Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Katrina and Public Safety

While I am glad to see the individuals pulling the online resources together in response to Katrina, I reiterate Rex Brooks' post that getting more professional and informed resources into the specification processes for the public safety and justice systems is a very positive response.

Had CAP and EDXL been online, the response effort could have been better. Among the systems that gather name information, we have location and address, phone numbers, classes of registered vehicles, and named relationships among these. Between your Utility and other public safety agencies, there is sufficient information to warn you and organize the recovery.

It comes down to cost. What doesn't?

Sign up lists for notification are optional and through the receiver of your choice as long as it conforms to the specifications for the system and the standards for the data.

Interoperable asset cataloging and management is needed.

Interoperable dispatch systems integrated with wide area and broadcast communications are now possible and being implemented.

Standards are lacking but emerging.

While large scale sensor systems are vital to homeland security, we are seeing in Katrina the results of overfocusing on one source of hazards to the neglect of more probable ones.

"Fear is the mindkiller." Frank Herbert.

We have to face this squarely. This stops. From 9/11 forward we have been operating in a climate of fear and distraction, somewhat normal given the enormity of that event, but ever since being played as a card in the game of political distraction.

Officials using the destruction of the Gulf Coast by Katrina as the means to push agendas for left or right political causes are not doing their jobs to serve the people. Turn them off for now and remember them later at the ballot box.

The media is not excused either but frankly, they were in fast and providing real time data.

We all failed. Too many people are dead, dieing, homeless or grieving to believe otherwise.

Beware the blame game. It doesn't helo people off roofs.

From my desk, it is clear that the call list systems were inadequate. Call lists are part of the major incident response protocols that enable resources to be brought on line quickly and efficiently.

It is likely that inadequate provisions were made for rapid mandatory evacuations, and just as obvious that some people don't heed warnings even when the evidence is in and time is short. It is obvious that some people even with adequate warning do not have the resources to evacuate. That is a very tough problem to solve logistically. When the danger is coming fast, there are no magic helicopters or fleets of ships. It comes down to school buses, flat beds, tractor-trailers, Wal-Marts and Lowes.

Remember that.

Think hard about what is on their shelves and which parts you want on the street the morning after. Pass laws.

A top-down response is always combined with a bottom-up response. There are plenty of lessons to learn for everyone involved. It is obvious that we must step up the pressure to implement a well-thought through and fearless National Response Plan. It is obvious that State and Local protocols must be improved NOW to cope with the need to interoperate at a national level.

For you XML geeks, it's just the message set, D'oh!

While local and State control of resources remain standard procedure, requests from these officials are not required to mobilize national assets under the NRP.

Old habits can be bad habits. New habits save lives.
Old habits can be good habits. New habits can kill.

What do you know about your location and what is near you?

Do you have a plan to find family members fast if your cellphone callist is unavailable?

Do you know your neighbor's name? Do you know their children's names?

Do you have an evacuation plan that all of these people know?

Are there large chemical plants or nuclear reactors near your home? Do you know about plumes and prevailing winds?

Do you have alternatives?


If you see a Cat 2 or 3 enter the Gulf in August, you don't need much analysis to know time is wasting. The engine of a hurricane is hot water.

As a member of the public safety industry watching my company stock climb even as I know public safety systems are inadequate in the face of a Cat 4/5 hurricane, I have that same sick feeling I had on 9/11: making money on misery. On the other hand, I know these systems save lives. And more can be saved.

Public safety is an industry where ego-driven competition kills people. It is the industry that in the face of this disaster, must come to the standards table.

The amount of senseless local deviation in your dispatch and records management systems to keep your local response officials nice-to-your-mayor or unions will get you killed. Kick their heads until they implement GJXML, NIMS, CAP, EDXL and other document protocols that work Just-In-Time.

Regionalize. Immediately.

Train your cops and firemen on computers. There is NO excuse for a computer illiterate in a cruiser or any other first responder vehicle.

There is NO excuse for software that is so hard to operate that a college degree is required.

Know what the real problems are and don't let your public safety systems become political footballs. In my experience, it means you cutover slower and often pay the same money multiple times for bad procurements.

Coverage and technology are not the same thing. Choose wisely particularly with respect to scale. LANs rule; WANs fuse.

Networks don't fight floods, fires, or CBRNE but they can place a lot of the right calls to the right people at the right time. At the very least, fix the callLists by event type and support subscription-based notification on any eligible receiver.

Buy wisely. Pay attention. Act.

len (speaking only for myself and not my employer)

1 comment:

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