Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley Hosts Disaster Management Events-Silicon Valley Campus - Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley Hosts Disaster Management Events

March 30, 2010 - The Silicon Valley campus was abuzz with innovation last weekend as the Disaster Management Initiative (DMI) held its first workshop. The focus of the workshop was to formulate ideas and projects to further communications and technologies serving disaster management and recovery.

Participation at the DMI Workshop exceeded expectations. There were over 100 attendees, drawn from a variety of companies, government agencies, and NGOs.

The events were kicked off by Martin Griss, Director of Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley. Welcome remarks by Jac Siegel and Pete Worden (NASA Ames Center) were effective in stressing the interest, importance of the topic and support from the community and NASA. The presence of Gina Banks (representing Senator Dianne Feinstein) and letter from Representative Michael Honda (California State Assembly) gave further endorsement.

Following was an energizing keynote by Matthew Bettenhausen (Secretary of CalEMA) which was very well received; in particular, he stressed the breadth of CalEMA's mission, and the support of the Governor. He also talked about the importance of self-reliance, preparedness and the role of citizen groups, such as CERT and NERT. He stayed on for the morning, and several people commented that his staying on that showed tremendous support. His visit culminated in his signing of the GGSN /CMU MOU.

The several panels generated considerable discussion, both during the morning and over lunch. Lunch was followed by an eye-opening and sobering talk by Bob Dolci (Chief of NASA Ames Protective Services) on the challenges for a next generation EOC and the magnitude of the response effort that needs to be effective. Facilitated by Carnegie Mellon faculty, the 5 breakouts stirred up excitement and energy, though people commented on the too brief time allotment, as the participants were just warming up.

The audience at the end of the first day felt all goals set for the workshop had been achieved. The reception, with posters, demos (such as WiMAX and small X6 UAV) and multiple emergency response vans (such as CalEMA's MIG-U, Cisco's NERV and NASA Ames emergency communications) generated excitement after a long day. The last activity on Friday evening was some 13 rapid-fire talks on topics not fully covered during the workshop, several of which lead to further discussion during the weekend.

The next two days were the CrisisCamp. In contrast to event-driven CrisisCamps earlier this year surrounding disasters in Haiti and Chile, CrisisCampSiliconValley went back to the original CrisisCamp planning and brainstorming model, resulting not in technical products, but a solid foundation and agreement on what the key priorities and needs are for improved disaster management in Silicon Valley and the Bay Area. The key requirement was how to integrate, manager, filter and distribute disparate pieces of information for first responders, incident managers and EOC commanders, including from and to citizens using smart phones and social media. Other important requirements were for a hardened, flexible, "fail-soft" communications infrastructure, and some approaches for addressing the (lack of) motivation of most individuals and organizations to prepare effectively, to train and to share data.

In addition, key new relationships between developers and emergency responders were developed - one developer who has been working on technology for disaster response for years, said this was the first time he discussed these issues with a uniformed police officer, and considers the police officer’s card as one of his most valuable assets now.

An additional difference is that the vision of products resulting from CrisisCampSiliconValley was much broader than event-driven CrisisCamps: because the emergency has not recently occurred, organizers can create broad industry, government, academic collaborations to not only create technical solutions that meet the most pressing needs, but ensure the technical solutions are scalable, robust, have support for development and are integrated with new and existing tools.

Organizers are capitalizing on the momentum built from these two flagship events by launching a number of complementary activities:

  1. Definition of the DMI program structure and technical research portfolio.
  2. Creation of a Disaster Management Initiative Affiliates program that will bring together private and public stakeholders to shape the technical and strategic priorities and to create a stable research and development infrastructure for ongoing work.
  3. Formation of a number of project teams to pursue research and development funds in specific areas that were prioritized at the workshop.

Organizers intend to pursue all of the activities in close collaboration with partners, drawing from both the researchers and practitioners. They want to incorporate and support the highly skilled emergency responders and technologists in the Bay Area for better disaster management. The combinations of the discussions, the tours of the DART testbed, the discussions with HazMat responders being trained there, and the high degree of personal motivation, were among the most important considerations as they thought about how new technologies could be adopted. Organizers welcome all interested parties who are ready to roll up their sleeves and make a difference in this important challenge area.

(Pictured: Matt Bettenhausen, Secretary of CalEMA; Jac Siegel, Vice Mayor of Mountain View; Gina Banks, Director of Field Services for U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein; Martin Griss, Director of Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley; Robert Dolci, Chief of Protective Services for NASA Ames, and other representatives from CalEMA, GGSN, NASA Ames, WCA eCLIC and Carnegie Mellon Silicon Valley at the Expo for the Disaster Management Initiative Workshop and CrisisCampSiliconValley.)