Friday, March 26, 2010

Not a Moment Too Soon ... Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley Launches Disaster Management Initiative

All of the major cities of the West Coast of the United States are at risk from earthquakes similar to what just happened in Chile. The largest possible earthquake in California would be just above magnitude 8. But millions of people would be right on top of the shaking ... When we have a large earthquake, we will face issues similar to what is happening in Chile right now ... The long duration of shaking in the largest earthquakes have a bigger impact on bridges, pipelines and large structures. Loss of utilities can last for months because the damage is so extensive that the only solution is to create a completely new system ... Without utilities and with damage to a million buildings, businesses, especially small businesses, cannot reopen and the economic consequences continue to grow. Lucy Jones, U.S.G.S., "Are We Prepared for an 8.8 Quake?," New York Times, 3-29-10

Not a Moment Too Soon ... Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley Launches Disaster Management Initiative

By Richard Power

Information and information systems have a pivotal role in crisis and catastrophe; not only are they highly vulnerable to such disruptions, but they are also vital to crisis management, business continuity and disaster recovery. And today, you have to factor in even more complexity, because dynamic, new elements such as social media, smart phones and crowd-sourcing not only offer the opportunity to empower the populace to participate in recovery and relief efforts, they also confront emergency response planners with the challenge of processing and prioritizing an immense influx of hitherto unavailable information.

Meanwhile, in the 21st Century, the fields of crisis management, business continuity and disaster recovery are taking on a new significance and a new urgency at all levels -- personal, organizational and societal (or at least they should be). As I say in my Intelligence Briefings, the 20th Century model for crisis management, business continuity and disaster recovery was "something bad might happen someday and if it does this is what we will do," but the 21st Century model should be "multiple bad things will occur, quite possibly simultaneously, and when they do, this is how we will adapt and respond."

Consider Munich Re's annual report on the global impact of natural disasters.

The 2009 report was heralded as "good news." The top ten 2009 events combined resulted in less 10,000 deaths, and total economic losses were valued at only $50 billion (BTW, the USA was effected by four of the top ten events in terms of economic losses); as contrasted with the 2008 report which cited 220,000 deaths (200,000 in Cyclone Nargis and the Sichuan Earthquake alone) and economic losses of approximately $200 billion. And although 2009 was not as bad as 2008, the trend line since 1950, and especially over the last decade, is on a steep curve. There is no mystery to this increasing intensity. The planet's exploding population coupled with the increasingly stressed infrastructures of the planet's mega-cities; and yes, despite the vehement denialism of a dwindling few, extreme weather brought on by the rapid acceleration of global climate change is already having a major impact.

What do you think Munich Re's report for 2010 will look like?

It is only March, and we have already seen devastating earthquakes in Haiti (over 200,000 dead and hundreds of thousands more homeless) and the 8.8 magnitude quake in Chile, which plunged 93% of the country into a prolonged blackout, and led to tsunami warnings in over 50 other nations.

But perhaps more to the point, what does it all mean to you personally, to your loved ones, to to your enterprise, to your community, and to your country?

The clearing of the rubble in Haiti will take 1,000 trucks 1,000 days.

The quake that hit Chile less than one month later shifted the earth's axis, and shortened our day by 1.26 microseconds. (Likewise, the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake, also shifted the axis and shortened our day, by 6.8 microseconds.)

How much would an 8.8 earthquake shift the axis of your own individual world? What would you do if your headquarters or your production center were located in a disaster zone where it was projected it would take 1,000 trucks 1,000 days to clear the rubble? What would the first twenty minutes of the aftermath look like for you? What would the first twenty hours of the aftermath look like to you? What about the first twenty days? Where would you begin? What have you done to prepare in any way?

My personal interest in crisis management, business continuity and disaster recovery has been on a steep arc of its own, since the late 1990s, when I started looking at the likely impact of climate change (and related sustainability crises) on the overall risk and threat matrix for business and government; and it become very personal after I directed a 24x7 response to the Indian Ocean earthquake and tsunami for a global enterprise of 100,000+ people in 100+ countries. (See A Corporate Security Strategy for Coping with the Climate Crisis.)

So I was delighted to find myself in the front row at the NASA AMES Convention Center for the launch of Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley's Disaster Management Initiative (DMI).

Martin Griss, Director of the Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley and the CyLab Mobility Research Center, has a vision of the DMI as a collaboration "to prepare the SF bay area for a coordinated response to a major multi-jurisdictional incident, using open technologies and software."

In articulating Carnegie Mellon's critical contributions to the DMI, Griss stressed establishing relationships, submitting proposals and managing grants, creating and launching collaborative events, and participating in research into technical components of the DMI, such as sensors, devices, communications infrastructure, situational models, common operating picture, information reporting and sharing, system testing, etc.

Numerous speakers from diverse organizations led segments of DMI workshop.

Mathhew Bettenhaunsen, Secretary of the California Emergency Management Agency (CalEMA) gave a sobering keynote, admonishing those who have not taken yet personal responsibility for preparing themselves, their families and their organizations for the inevitable, and exhorting those present to make haste in their efforts to develop the kind of coordinated, 21st Century emergency response articulated by Griss.

