among all government levels. A critical requirement for emergency preparedness, response and mitigation is to have rapid access to the most accurate, up-to-date geospatial content, whether it is current wind speed and direction, hospital locations, damage assessment data or predictive flood model results.

In addition to knowledge of the event's location, essential data would include other critical information about the impacted area, the nature of impact and locations of key assets, such as shelters, disaster equipment and potential responders. Without this information and the tools necessary to share and collaborate on what it means to effect appropriate decisions, the eventual detrimental impacts of the event will likely be greater than necessary, whether measured in loss of life, injury, damage to property or disruption of essential activities.

Funding Preparedness

DHS funding to states and communities used for planning and preparedness for a terrorist attack or major disaster has remained steady or declined over the past four years, and it appears the trend will continue in fiscal 2008. Based on President George W. Bush's fiscal 2009 requests, overall funding for the State Homeland Security Grant Program could be 79 percent less for fiscal 2008.

Due to reductions in preparedness funding, the majority of local emergency management organizations will soon not be able to afford often pricey, commercial incident management products and solutions. Therefore, it behooves communities to use their limited funding resources to more creatively develop or enhance planning and preparedness capabilities, including becoming more interoperable with neighboring communities. Many communities still face obstacles in developing interoperable voice communications between police, fire, emergency medical services and public works departments. Even greater obstacles exist for data and information interoperability between community, regional and state agencies.

The diminishing of all-hazards preparedness funding is strapping local communities to the point where it creates a "necessity is the mother of invention" situation. It becomes necessary for communities to use their limited funding resources more imaginatively in developing or enhancing planning and preparedness capabilities, including becoming more interoperable with neighboring communities, other agencies and critical response organizations.

The DHS has invested extensively in good basic incident management software applications that are available at no cost. To qualify for DHS funding, a concept outlined in this article will need to be designed and developed in accordance with Federal Interoperable Communications Grant Guidance and the DHS Homeland Security Grant Program -- Supplemental Resource: Geospatial Guidance.

The Disaster Management Interoperable Information System (DMIIS) will provide participating towns, agencies and other resources with a cost-effective capability for enhanced situation awareness, disaster response, resource request and allocation, and a collaborative environment for training and exercises. In addition, the system will incorporate proven technology designed to use message content standards, a town and region may have interoperable capability with similar systems in other towns and regions.

The platform for communicating text and geospatial data uses the Common Alerting Protocol (CAP) message content standard. CAP standardizes the content of alerts and notifications across all hazards (i.e., natural, technological, human caused and hazardous materials).

CAP-compliant systems that have developed an interface to the DHS's freely provided Disaster Management Open Platform for Emergency Networks (DM-OPEN) allow CAP application programming interfaces to communicate with each other. DM-OPEN is a proven technology and provides an interoperability backbone that acts as a "level playing field" to allow disparate third-party applications, systems, networks and devices share information in a nonproprietary,

Ric Skinner  |  Contributing Writer
Ric Skinner, GIS professional, is an independent health-care preparedness and health geographics consultant doing business as The Stoneybrook Group in Sturbridge, Mass. Links: www.healthGISguy.com and www.linkedin.com/in/ricskinner.