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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery 3 Improving Acquisition and Adoption of IT for Disaster Management This chapter focuses on information technology (IT) acquisition and adoption issues confronting the various federal, state, and local agencies and private organizations (hereinafter called disaster management organizations) that have official responsibility for disaster management. It does not explore the complex issues of IT acquisition or adoption by individuals or private firms for use in disasters; however, it does briefly consider opportunities for leveraging IT systems and services of private-sector firms, citizens, and non-governmental organizations. The chapter starts by considering some of the key barriers to more effective use of IT in disaster management. It then discusses some best practices and design principles that would help address these barriers. It concludes with a discussion of roadmapping as a technique for guiding overall investment in research and development and a discussion of multidisciplinary centers as a way of better coupling IT research and practice. OVERVIEW OF NON-TECHNICAL BARRIERS Many sectors, such as banking, manufacturing, and services, have been able to adopt new IT technologies routinely and aggressively. Some disaster management organizations have also been quite effective in integrating state-of-the-art IT technologies into their day-to-day operations (e.g., the use of Internet Protocol [IP]-based emergency management tools, the use of cell phones to listen in on first responder land mobile radio traffic, and the use of laptops and wireless local area networks). However,
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery in the committee’s view, the disaster management community has not been nearly as broadly successful. The following are among the complicating factors: Disaster management organizations often lack the resources to acquire valuable capabilities. Responsibility for disaster management is widely distributed among agencies and organizations at all levels of government— with resources and operational responsibilities mainly concentrated at the local level. These organizations have vastly different technologies and capabilities. These characteristics lead to highly scattered adoption and lengthy adoption cycles and a highly fragmented market for disaster management IT. Moreover, many of the organizations are small and have very constrained budgets for IT. Most acquisition resources are focused on capabilities to improve day-to-day operations, whereas disaster management is, by definition, not a routine activity. Some of what agencies do acquire specifically for disaster incidents nonetheless becomes “shelf-ware”—unused even when the need for which it was acquired arises. Both the development and the deployment of many promising technologies are risky and costly compared with the opportunity presented by the commercial market for these technologies today. For example, there are sensors that would be very useful for assessing in real time the status of the built environment. However, developing and manufacturing such sensors for the uncertain and highly cost-constrained disaster management market do not constitute attractive commercial opportunity at this time. In most agencies with disaster management responsibilities, there is no one who is charged specifically with tracking IT technology, identifying promising technologies, integrating them into operations, or interacting with IT vendors to make sure that needs are addressed. Many organizations are too small to grow and support significant in-house expertise, and they naturally look to vendors to provide turn-key solutions, which may mean that the organization’s long-term, broad needs are not fully met. Long intervals occur between acquisitions, with the result that any institutional learning that does occur is likely lost in the interim. The acquisition dynamics created by this situation tend to limit the potential market, leading IT vendors to adapt IT technologies only slowly for use in disaster management. There is no focal point for addressing these issues at the federal level, further contributing to the problem. Finally, the complexity of IT systems and the organizational changes that they introduce are often met with resistance and ambivalence by both managers and users, especially in the absence of a technology “champion.” Decisions regarding IT tend to be made independently by local organizations that must work together in disasters. Organizations with disaster management responsibilities are typically highly independent and have lim-
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery ited regular contact with one another. However, these organizations find themselves having to collaborate in disasters, giving rise to interoperability issues at many levels. State and federal organizations charged with disaster management face similar coordination challenges, further complicating collaboration in responding to a disaster. Acquisition managers concerned about collaboration typically have no place to go to determine if the technologies they are acquiring will interoperate with those of their peers. Further, no mechanism exists for them to synchronize technology acquisitions in order to make them compatible. Recent trends toward the establishment of regional groups to address IT and related disaster management issues are a promising trend. Disaster management is concerned with environments that are intrinsically uncertain and unstable. This contrasts with the typical IT acquisition environment, where development, deployment, operation, and maintenance take place in fairly well understood and stable environments and where requirements are better understood. Important sources of funds are typically only available once a disaster has been declared and must also be spent in a short window of time. Funds tend to become available in much greater quantity during a period of time after disaster declarations. Experienced emergency managers are well aware of this recurrent “window of opportunity” effect, and many of them keep IT and communications projects in draft, ready to proceed as soon as a disaster redirects attention and money to their needs. However, these purchases are naturally driven by immediate concerns rather than longer-term considerations. One conclusion (overly pessimistic in the committee’s view) given these barriers would be that advanced IT solutions are impractical for most local governments and emergency management agencies. Such a view assumes that the existing problems are insurmountable, whereas the committee believes that many of these problems can be mitigated if best practices and principles are followed and if appropriate mechanisms are put in place to support their adoption, such as the research centers that couple technology advancement with practice and community-wide technology roadmapping. Another related potential misreading of the challenge is that technology that is “advanced” or “leading-edge” is necessarily more complex— and is thus unsuited for organizations without considerable in-house technology expertise. In fact, some trends in information technology are in exactly the opposite direction, with advances aimed at reduced complexity from the standpoint of those acquiring, managing, or using the technology. A reflexive avoidance of advanced technology and new