David Oppenheimer, Chief of the Northern California Seismic Network Earthquake Hazards Team of the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), spoke on an earthquake early warning system being developed.

The system is based on hundreds of hundreds of monitoring stations throughout the state, and is predicated on the span of a few seconds between the p wave and the s wave of an oncoming earthquake. In that space, it is possible determine the location and the magnitude of an earthquake.

Imagine what could be done with that few seconds (maybe as many as five or ten seconds depending how far you are from the epicenter)? Could you broadcast a warning within one second? Could you bring elevators and trains to a safe stop? Could you provide for an orderly transition in air traffic control? What else could you do? Yes, like much of what was explored in the DMI workshop, this extraordinary capability brings both opportunities and challenges.

Xavier j. Irias, Director of Engineering and Construction for East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) spoke on how his critical infrastructure provider is coming to grips with the inevitable.

Imagine having to develop a crisis management, business continuity and disaster recovery strategy for an entity consisting of four thousand miles of pipe, thirty dams, four hundred major facilities, and serving over four million people. Oh yes, and "everything has been placed right along the fault," Irias remarked, "to make it easy to find," and anything not built along a fault line has been situation in "a liquefaction zone."

"There is not a single facility immune to damage," he added.

Seismic Modeling is not enough, Irias observed, to be truly useful, model results must be integrated with real-time field data; so EBMUD is using USGS's open-source Shakecast together with its own open source disaster management application Marconi in an open technology approach to enhancing the Common Operating Picture; and it is this Common Operating Picture that enable a prompt and appropriate response.

"Shakecast and Marconi integration exemplifies the [open technology] concept," Irias said, "both are freely available and applicable worldwide."

Let's say an earthquake hits at 3 a.m., and by 3:30 a.m., key personnel arrive at their district operation centers. Within an hour, the sites to be inspected can be prioritized based on the information available through Shakecast and Marconi, and by 5:00 a.m., the highest priority inspections could be completed.

Robert Dolci, Chief of Protective Services and Director of Emergency Services for NASA AMES, spoke on the daunting challenges that will confront the Next Generation Emergency Operations Center (EOC).

"Let's assume a regional Joint Operations Command (JOC) staffed with local, state and federal personnel, and assume the worst case scenario, e.g., 7.8 earthquake on the Hayward fault ..." This JOC EOC would be interfating with the EOCs of nine counties, forty-five cities, two hundred and fifty corporations, different State entities, thousands of incident command posts, ten commodity distribution centers, hundreds of shelters ... plus, at the Federal level, F.E.M.A., DoJ, DHS, DoD, DoT, GSA and "at least ten other agencies," ... plus emergency response teams from other states, volunteers from non-profits and faith-based organizations like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army, hospitals, news media (both local and national), and of course, the general public, and all of them reporting and making requests in real-time.

"From strategic level, the regional JOC/EOC of the future will need to be aware of all significant events, effectively gather and disseminate information, effectively communicate across all levels, etc. ... as many as five thousand command elements will be reporting up to and requesting support from that regional JOC/EOC ... There will have to be food, shelter, etc. for the responders, as well as the populace ...

Like the other presenters, Dolci emphasized the need for open technology approaches to enhancing the Common Operating Picture.

"If the next generation JOC/EOC cannot keep up with it all," he quipped, it will be a disaster."

Eric Rasmussen, CEO of InSTEDD also spoke. InSTEDD is an innovation lab and capacity building resource, which is working with governments and NGOs in crisis areas from Haiti to the Mekong Delta.

Rasmussen spoke on some of the "free and open source" technologies his team has developed to empower "seamless and reliable collaboration" in the field:

Geochat:"A unified mobile communications service designed specifically to enable self-organizing group communications in the developing world. The service lets mobile phone users broadcast location-based alerts, report on their situation, and coordinate around events as they unfold, linking field, headquarters, and the local community in a real-time, interactive conversation visualized on the surface of a map."

Riff:"An interactive decision support environment that combines the power of virtual teams of human experts and advanced analytic, machine-learning, and visualization services to allow its users to collaborate around streams of information to detect, characterize, and respond sooner to emerging events."

Mesh4X:"An adaptive data integration platform designed to break down barriers to information flow, allowing organizations and individuals to share awareness reliably, selectively, and securely, with anyone, using any device, from any database, over any network. Using Mesh4x, every user knows what every other user knows. When a disaster relief worker notes in a spreadsheet that beds are available in a local shelter, that piece of information is automatically synchronized to all of the different websites, PDAs, databases, and maps of every organization cooperating in the response."

Nuntium: A messaging flow management system that "allows applications to send and receive all type of messages," e.g., sms, emails and twitter direct messages.

Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley's impressive list DMI collaborators includes:
Golden Gate Safety Network and MapLab
California Emergency Management Agency (Cal-EMA)
TWiki, Inc.
Wireless Communications Alliance (WCA) and the WCA's emergency Communications Leadership & Innovation Center (eCLIC)
NASA Ames Research Center Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (DART)
Airship Earth Corporation (AEC)

To the deepen the experience of the participants, Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley followed up the DMI Workshop with a weekend-long Crisis Camp

Stay tuned for more news of this compelling initiative as it progresses.