The top Emergency Managers from across the country were invited to the White House on Tuesday July 29, 2014 for the White House Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Initiative. I am so fortunate to be invited to this momentous event.
The best-of-the-best Emergency Management officials met with leaders from the technology industry to discuss tools and general methods being used during disasters.
Wait, did you say the White House invited Kevin Sur? Yes. Official invite to the White House. Check!
#OMG – #Holycow.
The event was coordinated by The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), and The National Security Council (NSC). This event will bring together technologists, entrepreneurs, and members of the disaster response community to showcase tools that will make a tangible impact in the lives of survivors of large-scale emergencies. The White House Innovation for Disaster Response and Recovery Initiative was first launched by the Administration in the wake of Hurricane Sandy to find the most effective ways technology can empower survivors, first responders, and local, state, tribal, territorial, and Federal government with critical information and resources.
Waiting in line to go through security was quite boring, but since I was with all the top Social Media Emergency Management peeps…it was only appropriate for us to take one of these.
(From L to R) @schuback @sct_r @CherylBle @MaryJoFly @ENeitzel @rusnivek
#WHSMEM #SURINDC #DisasterTech
The morning was filled with 5 different workshops. I was selected to attend the User-Centered Design workshop that was to identify challenges where innovation can improve community preparedness and resilience.
Great discussion amongst peers from all over the county including my friend Alicia Johnson (@UrbanAreaAlicia) who highlighted the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management new program SF72.
My takeaways from the morning workshops? We need to continually evaluate the preparedness efforts in each community as there is no constant. Aside from quantifying preparedness (which is almost virtually impossible), we need to seek alternate ways to better serve our communities including ones who have distinct challenges.
I have 3 specific items that I need to work on: Community Preparedness Evaluation tool/matrix, a tiered plan to reward “preparedness”, and Preparedness pack program. More on these possible programs later.
After a quick lunch, we headed to the main conference room.
Before the event started, former FEMA Deputy Director Richard Serino and I were cracking jokes at dinner last night…so he decided to sit behind me and continue to poke fun/make jokes. So since he’s a tech guy, we decided on a #selfie to commemorate our time at the White House.
If you ever get the chance to meet Rich in real life (IRL)…you should. He’s awesome.
Side note: As we were about to start, all of our mobile devices and cell phones were having small connectivity issues. I think I figured it out first…Marine-1 was inbound to the WH with POTUS for his press briefing on the South Lawn regarding the issues in Gaza.
Back to our #DisasterTech event!
Senior Advisor to the White House CTO Brian Forde started out the afternoon session.
And since this was a technology event, it was the US Chief Technology Officer Todd Park who gave the opening remarks. Additionally, the new DHS FEMA Assoc Admininstrator Joe Nimmich gave the keynote speech.
Numerous Federal agencies and private companies presented their latest tools and apps that have been used. CTO Tony Surma from Microsoft Disaster Response who discussed the information they used from the Boston Bombing.
Side bar: Later in the afternoon, I got a chance to talk one-on-one to the folks from Boston regarding their response. Inspiring stories in the face of adversity…
VP of Technology Kevin Busque from TaskRabbit and the Director of Public Policy and Civic Partnerships Molly Turner from Airbnb and my friends from San Francisco and Portland.
Nice work Alicia!
Director of Public Policy and Market Development Padden Murphy from Getround, Technology Lead, NGA readiness, Response, and Recovery Group Raymond Bauer from the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGIA), and Deputy Assistant Secretary William Bryan from the US Department of Energy (DOE) talking about the Lantern Live program.
Government Partnerships Manager Ryan Mannion, SeeClick Fix, Associate Director for Natural Hazards Dr David Applegate from the US Geological Survey, Associate Division Director Dr. Paul Lemieux from the National Homeland Security Research Center at the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), AAAS Fellow on Data and Innovation Dr. Meredith Lee from the US Department of Homeland Security, and Product Manager in Crisis Response and Civic Innovation Nigel Snoad from Google who gave a compelling update on their Crisis Mapping projects which have millions of live hits per minute. Nigel’s presentation was powerful and reminds all of us, hands down, that we need open standard data with every technology platform.
Following Google was Technology Integration Officer Al Gembara at the US Agency for International Development (USAID) talking about his deployment to the Philippines and then CEO and Founder Yo Yoshida from Appallicious who pulled information from FEMA’s Ready.gov site during disasters for information on what to do.
National Coordinator for Health Information Technology Dr. Karen DeSalvo from the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and Senior Director Maryfran Tyler from NPR Labs who had a great piece of hardware using preexisting technology for populations with disabilities in alerting using a tablet and a box device that works over radio…yes I said radio. If you haven’t seen it, you should. I think this one might be a must have for all EMs to participate in rolling out to their communities.
IMHO, I didn’t like presentation given by Chief Information Officer Bryson Koehler from The Weather Channel because it gave the perception that private industry was taking over notification for public safety agencies. Ahem, to be clear, this is the job of the National Weather Service (NWS).
Following was presentations from External Affairs Specialist Kristin Hogan Schildwachter from the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, and Developer Evangelist Robert Lackey from Twilio.
Closing out the day, we heard from the Under Secretary for Science and Technology Dr. Reginald Brothers from DHS and the Deputy Homeland Security Advisor Rand Beers of the White House National Security Council.
After these short presentations in the afternoon, we got a chance to talk to each of these companies and see their tech first hand. Overall, I have several favorites from today, but I believe that we as Emergency Management should continue to push for open data sharing and cross-platform compatibility.
Trust me, I get the private sector stuff…all about profit margins and of course making wads of money. After quick meetings with FEMA Administration including Administrator Fugate’s staff, we should continue to share for free what is right for all victims of disaster.
As far as I know, I was the only representative from Ohio to attend and I am truly honored to be invited to the White House to represent these great initiatives.
Without question, I am excited to be a part of this technology that will no doubt one day save lives before, during, and after a disaster.