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery developments could thus counterproductively translate into a failure to adopt systems that are more robust, reliable, and usable. BEST PRACTICES FOR ACQUISITION Best practices for acquisition include an emphasis on iterative development; increased opportunities to test and evaluate technology in practice, together with realistic concepts of operations; and design and evaluation processes that allow for strong coupling among practitioners, researchers, and industry. From Waterfall Acquisition to Iterative Development Historically, as in many other areas, the introduction of technology in disaster management has been characterized by a series of major deployments, occurring at intervals sometimes measured in years or even decades. These long cycle times reflect in part the traditional “waterfall” acquisition process. This acquisition model presumes a linear development process that proceeds in stages from development of a comprehensive requirements specification to design, then to implementation followed by integration, next to testing, then to installation, and finally to maintenance. Modified versions of the model acknowledge some role for feedback between each of these stages and preceding ones.1 They also mirror the typical capital planning cycles of federal, state, and local government and agencies, which have traditionally made periodic, large investments in new systems and capabilities. Long acquisition cycles are well known to make it hard to incorporate rapid technological change. The doubling of various measures of computing performance every 1 to 2 years places an obvious premium on processes that can more rapidly incorporate new technology. Moreover, this linear process that periodically seeks to produce the solution often fails to deliver the expected capabilities. Requirements creep may end up making the ultimate design overly cumbersome, complex, or costly to implement, leading to cost overruns, delays, and even program cancellation. Users, who only have input to the front end of the process, may find that the delivered capabilities do not meet their needs. Also, new capabilities and technology opportunities that arise after 1 This development process is described in terms of the software development model explicated in considerable detail by Barry W. Boehm, Software Engineering Economics, Prentice Hall, Upper Saddle River, N.J., 1981.
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery the system development leaves the initial requirements stage are difficult and expensive to incorporate. The reason is that many artifacts of a system grow organically. The practical reality is that large systems emerge from incremental additions in ways entirely unanticipated by the designers of the original system. If the original system is successful, users will almost certainly want to add new functionality. The new functionality desired is by definition unanticipated—if the designers had known it would be useful, they would have included it in the first place. Indeed, it is essentially impossible in practice for even the most operationally experienced IT systems developers to be able to anticipate in detail and in advance all of a system’s requirements and specifications. Often users change their minds about the features they want, or (even more difficult to deal with) they want contradictory features. And, of course, it is difficult indeed to anticipate all potential uses. Thus, system requirements and specifications are inherently incomplete, even though they underlie and drive the relationships among various components of the system. Put differently, the paradox is that successful system development requires non-trivial understanding of the entire system in its ultimate form before the system can be successfully developed. System designers need experience to understand the implications of their design choices. But experience can be gained only by making mistakes, learning from them, and having a mechanism to modify and evolve systems overtime as the understanding of both user and designer grows and as requirements and technology evolve. For these reasons, development methodologies have been developed that presume an iterative approach to building systems. An iterative process uses multiple, short acquisition cycles, which over time deliver and improve on system capabilities. Such a process encourages feedback from users and allows them to play a constructive and central role in a system’s evolution. An iterative process requires, among other things, mechanisms for users to provide feedback to technology innovators and providers. (The committee discusses some possible mechanisms for supporting this process later in this chapter.) With iterative development, systems that initially include limited functionality are often introduced. As users adopt the technology, they have a mechanism for identifying improvements to that functionality and for identifying desirable new features that technology providers can incorporate into the new product versions. The progression of mobile phone functionality to incrementally include increasingly greater performance and a wider range of features is a familiar example of this process. An iterative acquisition process has other advantages. Often requirements thought to be essential turn out to be relatively unimportant or little used once deployed. The functionality supporting those require-
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery ments can be dropped from future product versions, helping minimize complexity creep. Essential features frequently go unidentified until the system begins to be widely used. These features can be added in a more orderly fashion, evolving the system with continuing feedback from users. Incremental introduction of technology also allows one to exploit the current technology “sweet spot”—where the costs of components such as microprocessors are lowest—keeping down costs and making more frequent acquisition cycles possible. In disaster management a tension inevitably arises between a natural desire to fully meet demanding or perceived unique requirements and the cost and speed of development and deployment. Disaster management professionals often say that they must be able to depend “absolutely” on the technology they employ—noting the life-or-death nature of their work. An iterative process allows time for users to build trust in the system’s ability to deliver on those critical requirements and a mechanism for providing feedback to request (or demand) changes as needed. It also allows an opportunity to minimize initial demands for unique requirements involving specialized equipment and maximizing the opportunity to incorporate “commodity” components, thus minimizing cost and delays. Metrics-Driven Investment As the saying goes, one can only manage what one can measure. The resources available for disaster management are limited, and decision making always involves tradeoffs. To motivate the IT expenditures needed to provide adequately for disaster management, there must be an understanding of the benefits that are obtainable. Weighing the available benefits from particular IT investments against the returns on other sorts of investment is challenging. When considering the effects of disasters, these tradeoffs can easily be driven by emotions, even more than in many other sectors. Having metrics allows an analytical assessment to be made, comparing the costs of preventive and mitigating investments with the likely impacts of disasters, and with other potential investments. The sections that follow briefly discuss several aspects of metrics-based decision making. The development of suitable metrics to guide investment in IT for disaster management is a topic for further research and something that a roadmapping effort (described later in this chapter) might address. Estimating Risks Estimating the risks of infrequent events is hard, but failing to consider risks explicitly cripples any rational decision-making process. Gath-
