Session 2a participants (see workshop agenda, Box 1-2) identified three inter-related long-term goals for improving communication for disaster preparedness and intervention:
The development of a networking planning tool, such as desktop computer software, to support homeland security. The tool could be designed to be used by an individual with at least some college education to define and model a given community. Such a tool would allow the user to identify community members, the resources available to the community, and the best pathways to disseminate information to the community to achieve a desired outcome;
A better understanding of networking theory. This includes processes by which individuals emerge as leaders within a network, and what happens to information disseminated across a network. With a better understanding of network theory, knowledge of various processes can be leveraged to support community resilience, create more effective support for communities, and to mobilize resources quickly when necessary; and
The means to conduct impact analysis (e.g., what happens in a network when specific information is disseminated) and scenario analysis (e.g., which of multiple scenarios will have the most desired impact).
Tools are currently available to accomplish some of these objectives, and new technologies are rapidly evolving. However, many existing tools may be too academically oriented for practical application or are not packaged for the specific needs of the disaster management community. The most effective user interfaces for computer programs could be developed with the full cooperation of emergency management practitioners and an understanding of the practitioners’ needs. Workshop participants noted that to get the most out of networking tools, practitioners will need training in their use. Interpretation of network visualization graphs (Figure 2-1, for example) will need to be incorporated into the training of law enforcement and first responders. Training in the use of networking tools would also be essential at the community level to educate the public on topics such as how to send text messages, and how to communicate with family members during emergency events.
The next three sections of this document discuss in greater detail the three objectives stated above.
Many workshop participants stated that a network planning and visualization tool for the emergency management practitioner cannot be designed to perfectly plan for every disaster or reach every individual in a community. However, such a tool could be invaluable in helping managers maximize connectivity within networks and building community disaster resilience.
Building the tool could be accomplished in phases. Initial phases could allow basic SNA functions as described in Chapter 2. Emerging technologies, such as data mining