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Current Research

Interestingly, the very nature of information prompts integration among ALL disciplines—especially information management and technology—to produce knowledge using libraries, computers, email, and software for statistical analysis, database creation, and all information systems. The events of the September, 2001 terrorist attacks, however, have initiated current research in IT to improve information sharing among governmental organizations and enable efficient communications interoperability among emergency response organizations.

Decision Aids

Several decision aids (Appendix A) have been developed for the management of disasters including:

  • CAMEO (Computer-Aided Management of Emergency Operations),

  • ALOHA (Area Location of Hazardous Atmospheres),

  • E Team (created to manage every phase of a crisis),

  • GIS (geographic information systems).

However, there is the need for new or the extension of existing theories that might enable information technologists to anticipate more fully the needs addressed by disaster management software.

Information Sharing

The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004 was intended to mobilize IT for counterterrorism information sharing (Dizard, 2004). The law created two influential positions: Director of National Intelligence and Director of the National Counterterrorism Center—both entrusted with the task of increasing information sharing (Office of the Press Secretary, 2004). Senator Susan Collins introduced the final version of the bill. She said the Commission found that "various agencies had pieces of the puzzle that [if assembled] might have allowed them to prevent the attacks… the bill will foster a new culture of information sharing in the intelligence community” (Dizard, 2004).

Information sharing is also being addressed by a few individual efforts including the March 2004 introduction of OSIS (Open Specification for Sensitive Information Sharing) by RAINS (Regional Alliances for Infrastructure and Network Security). RAINS, a not-for-profit public/private partnership that has promised to advance ground-breaking technology for homeland security, created OSIS for the safe sharing of sensitive information across state, local and national security systems (Appendix F). Unfortunately, the nation has not introduced a consistent strategy to address information sharing nation-wide.

The U.S. National Commission on Libraries and Information Science (NCLIS), however, has proposed an unusual solution to President George W. Bush and Congress. Trust and Terror is an NCLIS proposal that envisions public libraries as an information center for crisis information dissemination and management. NCLIS claims that public libraries provide an appropriate forum for crisis information dissemination because the public considers libraries trustworthy sources that are already efficiently structured, aware of cultural diversity, many times employ multi-lingual staff, and accessible to local communities. Although libraries also can offer the information from anywhere in the world in real time in numerous formats (NCLIS, 2002), new law would be needed to authorize and equip libraries for access to secure information related to terrorism—the most prominent civil hazard currently threatening the security of information.

Communications Interoperability

Failed communications interoperability contributed to America’s complacency during the 9/11 terrorist attacks. Consequently, thousands of civilians died alongside hundreds of first responders: emergency personnel including police, emergency medical technicians, and firefighters, who were trained and willing to save lives.

Don Eddington, chief of the Center for IT Integration at the Defense Information Systems Agency admitted that "DOD (the Department of Defense) couldn't talk to state officials; state officials couldn't talk to city officials" (Onley, 2002). Unfortunately, first and second responder organizations had adopted many different information systems for their specific information sharing needs—and some that were ready to use were never implemented. Firefighters, police, and other emergency personnel at the Pentagon and in New York City could not find common radio frequencies to communicate—cell phone networks flooded frequencies and further hindered information flow in the hours following the attacks (Riley, 2003).

The 9/11 Commission was enlisted to research and report the situations and events surrounding the attacks. The Commission found that civilians, firefighters, police officers, emergency medical technicians, and emergency management professionals demonstrated “steady determination and resolve under horrifying, overwhelming conditions …Their actions saved lives and inspired a nation ...” However, the Commission also found that the “Port Authority's response was hampered by the lack of standard operating procedures and radios capable of enabling multiple commands to respond to an incident in unified fashion.” The Commission made the following recommendation:

Make homeland security funding contingent on the adoption of an incident command system to strengthen teamwork in a crisis, including a regional approach. Allocate more radio spectrum and improve connectivity for public safety communications, and encourage widespread adoption of newly developed standards for private-sector emergency preparedness—since the private sector controls 85 percent of the nation's critical infrastructure (The 9/11 Commission, 2004).

Communications interoperability among officials from community first responders to high-level information security officers within the federal government is a major concern with the growing threats of terrorism and cyberterrorism. Recommendations for the development of shareable information systems have emerged from both public and private institutions. Creative solutions for integrating information technologies provide U.S. leaders with choices and challenges—for instance, what do they choose and how do they choose it? Congress passed the Homeland Security Act in November 2002 specifically to address these and other questions about shareable information (Appendix G). Private and public sectors are busy introducing a mishmash of information sharing products including software for:

  • three-dimensional mapping of cities;

  • disaster management simulations

  • analysis of phone calls and other communications to help first responders make better decisions in emergencies;

  • interpretation of garbled speech recordings;

  • extraction of unstructured text;

  • discovery of non-obvious relationships (background checks deluxe); and

  • disparate systems queries (police, courthouse, homegrown databases, etc.) (Batzler, 2002; Mena, 2004).

Serious submissions are subject to SAFETY (Support Anti-Terrorism by Fostering Effective Technologies Act of 2002) guidelines (DHS Press Office, 2003). IS should collaborate with EM to further these goals.

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