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery ering the necessary information will necessarily be an iterative process, with initial information providing a basis for further discussion, expansion, and revision. An additional benefit of systematizing this process is the potentially useful feedback on needs and opportunities that it can provide to the technology research and development community. Costs and Benefits The economic model needed to assess the trade-off of the costs versus the benefits of investing in technology for disaster mitigation differs from business investment models. Typical business investments are related to a steady income stream, not to a variety of infrequent future costs and benefits. An economic model for disaster management must combine initial investments, ongoing costs, and infrequent events. An investment is based on the net present value, computed using some discount rate for all those components. Those rates incorporate the expected lifetime of the assets and the risks associated with deriving income from those assets over that period. For business IT investments, those rates typically vary from 12 to 20 percent. Communication infrastructure has used much lower discount rates in the past, but the merger of those technologies is forcing the rates for those investments upward. Any technology deployment has initial costs, as well as ongoing maintenance and training costs, and a finite life. This long horizon requires using discounting of future benefits, as well as ongoing costs. Since the occurrence, magnitude, and timing of future disasters are uncertain, appropriate discount rates may have to be quite high, so that results adequately reflect the intuition of the participants and funders of disaster mitigation expenses. While economic cost estimates of disaster impacts are never precise, they do provide order-of-magnitude estimates needed to allow projects and proposals to be ranked. Estimation of the savings resulting from reduced impact due to mitigation efforts is particularly difficult. Many IT benefits will be due to being able to respond more rapidly. Developing models on how faster response can reduce eventual costs is a substantial, but interesting, challenging, and rewarding task. An actual economic quantification of the cost of disaster mitigation versus the benefits obtained could be a fruitful area for research. Use of a Cost-Benefit Model Any recommendation for new and increased outlays must be accompanied by a quantification of their benefits. While costs are easy to quantify, the benefits of disaster mitigation are hard to quantify, but a reason-
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery able attempt is required. It is expected that the costs of improving the technology available for disaster mitigation will be offset by substantial benefits accruing to the country. The most important of these benefits cannot be directly quantified, since they represent the human dimension: reduction of suffering, preservation of family stability, and prevention of losses of items of purely personal value. Other benefits of disaster mitigation can and should be quantified. The low frequency of major disasters greatly reduces the priorities that local planners, faced with many short-term needs, actually assign to accumulating and maintaining the resources that are adequate for dealing with disasters. While some supplies can be stockpiled for decades, IT becomes obsolescent much faster and requires an ongoing infusion of funds. In the commercial world, a spending rate of 15 percent of the initial and upgrade investments is expected. Costs are reduced when obsolete systems are taken out of service. For many systems, the military tends to spend less annually but is then faced with huge, wholesale replacement costs every 12 years and has an inadequate system for more than half of that period. Readiness for mitigating disasters requires a modest but steady investment in technology. The total benefits are due to cost reduction that occur at unpredictable times and are of unpredictable magnitude. Major, quantifiable benefits are due to infrequent events. For an individual county, the investment in disaster mitigation technologies appears to represent an instantaneous expense, sometimes aided by state or federal grants. Maintenance costs are in different budgets and are hard to assess. Technology Evaluation The decentralized nature of disaster management, spread across thousands of agencies—from the smallest volunteer fire department, to sophisticated urban police departments, to state, regional, and federal agencies—presents particular problems for effective technology evaluation and diffusion. Today, many managers responsible for the acquisition of technology for public safety and emergency management are, quite understandably, unable to keep-up-to date with the volume of technology and choices available. Managers often rely on vendors to tell them what they need and have to base decisions largely on the often-conflicting “advice” of various vendors. Professional conferences, workshops, and other meetings held by public safety and emergency management associations are one mechanism for facilitating diffusion of the latest technology. IT capabilities, most notably the Internet, may prove useful as well by providing a conduit for sharing and discussing information about what works.
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery More systematic approaches to evaluation would likely yield deeper and broader technology adoption over the long term. One option is to make use of formal mechanisms for providing unbiased evaluations and guidance—a sort of Consumer Reports for disaster managers. The military’s experience with technology demonstrations, described in the next section, may provide one model for this type of “clearinghouse” approach. Important differences exist between the defense and disaster management contexts regarding technology evaluation. For instance, the military has a somewhat-well-defined acquisition chain that flows from initial ideas to deployment agencies. In civilian disaster management, development and procurement are far more decentralized. Decentralization introduces hand-off issues for successfully demonstrated technology. Still, adapting the lessons of military technology transfer to civilian disaster management yields at least two insights. The first insight is that technology demonstration will be successful to the extent that more knowledgeable technology adopters are available for experimentation. The next two sections—on processes that bring technology developers and practitioners together and on building capacity at the intersection of IT and disaster management—discuss mechanisms and examples for growing the capacity of practitioners as knowledgeable technology adopters. A second insight is the importance of an honest broker serving as a neutral technology clearinghouse that can help provide the expertise to identify and evaluate technology. There are a few examples, from which others have successfully learned, where local and state agencies have taken the lead in demonstrating the viability of a technology. Some states (e.g., South Dakota and Indiana2 ) have taken on this role, identifying and evaluating technology, infrastructure, and services, and in several cases providing one or more of these to local agencies. Private-sector integration centers aimed at bringing together diverse technologies can have value in getting vendors to make their products work with those of other vendors. But, they are necessarily designed to promote both their particular partner’s products and their own consulting and integration services. These vendor-driven efforts will likely fall short of being truly neutral. One option for achieving the neutrality of an honest broker to vet technology intended for disaster management is used for similar reasons in other government mission areas. It is the Federally Funded Research 2 Based on the testimony of Otto Doll, Bureau of Information Technology, state of South Dakota, and Dave Smith, Indiana Integrated Public Safety Commission, at the committee’s June 2005 workshop.
