92nd American Meteorological Society Annual Meeting (January 22-26, 2012)

Tuesday, 24 January 2012: 9:30 AM
Weather Service and Emergency Management Collaboration Through An Interactive Web-Based Map Conferencing Infrastructure
Room 356 (New Orleans Convention Center )
Kenneth Galluppi, Arizona State University, Tempe, AZ; and J. heard, J. L. Losego, B. E. Montz, C. F. Smith, and S. S. Schotz

Weather is a critical driver of many decisions in emergency management (EM). Effective decisions in risk and crisis management require the effective conveyance of knowledge between meteorologists and multidisciplinary emergency decision-makers. Their mutual goal is to develop a conceptual understanding of weather hazards and impacts within a risk characterization and effective risk communication framework. Achieving this goal requires a balance of knowledge, social interactions, and a common virtualization of a weather event, EM processes, and potential outcomes. While it is generally recognized that knowledge management underlies decision making, less known is that knowledge networking underlies virtualization. Digital technologies enable knowledge networking by facilitating knowledge encapsulation, virtualization (conceptualization), and collaboration to bridge the social interactions and conveyance of knowledge and confidence.

This talk will discuss only the role and facilitation of collaboration between weather forecasters and emergency managers demonstrated through an open source, web-based, interactive map and conferencing infrastructure, called “Big Board.” This development is part of a larger collaboration between the Institute for the Environment at the University of North Carolina, the Renaissance Computing Institute at UNC, East Carolina University, the National Weather Service (NWS) Headquarters, and NOAA to explore and prototype effective weather information utility and utilization in emergency management decision-making. The purpose of Big Board is to enable interactive virtualization of events through the sharing of knowledge between EMs and forecasters within EMs operational constraints of place and time.

In this research, we are examining how emergency-relevant information is consolidated about an event, often termed situational awareness. Further, effective decision-making requires situational understanding beyond being aware. Any one piece of knowledge held by an expert, such as a forecaster, can be virtualized and shared electronically with visualizations or geoanalytic analysis. However, typical emergencies require a broad range of knowledge, including weather, to properly set context and provide insight into potential outcomes. Big Board enables ad-hoc groups of experts, defined by roles, to gather and share knowledge within a common framework of layered maps and unique annotations. Groups can be separated or joined together as knowledge needs require. Further, because of the distributed nature of emergency managers, including forecasters, it is necessary that participants be enabled to “telework”, that is, teleconference in real-time. Another EM operational constraint being prototyped involves using a variety of web-enabled devices including desktop computers, tablets, and smart phones.

Big Board, developed by RENCI, is based on an open architecture for performing geoanalytic analysis and collaboration. Users, collaborating together, develop their unique combinations of overlays on a map such as Google Map or Earth, among others. The architecture uses standard capabilities such as OGC's web map and other services, and other imaging and format exchanges. Big Board enables any user, for example, to overlay weather forecasts, radar, population demographics, evacuation routes, and any point data including real time sensors, or other information of relevance. Users can then interact with the board by adding annotations such as drawing, adding pictures or other media tags from the field, or placing icons of choice. Annotations allow the expression and conveyance of knowledge. To get to understanding, the power of the collaboration is to gather and share knowledge, not just overlaying data for awareness. The EM requirement is to collaborate when, where, and with whom they need to in order to share understanding and decisions.

The Big Board was iteratively developed over the past year in conjunction with emergency managers who described their decision-making processes and the need for diverse knowledge. We focused on school closure/delay due to winter weather. In this use case, besides gaining an understanding of decision knowledge and timelines, we also heard about the mobile nature of managers gathering road impairment information across counties. We heard about the need to develop with police, street maintenance, the weather service, and others, the understanding of impending weather outcomes. This talk will discuss the derived requirements and prototype results of Big Board from this use case. We will discuss the resulting functionality and the current open source architecture that has resulted from users' needs to collaborate in developing situational understanding through virtualization.

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