, such as what happens when the volume of information on shared file sites scales up and the number of participants grows. Experience with consortia management systems also argues that further advances are needed. By allowing people to interact more easily and more often, better collaboration tools could also foster increased rapport and trust. Intelligent adaptive planning. Intelligent adaptive planning is the process of modifying a plan to adapt to changed circumstances. This type of planning breaks down the barriers between preparation and execution; it eliminates the dual problems of creating plans that are not followed and following plans that do not fit. There are several key requirements, each with potentially fruitful lines of research. (See Box 4.6 for further discussion.) Computer-assisted decision-making tools. Computer technology could be quite useful for decision making with tools like, for instance, online resource directories or “decision sentinels”—essentially a concept for monitoring crucial processes and activities. Decision sentinels attempt to raise warning flags when, for instance, things that are supposed to happen are not happening, when things that are not allowed for are indeed occurring, or when decision points are slipping. However, significant technical work is necessary in analyzing dependencies and assumptions in disaster plans—if these are understood, plan execution may be monitored accordingly, allowing for proactive warning of problems. Technology tools might also be useful in decisions involving dropping constraints, elevating conflicts for resolution, or switching to alternate plans. Distributed emergency operation centers. Distributed coordination, planning, and scheduling systems promise to provide tools for preparing disaster response plans and for coordinating and monitoring the execution in a more distributed manner. Resource use modeling. Detailed modeling and study of different disaster scenarios would give disaster response managers a much better idea of what resources might be needed, in what quantity, where and how best to use or deploy them, and so on—from items like potable water for survivors to issues as complex as the most useful deployment of satellites. Exploring similarities between transportation networks and IT networks. There is some fundamental abstract science common to moving “stuff” between nodes in networks, whether it is messages over communications links in a telecommunications network, signals over very-large-scale integration circuits in a computer, trucks over roads in the highway
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery BOX 4.6 Intelligent Adaptive Planning Intelligent adaptive planning breaks down the barriers between preparation and execution; it eliminates the dual problems of creating plans that are not followed and following plans that do not fit. The key aspect of intelligent adaptive planning is the ability to gather and assess information speedily from a huge variety of sources, including real-time sensors, and to package and disseminate results so that plans can be executed and changed. Intelligent adaptive execution is the process of modifying a plan to adapt to changed circumstances. There are several key requirements, each with potentially fruitful lines of research. One is avoiding thrashing—ineffectiveness caused when reacting too quickly to frequently changing situations sends too many resources toward ephemeral problems (e.g., food shipments that chase refugees in transit and never catch up with them). Another issue is containment of ripple effects. This is sometimes also referred to as minimal disruption plan repair—isolating parts of a plan so that the execution of the bulk of a plan can continue without fear that it will impinge on the part in need of repair. Minimal disruption plan repair is extremely important for two reasons. First, there are computational and organizational costs: the larger the span of activities that get reconsidered, the greater the time required and the greater the risk of expenses incurred from activities that become subject to revision or cancellation without completion. Second, there are human costs which, although difficult to measure, are nevertheless a substantial concern—when faced with constantly changing plans, people’s morale and performance suffer. In addition, the loss of organizational credibility affects overall performance—people learn to expect changes and wait for their “real” orders to come rather than acting on the requests received. For all these reasons, thrash avoidance and minimum disruption plan repairs are essential issues. Three lines of research have the potential to contribute significantly to addressing these issues. The first applies not at the time of response but rather during plan preparation. Dependency control essentially augments what good military planners have instinctively done for centuries: attempt to increase the robustness of plans by trying to minimize the number of dependencies among subparts. Techniques for providing computational support for this effort range from analytic techniques that attempt to identify alternatives and change plans accordingly, to brute-force techniques, increasingly enabled by high-performance computing, that rapidly test alternative plans in simulation against thousands of alternative scenarios in order to see which holds up best. Use of these techniques helps ensure that the selected plan will work in the greatest number of situations and that problems, if encountered, will be confined to a restricted portion of the plan. The second line of defense against thrashing and disruption comes back to the topic of uncertainty reasoning. Conventional planning and scheduling techniques implicitly assume that the methods selected to perform tasks will succeed. In order to deal with the reality that things often go wrong, human planners (with some automated assistance) introduce contingency plans and decision points. These essentially attempt to predict where things might go awry, create fallback plans for addressing these problems, and insert points in the process where activities will halt to allow evaluation of the situation and a choice among the contingen
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery cy plans. Although the need for this capability will never go away, uncertainty reasoning can make a great difference. Essentially, it allows a system to reason constantly about the probability of success of actions in progress and the degree of contribution that those actions will make to the overall outcome. This enables the system to put in play multiple alternative methods for ensuring a desired result— adding more actions if the risk increases, but also cancelling or redirecting some of them if the risk decreases. These techniques thus strike an appropriate balance between the risks and cost of failure versus the costs of duplicative “insurance” tasks. The third approach to avoiding thrashing and minimizing disruption investigates stability-preserving planning. Essentially, much of planning and scheduling is treated as an optimization problem. Criteria (often called a utility function) are established for defining a “good” schedule, and the various algorithms that the field has produced all represent different approaches toward trying to maximize that score. In stability-preserving planning, rather than planning from scratch, the system takes the pre-existing plan as input. Mechanisms for expressing the evaluation criteria are extended to permit description of the manner and extent to which a user desires retention of elements in the pre-existing plan to be weighted in the generation of the revised plan. This is, quite obviously, a highly desirable contribution to minimal-disruption plan repair. Combining dependency control, uncertainty reasoning, and stability-preserving planning techniques into intelligent adaptive planning systems will greatly increase the power of software systems to help organizations rapidly and effectively adapt to changing situations with minimum costs. Adaptive capability is most effective when coupled with proactive problem-identification systems based on techniques such as Plan Sentinels or mathematical progress indicators. These techniques point the way toward early-warning systems that provide a balance between maximizing the amount of time available to respond to problems with avoidance of overreaction to unlikely problems. Adaptation is easiest if the initial resource allocation planning is done well. New techniques offer the promise of smarter, more efficient algorithms that can produce better solutions to larger problems. Combined with better allocation algorithms, the concept of “best available understanding,” in which the system fills in gaps by combining actual information with predictions and estimates, has the potential to avoid “garbage-in/garbage-out” difficulties by improving the likelihood that the problems fed to those improved algorithms best reflect the actual situation. Taken together, research in these areas has the promise of building systems 5 to 10 years from now that utilize resources far more effectively, recognize and adapt to difficulties and changed situations much earlier, and keep organizations efficient and credible in the course of doing so. system, or people between cities via the air transportation system. Effective utilization of transport resources is increasingly tied to effective coordination of those resources using IT. Taking steps toward breaking down barriers between IT disciplines may stimulate out-of-the-box thinking about how IT research could be applied to solve problems with transportation logistics.
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Logistics. Flexible inventory and resource management systems would allow ad hoc and at-hand resources to be leveraged, while still offering the ability to provide information for an accounting of resource use, and could be based on standardized application of RFID tagging for asset discovery and tracking. GREATER ORGANIZATIONAL AGILITY FOR DISASTER MANAGEMENT Computer mediated exercises. Large-scale role playing exercises mediated by IT and involving multiple societal systems to help expose negative interactions and appropriate responses could advance response preparedness by allowing responders to gain “real-life” experience. This technology could also be used to incorporate disaster research into practice as well as provide an environment for testing such research.3 Flexible, embedded, and miniature projective visual displays. The size, weight, and rigidity of existing visual displays (computer screens) can create usability problems under field conditions. An emerging generation of materials will permit digital display surfaces that can be flexed, folded, or molded, as circumstances require. Possible applications may include foldable/rollable map displays, fabric displays worn as parts of a uniform, and displays built into the surfaces of structures, vehicles, and roadways. Miniature projective displays offer a potential option when dexterity is an issue, such as when wearing gloves. Projective displays are small enough for a cell phone to project an image, such as a map or virtual keyboard, onto a flat surface. Heads-up displays, including virtual retinal displays using low-powered lasers, project information directly in the user’s field of view. Event replay tools. As disaster management becomes more network-centric and storage costs decrease, the evolution of disasters (and responses) can be more easily monitored and archived. These capabilities allow ongoing replays of what just happened and post facto analysis and documentation of lessons learned. Online repositories of lessons learned. Lessons learned in one region of the country or in one disaster management domain could be more rapidly and broadly disseminated if a well-known searchable repository was set up. The federal government’s Lessons Learned Information Sharing (www.llis.gov) Web site is a first step in this direction. 3 An example of this technology applied in practice was presented to the committee. See Synthetic Environment for Analysis and Simulation (SEAS) at http://www.mgmt.purdue.edu/centers/perc/html/index.htm.