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery and Development Center (FFRDC) model. FFRDCs are independent, non-profit entities sponsored and funded by the U.S. government to meet specific long-term technical needs. FFRDCs typically assist government agencies with scientific research and analysis, systems development, and systems acquisition. They draw together expertise and perspectives from government, industry, and academia to address complex technical issues. An FFRDC for disaster management would not have any operational responsibilities. Rather, it would serve the disaster management community by identifying, developing, and assessing technologies and concepts of operation for using those technologies. Processes That Bring Technology Developers and Practitioners Together An iterative development process goes hand in hand with an acquisition process which assumes that technologies and organizational processes will co-evolve. Coordinating technological advances and organizational process changes requires new knowledge and skills on the part of both practitioners and technology developers and new relationships between them. Such coordination depends on practitioners and developers gaining a better understanding of one another’s methods and on mechanisms that maintain dialogue between them in order to identify promising technologies, define appropriate uses for them, and evaluate and disseminate the outcomes. The Department of Defense has a broad set of programs aimed at bringing together technology developers and users, speeding innovation, and transitioning it into use in the field. One notable model with considerable applicability to disaster management is the Advanced Concept Technology Demonstration (ACTD) model,3 which also pays particular attention to the interplay between technology and organization. An ACTD is used at the phase where promising technologies have been developed together with a vision of how they could be used. An ACTD provides a framework in which to assemble a group that is willing to be an early adopter and a context into which the technology can be inserted and evaluated. A well-run ACTD includes a phase where the system, organization, and technology are all analyzed together, and modifications to each are identified and implemented. A particular strength of the ACTD approach is that it recognizes that 3 A description of the goals of an ACTD is available at http://www.acq.osd.mil/actd/transit.htm.
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery it is not enough to build the technology. One needs to analyze the organization and look at how processes are going to change as a result of having the technology. The idea is to simultaneously develop requirements for organizational change and adaptations of technology to fit that. To use the ACTD approach effectively, patience is required. Otherwise, the design phase may be overly compressed to the detriment of the ultimate product. Promising innovations may wither while waiting to be adopted, or problems identified during the acquisition phase may result in a technology’s being abandoned before researchers are able to find solutions. Building Capacity at the Intersection of IT and Disaster Management The committee heard from state and local agencies that one of the major barriers to advancing practice and adoption of technology was a lack of resources to allow staff time for ongoing development of technical expertise. Yet, without the in-house development of technology expertise able to draw on external resources (such as centers of excellence), adoption of technology will continue to lag and is unlikely to be optimally implemented when adopted. The interdependence of technology and practice means that developing a cadre of experts at the intersection of disaster management and IT is likely to yield significant payoffs. Expanding the human assets available involves both the promotion of cross-fertilization between the technology and practitioner communities and the promotion of a culture of innovation in both. Such a cadre of people will be more astute at translating user requirements to technical need, and will serve as a self-reinforcing feedback mechanism between technology advances and disaster management practices. A number of mechanisms could contribute to increasing human capital along these lines. These include both mechanisms for fostering innovative environments wherever possible and mechanisms for disseminating their results elsewhere. For example, programs could be established to support fellowships, field tests and other experiments, and training and educational activities. Also, programs that incorporate both disaster and IT expertise could be funded to analyze the performance of systems after a disaster. Federal grants could support creation of expertise within state and local agencies by, for instance, sending people from public safety agencies to regional centers for training and to interact with technology experts and other practitioners to stay abreast of the latest developments in both practice and technology.
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery by organization and the nature of the barriers to be overcome. These barriers may include the time to secure the investment and to make the appropriate connection between that investment and the fully discounted net present value of the savings that the investment will accrue. Advances in general data processing, storage, communication, display, and software technologies will continue to make components of IT systems less expensive and more capable with time—aiding the adoption process. (Examples of technologies in this category and described in Chapter 4 include radio-frequency identification (RFID) for resource tracking and logistics; computer-mediated exercises; reverse 911 capability, i.e., two-way emergency reporting; and portable unmanned aerial vehicles and robots.) Adaptation—technology on the horizon and ready for transfer to disaster management practice. Effective systems to serve disaster management may be assembled by combining and adapting available commodity components. IT systems are mainly built using hardware that is available off the shelf and adapted using off-the-shelf software components. Some hardware components—such as personal computers and disk drives—have become commodities. Commodity hardware benefits from significant economies of scale, so that the hardware cost of a cell phone is roughly one-tenth that of a police handheld radio. Part of the cost differential is due to specialized functionality and ruggedness requirements, but a significant portion of the difference comes from much higher production volumes. Adapting commodity hardware to disaster management (in contrast to developing wholly novel hardware) could significantly lower cost due to specialized requirements. Software exhibits more flexibility. Many software and Web-based applications are expressly designed to allow customization for specific uses. Some useful software exists that has been developed in an open and freely shared environment that lends itself to adaptation and customization. In such an environment, investment can be distributed, often close to the end users, making it possible for users and vendors to adapt many existing IT technologies to disaster management readily and rapidly. Useful results can be obtained on time scales measured in months. (Examples of technologies in this category and described in Chapter 4 are commercial collaboration software and file sharing, online resource directories, multiple input/multiple output wireless systems, integrated ad hoc data collection tools (blogs/wikis), and mobile cellular infrastructure.) Development—technology on the horizon and development needed for use in disaster management. For some requirements the technology and design principles are fairly well understood, but existing technology is simply not adequate for disaster management. A concerted effort is required to develop significant software, hardware, and organizational structures to take advantage of them. In this case, a request-for-proposals
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery process can be used to solicit capable organizations to deliver a product that implements the desired technology. Development time depends on project complexity, but useful results can often be obtained within a year. (Examples of technologies in this category and described in Chapter 4 are volunteer mobilization systems, event-replay tools, and intelligent adaptive planning tools.) Applied research—issues requiring disaster-management-specific research. There remain some difficult issues in disaster management for which solutions are not at hand—for example, reliable radio communications inside buildings or rubble. Research aimed specifically at improving disaster management could be conducted by university, commercial, and government laboratories, and even volunteer relief agencies such as the Red Cross. This type of activity is managed and directed within the government by agencies such as the National Science Foundation, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the National Institutes of Health, and by defense-related organizations such as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and the service research laboratories. Support for smaller companies is given through Small Business Innovation Research and Small Business Technology Transfer programs administered by many of the above agencies. Because of the nature of disaster management and the types of challenges that the community faces, disaster-management-related IT research is becoming increasingly broad and interdisciplinary (see Box 3.3 for a discussion of the challenges of interdisciplinary research), involving contributions from multiple technical and social science fields. Fully realizing potential gains will often involve the fostering and management of collaborative research. Even so-called short-term research is typically a multiyear proposition and requires validation in the field at real disasters, as well as simulations. (Examples of technologies in this category and described in Chapter 4 are software-defined radios, tools for data mining across diverse information sources, decision sentinels, deployable sensor networks, and computer-assisted disaster simulation training tools.) General research—issues requiring research followed by adaptation to disaster management. Some problem areas in disaster management overlap general needs in IT management. IT is a broad, active area of research, and relevant research aimed specifically at disaster management is performed at university, commercial, and government laboratories and is sponsored by the same constellation of agencies. Many of these labs are engaged in broad areas of research that have the potential to develop new IT capabilities which, though not directed specifically to that end, could be harnessed for disaster management. As with applied research, this research is typically a multiyear proposition. Further development or adaptation may also be needed for effective utilization in disaster manage-
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery BOX 3.3 Interdisciplinary Research for Enhancing Disaster Management Interdisciplinary approaches to disaster management have been discussed for quite some time. As noted in the recent NRC report Facing Hazards and Disasters, interdisciplinary research (i.e., research that blends researchers, expertise, and tools from a variety of disciplines to address compelling and crosscutting problems) has been gaining prominence in almost every field of scientific endeavor, including disaster management research.1 Indeed, the report cites earlier NRC work that describes four factors promoting the growth of interdisciplinary research: (1) the complexity of nature and society, (2) the desire to address scientific problems that cross disciplines, (3) the need to solve society’s problems, and (4) the power of new technologies.2 The benefits of interdisciplinary research for disaster management can be substantial. For example, Facing Hazards and Disasters describes a number of “exemplars” of interdisciplinary research in disaster management—from infrastructure failures and urban economics to casualty analysis through a common framework to decision making for risk protection. However, Facing Hazards and Disasters also goes on to describe how interdisciplinary research can be particularly challenging when overlapping social sciences with natural sciences (something one sees quite a bit of in disaster management research). According to the same report, interdisciplinary research for disaster management faces a number of significant challenges of its own (in addition to the normal challenges for such research, such as lack of funding and academic incentives) if it is to prove successful. For example, the report notes that some issues often stem from “the failure of a research team to function collaboratively” owing to such things as difficulties in spanning culture gaps between the disciplines or the devaluation or undervaluation by one discipline of the work of another. Another challenge cited revolves around how disaster management research is most often viewed as applied research rather than basic research geared toward advancing overall knowledge in a given area. Facing Hazards and Disasters surveys the available literature in the area and also suggests a number of factors contributing to the success of interdisciplinary research (pp. 186-187). First, it notes that problem-oriented research is probably best suited for interdisciplinary work in disaster management. Second, it notes that the particular characteristics and abilities of researchers—including such things as interpersonal skills—are very important for such interdisciplinary research. Third, it describes how studies that keep research teams relatively small and have stable membership appear to be more successful at integration and research. 1National Research Council, Facing Hazards and Disasters: Understanding Human Dimensions, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2006, p. 181. 2National Research Council, Facilitating Interdisciplinary Research, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2005.
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery ment, which may add more time. This report identifies topics that require general research, but it is not expected that funding specific for disaster management will be employed for these topics. (Examples of technologies in this category and described in Chapter 4 are delay-tolerant networking, automated information fusion from diverse sources, and calibrated information confidence tools.) ROADMAPPING Any research agenda aimed at improving the long-term effectiveness of IT use in disaster management must be placed in the context of the technology pipeline and must prioritize the items in the agenda against each other, in particular noting where progress in one area may be dependent on progress in other areas or on organizational advances. An efficient approach to investment requires a clear vision of the path to improvement and a detailed understanding of the individual pieces of the problem and their interrelationships, together with a mechanism to measure progress. Disaster management is, ultimately, a system-level problem. Thus, improving IT use in disaster management requires a system-level approach. The research agenda is likely to have the most impact if it conforms to a clear vision of the path to improvement defined in a fully articulated roadmap. By establishing a process for making improvements, currently unimagined concerns can be efficiently addressed as they arise, and as both technology and practice evolve. A technology roadmap is a planning tool that can provide information to make better technology investment decisions by identifying critical technologies, technology gaps, and interdependencies between technologies that dictate coordination of research and development cycles. It can also help uncover interconnections between technologies and adoption issues related to organizational or human behavior characteristics. Perhaps most importantly, it can serve as a mechanism through which diverse participants, often with conflicting priorities but with common goals (i.e., saving lives and reducing economic and other impacts), can cooperate to address a larger problem of common interest—in this case the most effective handling of disasters possible. Until relatively recently, the technology choices facing most disaster management organizations were comparatively few, with much of the investment focused on building specialized communications systems in close partnership with a small set of vendors. Today, there is a much wider set of technology options available. There is also an increasing need for the diverse organizations with public safety and homeland security responsibilities to be able to cooperate during large-scale disasters. In
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery response, efforts have been made to identify appropriate technologies (such as DHS’s Select Equipment List). An effective, useful roadmap is driven by a clear set of user-driven (not technology-driven) goals and needs to evolve continuously as a living document in consultation with the full range of stakeholders. Some pieces of a roadmap are in place (e.g., the National Incident Management System), but an overarching strategic vision of how IT can best be evolved and applied to disaster management is missing. A roadmap can serve as an anchor for a strategic vision and help policy makers avoid lurching from one priority to the next, driven by the most recent major disaster. Unfortunately, in the absence of a roadmap, more or less haphazard, reactionary IT investment is occurring and is likely to continue.10 New incidents (like a major hurricane) should trigger a reevaluation of the existing roadmap, potentially leading to some adjustments in priorities within the strategic framework. But the continuity of investments should result in continuous and more predictable improvements in the application of IT to disaster management. A roadmap can also assist policy makers and planners in balancing investments across different technologies appropriate at different times in the disaster management life cycle, that is, mitigation preparation, response, and recovery. A roadmap can also make explicit investment choices concerning tradeoffs among competing priorities and between tensions such as security versus openness and other such tensions previously identified. Finally, a roadmapping process provides an opportunity to consider the interrelationships between technology and organizational models and technology and policy. Successful technology development and deployment are widely understood to require active consideration of the organizational context in which they will be introduced. Similarly, potential policy barriers must be considered when developing new technologies and organizational approaches. Critical to the success of a roadmap activity is the inclusion of a broad array of stakeholders and an institutional home to get started and remain viable. All participants must make a long-term commitment to the resulting roadmap and to its continuing evolution as technological advances and organizational innovations are made. 10 The fiscal year 2007 Senate Appropriations Bill for the Department of Homeland Security shows evidence of this type of planning, focusing on hurricanes and immigration. See Michael Arnone, “DHS Bill Slashes Research Funds,” Federal Computer Week, July 17, 2006, p. 11; available at http://www.fcw.com/article95287-07-17-06-Print.
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery Examples of Successful Technology Roadmapping Roadmapping is a technique frequently used by firms to plan future research and development activities. The U.S. military, for example, uses a roadmapping approach in its Quadrennial Defense Review report11 to drive plans for incorporating technology advances into its future capabilities. The International Electronics Manufacturing Initiative has developed a sensors technology roadmap that examines technology capabilities and applications in a variety of sectors, including transportation, health care, and consumer electronics.12 Perhaps the most familiar application of roadmapping is the semiconductor industry’s roadmap. In the late 1980s, it became clear that the integrated circuit industry was not only a rapidly growing part of the global economy but also critically important to the economy and national security of the United States. Unfortunately, concerns grew that the United States, after an initial leading role, had fallen behind in technology leadership relative to other countries, especially those in Asia. A 1990 National Research Council report outlined the consequences of not maintaining a commercial and technological lead in this area.13 The Semiconductor Industry Association (SIA) would take on the role of pulling together a long-term technology roadmap for the industry based both on end-user needs and technology trends. This was not an industrial plan in the usual sense, but rather an agreed on, coordinated vision that would help each organization plan development and investment strategies that would bring the thousands of pieces of technology needed to make an integrated circuit together at the right time and the right level of development. A technology piece developed too early would be prohibitively expensive—developed too late it would not be profitable. Market forces would ensure that vendors and suppliers would tool up to meet a particular need at the right time, and even researchers understood the targets for conventional technology and could choose areas for research that, if successful, would have the most impact. Unlike other attempts at planning, this was not directed at a specific technology goal, but rather at the process of continuously improv- 11 The 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review Report notes in its preface that the ideas and proposals in the report are provided as a roadmap for change. The report is available at http://www.comw.org/qdr/qdr2006.pdf. 12 Charles E. Richardson et al., “Sensor Technology Roadmapping Efforts at iNEMI,” IEEE Transactions on Components and Packaging Technologies 28(2): 372-375, June 2005. 13 Computer Science and Telecommunications Board, National Research Council, Keeping the U.S. Computer Industry Competitive: Defining the Agenda, National Academy Press, Washington, D.C., 1990.
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery ing a key technology over a span of decades. Each step along the way would have important economic and strategic value and would form the foundation for the next important advance. Built into the creation of the roadmap was a process that drove continuous updates and refinements, making it a living document with continued relevance and ensuring that it was up to date with advances in science, technology, and market needs. By the end of the 1990s, after three major updates and the associated strengthening of the U.S. semiconductor industry, there was a push to expand the roadmap process to a global scale so that the vision would match the expanding scale of the industry. Today it is a joint effort of industry, government, and academic representatives from the United States, Europe, Korea, Japan, and Taiwan. It is the critical common view driving ongoing investment in research, development, and manufacturing in one of the largest and most complex components of the global economy. The roadmap for disaster management would be quite different from that of the semiconductor industry. Specifically, the SIA roadmap was made possible when an entire industry needed to plan for future generations of fabrication equipment and realized that this highly capital-intensive equipment was beyond the means of any one industry participant— it required cooperation with other participants. This created an environment where cooperation within a specific framework, embodied by the SIA roadmap, was possible, while allowing continued competition in areas outside of that framework. In contrast, disaster management organizations and the associations that represent them would necessarily drive the roadmapping process envisioned here. Yet, the key element remains—the need to create a framework within which cooperation can happen in order to address common goals that are otherwise unattainable or suboptimal. By joining together to develop a roadmap, they would have a forum for speaking with a common and consistent voice to the vendor community about technology needs. There are also similarities from a process perspective; stakeholders create a living document that explicitly lays out a vision for continuous progress based on balancing value and cost, as well as carefully considering technical and organizational feasibility. Then, investment from all sectors can then be committed to track this vision as it evolves. A successful roadmapping process would ultimately result in full and active participation of the vendor community, just as the SIA roadmap process eventually included the entire worldwide semiconductor industry, including those who spurred its development as the perceived “adversaries.”
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery RESEARCH CENTERS: COUPLING TECHNOLOGY RESEARCH WITH PRACTICE Successful development, adoption, and utilization of IT for disaster management require several different communities be in regular and close contact with one another. Researchers tend to look for overarching themes, but experience has demonstrated the importance, in the field of disaster management, of starting with real problems faced by real practitioners, working back from there to overarching themes. Starting with overarching research themes will likely lead to dead ends and unimplementable technology.14 Practitioners must help define needs for new technology, thus acting as inspiration for researchers and developers. They must interact with developers and vendors throughout the prototyping cycle and development process to ensure that their needs are indeed addressed. IT researchers must have opportunities to expose practitioners to novel concepts in order to generate an understanding of potential new capabilities and how they might fit into current and future operations. Public administrators, social scientists, and IT researchers all play important roles in ensuring that IT innovations are introduced with the necessary organizational changes to enable new devices and systems to be smoothly integrated into practice. Forging organizational ties is harder in disaster management than it is in sectors like defense because the vast majority of practitioners are distributed across local agencies that are normally fairly isolated from each other and from the research community. Nevertheless, integrating the experiences and needs of these different agencies is crucial, since sooner or later when a disaster of a severe enough magnitude strikes, they are bound to have to work together. Some regional groups of organizations that have already experienced the need to work together have successfully initiated the process of forging organizational ties, suggesting that building from a bottom-up approach is likely to be most effective. Moreover, successful IT development is iterative. It is important to provide practitioners with initial prototypes to bootstrap the iterative process. Testbeds and exercises are particularly critical in the area of disaster management because they provide opportunities for feedback from actual users about critical requirements of responders that may not otherwise be apparent. In some cases, large-scale testbeds are required to understand issues that only emerge at scale. Simulations present oppor- 14 This point was made repeatedly by workshop participants and is reflected in the committee’s earlier workshop report; see National Research Council, Summary of a Workshop on Using Information Technology to Enhance Disaster Management, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2005, p. 7.
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery tunities not only for training but also for observation and assessment of IT capabilities such as decision support tools. Operational facilities that permit instrumentation, experimentation, and iteration are needed. Collaborative research centers could, therefore, play a highly useful role in advancing the effective application of IT to disaster management. The major goals of such centers would be sixfold—(1) to develop a shared understanding of the experiences and challenges in all phases of disaster management from both a technological and organizational perspective, (2) to evaluate the application of technology advances to disaster management practice, (3) to develop a culture and processes for transitioning knowledge and technology to the operational communities on a sustained basis, (4) to build human capital at the intersection of information technology and disaster management, (5) to serve as repositories for data and for lessons learned from past disasters and disaster management efforts, and (6) to provide forward-looking analysis to inform the development of technology capabilities, associated organizational processes, and roadmap development. The research conducted by these centers would be multidisciplinary, combining the efforts of information scientists, engineers, and social scientists. Participants would be charged with collecting knowledge and experience from past disasters and using it to build a core set of knowledge that would inform the development of technology capabilities and associated organizational processes to enhance the management of future events. The centers would closely partner with federal, state, and local agencies responsible for disaster management. Indeed, experienced and capable emergency management officials and operational units from disaster management organizations should be deeply involved in the work of these centers. One approach for engaging these government agencies could be to provide them with incremental funds specifically for working with researchers and to develop next-generation technologies. To ensure that the work of the centers is informed by and responsive to the needs of disaster management, centers would bring in disaster management professionals from all levels of government as visiting fellows. To inform additional researchers about the problems of disaster management, university faculty and students would be offered internships and fellowships. Finally, to help encourage development of technology based on the research results, the involvement of relevant industry would be promoted through informational activities and the sharing of expertise and results. Multiple centers for research would have several advantages over a single research center. They would enable healthy intellectual competition and cross-fertilization of ideas and allow for specialization in specific types of disasters, specific technology capabilities, or the compre-
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery hensive needs of particular geographical areas. Certain research centers could, for example, specialize in disasters common to their locations, in order to benefit from expertise residing in local emergency response organizations and other local government agencies. For instance, a center near known earthquake-prone areas may focus on technology related to improving earthquake-specific disaster management. Different centers could specialize in practical and response-oriented work, combining core as well as geography-specific expertise. Close coordination and sharing of information and expertise among centers would help avoid unnecessary duplication. A major goal of these centers would be to develop a culture of continuously transitioning knowledge and IT between researchers and operational communities. This is very different from the usual academic model of licensing technology to a third party, or creating a start-up. A continuous process of reviewing user requirements, knowledge generation, collaboration, validation, acceptance, implementation, and incorporation of new user needs must be encouraged. Field research—working on large problems outside the labs—appears to be particularly valuable to making progress on using IT for disaster management. It pushes researchers in new directions. It also stresses the technology under the extreme conditions inherent in disaster situations, exposing issues unlikely to be discovered in a laboratory setting. Practitioners’ participation in such research gives them an opportunity to see the potential for new information technologies. It also gives them a chance to influence its direction. The goal is to close the gap between researchers and practitioners and create a unified core community that can speed up the process of delivering research results of immediate relevance to disaster management. Panelists at the workshop held by the committee cited the Disaster Management Interoperability Services (DMIS) Program and the Biological Warning and Incidents Characterization (BWIC) projects as successful examples of programs carrying out field research that involved the public safety community.15 The Strong Angel exercises mentioned in Chapter 2 are another example of how technologies still in the development stage can be tested in the field and can begin to gain acceptance in the practitioner community that is ultimately indispensable to adoption, as well as provide researchers with feedback on the proper direction for further research and development. Finally, as the use of advanced sensors, communication technology, and similar IT increases, it becomes ever easier to collect data about the 15 See National Research Council, Summary of a Workshop on Using Information Technology to Enhance Disaster Management, The National Academies Press, Washington, D.C., 2005, p. 6.
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Improving Disaster Management: The Role of IT in Mitigation, Preparedness, Response, and Recovery process of dealing with a disaster in a completely unobtrusive manner. Such data ought to form a basis for studies that will ultimately lead to improving the disaster management process, and it should be used to help evaluate new proposed technologies and methodologies. Centers should serve as repositories for these data. Several research centers devoted to certain aspects of disaster management already exist. Some well-known centers are the Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder; the Disaster Research Center at the University of Delaware, which investigates the social science aspects of disasters; the Hazard Reduction and Recovery Center at Texas A&M University; and Dartmouth College’s Institute for Security Technology Studies.16 Such centers could provide the basis for a network of research centers where IT researchers, hazard and disaster researchers, and disaster management practitioners can collaborate to study and evaluate the use of IT for disaster management from both a technological and an organizational perspective; transition knowledge and technology to those who practice disaster management; build human capital at the intersection of IT and disaster management; and develop future IT capabilities. 16 Texas A&M University provides a Web site at http://archone.tamu.edu/hrrc/related-sites/Centers.html#Domestic with links to domestic and international disaster research centers. The Natural Hazards Center at the University of Colorado at Boulder provides links to Web sites of U.S. and international organizations dealing with hazards and disasters, including academic research centers; see http://www.colorado.edu/hazards/resources/centers.
Representative terms from entire chapter: