Hundreds Participate in 2nd Annual CMUSV DMI Workshop & MCC Vehicle Rally-Silicon Valley Campus - Carnegie Mellon University

Friday, June 3, 2011

Hundreds Participate in 2nd Annual CMUSV DMI Workshop & MCC Vehicle Rally

The little kid in all of us became excited when we caught a glimpse of the large vehicles in the parking lot. Even though their sirens weren’t wailing, interest was piqued with the chance to see the state-of-the-art equipment contained therein.

Sponsored by California Fire Chiefs Association (CFCA), California Emergency Management Agency (CalEMA), Carnegie Mellon University Silicon Valley (CMUSV), and hosted by NASA Research Park, the 2nd Annual CMUSV Disaster Management Initiative (DMI) Workshop, held jointly with the California Mobile Command Center (MCC) Vehicle Rally, saw the likes of first responders, technologists, volunteers, and government officials descend upon CMU Silicon Valley campus to learn about new innovations and collaborations for the work they perform every day.

The action-packed two day workshop had numerous keynote speakers and expert-filled panels with topics including public and private partnerships, emergency communications at a large-scale festival, and involving volunteers in disaster management collaborations. As the first keynote speaker, Major General Scott Johnson shared personal reflections of his deployment in response to Hurricane Katrina. He offered the difficult lessons learned and also discussed the specific role of the 40th Infantry Division of the California National Guard, of which he is Commander.

govt officials at DMI

At the end of MG Johnson’s talk, several government representatives stopped by to show their interest and support of the workshop. Guests included California Assemblymember Paul Fong; Charles Duff, Deputy Director of NASA Ames Research Center; Sandra Soto, representing Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren’s office; Steve Rice, Vice Mayor of Los Gatos, CA; and Jac Siegel, Mayor of Mountain View, CA.

Two additional keynote talks were well received. Joseph Pred, Emergency Services Operations Chief for Burning Man, detailed the logistical and technical challenges and solutions involved with setting up temporary communications infrastructure for a temporary city of 50,000 in the middle of the desert. Of particular note is that federal, state and local agencies have taken to studying the Burning Man festival environment for lessons learned that can apply to disaster and other temporary organizational infrastructure at scale.

Joseph Pred

Joseph Pred

Michael Cummings, FEMA Region IX Private Sector Liaison, led another keynote, “Public/Private Partnerships – What’s in it for Me”, a panel discussion highlighting best practice case studies in emerging technologies. This keynote was particularly remarkable due to the panelists involved: Doug Wisman, CalEMA; Jim Turner, City & County of San Francisco Private Sector Liaison; Catherine Nelson, Cisco; Peter Ohtaki, California Resiliency Agency; and Martin Griss, Director, CMUSV. The panel represented federal, state, county, corporate, non-government organization, and academic sectors. Their contributions to the discussion provided much insight to public and private partnerships and how one can benefit from the other in disaster management.

This was not only your average speaker and audience workshop, but also was hands-on, including vehicle lot demos with opportunities to tour the mobile command centers that participated in the rally and disaster communications exercises. Of particular interest to many attendees was the Cisco Network Emergency Response Vehicle (NERV), which is often deployed in collaboration with CalEMA. Cisco NERV is a self-powered mobile communications center that can be fully operational in 15 minutes, while being disaster response ready for up to 72 hours.

Another participant of the MCC rally is a permanent resident at CMUSV, the Next Generation Emergency Operations Center (EOC), which was demonstrated by Art Botterell, consultant with DMI. With 18 foot trailers provided by NASA Ames Disaster Assistance and Rescue Team (DART), this evolving EOC is being equipped with low energy, solar powered IT and communications technology, and connected via WiFi and other radio technology to other disaster management research systems at CMUSV.

Steve Ray, associate director of the DMI, conducted a Plugfest coordinating the communication between over 30 mobile command center vehicles. The exercise was designed to test the interoperability of the vehicles and their ability to communicate with each other, pass data along to other vehicles and coordinate efforts between different types of communications systems.

Even novice attendees were able to absorb some awareness with a session on personal emergency preparedness. The detailed course is typically given at the community level to enable families to plan in advance for disasters, but workshop attendees were offered a condensed version. Topics covered included home and workplace preparedness, life-threatening conditions, disaster impact, fire safety and hazardous materials. Of particular note are useful websites on emergency preparedness: www.fema.gov/areyouready and http://72hours.org/.

Several CMUSV faculty led sessions on their research in a variety of topics, including sensors, machine learning, and antenna optimization. These sessions gave an opportunity to show how their research is currently being applied to disaster response situations. One such session held by Assistant Professor Ian Lane led participants in a hands-on workshop on parsing audio-to-text using sample twitter messages.

“This workshop was all about breaking down the silos. Practitioners, policy makers and researchers talking to each other, seeing each other's presentations and demos - coming together to share and learn from each other - that was what the Workshop was about for me” summarized Steven Rosenberg, associate director of CMUSV.

Martin Griss, director of CMUSV, further said, “I thought the event exceed our expectations - we had a great turnout, there was great energy and excitement, and many people commented that bringing practitioners, companies, academics, vehicles and technology together for an intensive set of discussions, workshops, exercises and interoperability was a unique experience.”

Towards the end of the workshop, ideas were already buzzing for next year’s workshop, which promises to be bigger and even better.

Above right photo: CMUSV DMI staff and local experts/officials at the DMI Workshop: (left to right) Charles Duff, Deputy Directory of NASA Ames Research Center; Steven Rosenberg, Associate Director, DMI; Martin Griss, Director, SV campus, Director, DMI; Jeannie Stamberger, Associate Director, DMI; Steve Rice, Vice Mayor, Los Gatos, CA; Sandra Soto, Chief of Staff for Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren; Steve Jordan, President/CEO, National Disaster Resiliency Center; Jac Siegel, Mayor, Mountain View, CA; Major General Scott Johnson, Commander, 40th Infantry Division California Army National Guard; Paul Fong, Assemblymember, 22nd District, California; Laura Macias, Mountain View City Council; Dan Holley, National Disaster Resiliency Center; Steve Ray, Associate Director, DMI