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Integrated ad hoc data-collection tools (blogs/wikis). A variety of Web tools are available that allow a collaborative and distributed assessment of a situation. These Web tools can potentially be viewed and augmented by disaster management personnel and the public at and away from the scene. Continuous learning tools. Web-based training can allow first responders to be proficient with new information technology. The training can be customized to individual first responders and available on demand at their convenience. Adaptive training technology continuously monitors understanding of and facility with the new knowledge, providing additional training depth or skipping material as needed. Computer-assisted disaster simulation training. Computer-assisted simulations offer task-oriented training based on real-world situations. They offer a persistent “world” for continuous replication, verification, validation, uncertainty quantification, and margins-of-error estimation. They also provide an outcome-based learning experience that can lessen the effect of affiliation goals, which may drive decision making over situation needs in early stages of disaster response. An example of the possibilities in this field is the Virtual Terrorism Response Academy developed by Dartmouth’s Interactive Media Laboratory.4 Distributed, scalable, survivable data logging. With advances in sensor technology, it is increasingly feasible to capture data that might be very useful in disaster management (e.g., levee saturation levels, building or structural stresses, and so on). Major challenges, however, involve things like integrating such data into useful tools, making sure that such data survive a given disaster, and archiving the data in such a way that they can be learned from for future disasters. Dynamic capability profiling and credentialing. Integrated systems for registering and credentialing people with skills required for disaster response could improve the effectiveness and efficiency of response and recovery operations. Digital identity. Disasters frequently require individuals and agencies to forge new working relationships with others they do not know. A major disaster may involve responders from all over the nation or even the world. The lack of trusted mechanisms for determining the identity, capabilities, and privileges of new response partners can delay or even deadlock critical information-sharing activities. Public key technology and other techniques for digital authentication and authorization are rapidly becoming irreplaceable elements of the emergency information infrastructure. 4 See http://iml.dartmouth.edu/vtra/.
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Dynamic authority mapping. Web-based command and authority charts to determine who is responsible for decisions as a disaster develops could improve understanding of how organizational structures map onto communication structure requirements and could improve the efficiency of response and recovery operations. BETTER ENGAGEMENT OF THE PUBLIC Multimodal public notification. Multiple modes of communication (e.g., e-mail, Web pages, and cell phone) and multiple types of information (e.g., text, audio, and video) can all be employed to mobilize volunteers and private voluntary organizations and to provide more useful information to the public. In addition to delivering messages in multiple languages, such systems could incorporate visual (e.g., sign language), sound, and tactile communications to reach different special-needs groups. Multimodal public reporting systems. The best-known example of a public reporting system is the 911 emergency calling system. It has proved highly effective as an efficient means for the public to notify public safety officials of a situation requiring their attention. Enhanced-911 (or E911) extends the 911 system to wireless (cellular) devices. While valuable, the 911 system is exclusively voice-communications-based. Technology is available and could be applied to extending public reporting systems beyond voice to include text, data, image, video, and so on. Enhanced two-way communications with the public. Technology capabilities are now making it possible to send alerts and warning notifications and instructions to specific geographic areas or entire regions to a range of devices, including cell phones, pagers, computers (e-mail), and wireless PDAs. (One current capability of this sort is so-called reverse 911, which provides an automated way of contacting citizens at risk.) This is an important first step in improving two-way communication with the public. Further advances may allow notices to be finely targeted, with messages tailored to individuals on the basis of the type of risk, proximity to the hazard, and other important factors. In addition, tools for collecting voice (e.g., 911), text (e.g., e-mail and SMS), and image (e.g., picture phone) may allow systematic incorporation of data reported by the public into the process of developing a broad-based view of a disaster. Perhaps more importantly, these systems may eventually enable true risk communications as an interactive process of information exchange between officials and the public.5 5 National Research Council, Improving Risk Communication, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1989. This report draws a careful distinction between risk messages and the risk communications process.
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Validated online information sources. During a disaster, the Internet allows information that is rapidly evolving, voluminous (e.g., missing-persons lists), or complex (e.g., a tiered evacuation) to be disseminated and presented efficiently. How can sources of such information be validated? Volunteer mobilization systems. Directories would make it easier to identify and use volunteers, organizations, and commercial resources when needed. Such directories could be connected to communication systems so that these various resources can be automatically tracked down and called on as needed. Game technology. Simulated disaster management training environments based on gaming technology are starting to be applied to educate the public. Further developments in this area may enable the public to gain a much greater understanding of what to expect in disaster situations and provide insights on how they can best prepare for and participate in disaster response. ENHANCED INFRASTRUCTURE SURVIVABILITY AND CONTINUITY OF SOCIETAL FUNCTIONS Mobile power generators. Extended widespread disasters stress the power grid and backup power sources. Efficient, compact, and easily deployed power sources can play a central role in the restoration of communication, the provision of medical services, and so on. While generators are pre-deployed at many facilities, a system for tracking critical unmet power needs and distributing power resources can facilitate more rapid recovery. Communications redundancy. Different communication infrastructures are susceptible to different types of failures. Having access to different communication technologies increases the chances of being able to communicate during or after a disaster. Certain wireless technologies (e.g., mesh networking) are especially attractive, since they require little or no infrastructure, can be power efficient, and can be used to extend the reach of functioning communication infrastructure. Embedded sensors for non-destructive asset evaluation. One of the challenges after disasters is determining what parts of the physical infrastructure (e.g., buildings, bridges) are safe to use. This often requires a physical inspection by trained specialists. Embedded sensors can speed up the evaluation of physical assets, thus speeding up the recovery process. Automated monetary disbursement. A major challenge in widespread disasters is providing people with financial resources to cope with immediate needs. Systems are needed for entering claims, authenticating re-
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery cipients, and tracking transactions. Web-based tools can enable faster and more secure claims processing. Risk management tools with uncertainty modeling. Advanced modeling that incorporates experience with risk assessment, including cost-benefit metrics, of societal-scale systems before, during, and after disasters could improve mitigation and preparedness investment decisions. Resilient materials and structures and deployable infrastructure better adapted for the built environment. Building construction has been modified and existing buildings retrofitted with technology improvements for better earthquake survivability. Similar advances are possible to improve the resilience of communications infrastructure; better meet communications needs inside buildings or other enclosed spaces, including damaged structures; and provide advanced sensing and instrumentation of structures. Advances have implications for preparedness, response, and recovery. Hardened repeaters in buildings, low-frequency radios, and “bread crumb” repeaters deployed by first responders as they advance through a structure are some of the possibilities. Replicated and secure medical databases. Patient records should be remotely available to authorized personnel. Patients can be tracked and medical records can automatically follow them within improvised medical facilities using RFID or other related technologies. Such capabilities raise obvious privacy issues, including whether and how to relax privacy constraints in a disaster situation. Person tracking and reporting. Networking technology can allow family members a better means of connecting with one another—for example, by enabling standardized finder databases or database schema for collecting and disseminating people’s whereabouts.
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Representative terms from entire chapter: