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Interoperability - a bad analogy

Interoperability - a bad analogy

Posted Dec 1, 2005 15:40 UTC (Thu) by Baylink (guest, #755)
Parent article: When Is a Standard Truly Open? - When It's Universal, Reflections on Massachusetts and Microsoft's XML

While I love Pam to death,

> Catch that? "On different communication systems."

is evidence of a lack of understanding of interagency emergency communications; it's not a good analogy for the situation at hand, in most current cases.

The em-comms issue is one of assigned and provisioned communications frequencies. Field em-comm equipment is *not* frequency-agile; it's channelised to match the municipality's license.

So, even though most of those radios are narrow-band FM (APCO 25 digital is up and coming, but not there yet that *I* know of, and besides, it, too, is standard for precisely this reason), they still can't talk to each other, unless it's pre-planned and agreed.

But the reasons are administrative.

The *real* reason is that while interagency channels and coordination plans do exist, none of them were designed for a disaster on the wide scale of Kat/rita. Ad, frankly, most of those people who need to talk on them have only the most basic instruction on how to handle a communications net with that many people on it.

This, on the other hand, is why we train and licence hams... though the integration of those hams into the emergency response plan was also, I gather, somewhat catch-as-catch-can. Hams *do* train for precisely that sort of situation (traffic triage; 1000 people on the same frequency, etc).

I'm sure we haven't heard all the stories yet.


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Interoperability - nope, it's right on point

Posted Dec 12, 2005 3:16 UTC (Mon) by pjgrok (guest, #17472) [Link]

Hi,

I love you too, but it isn't just a bandwidth-type of problem. Different systems were also a problem, which you can verify by reading a Berkman Center white paper (http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/epolicy/roadmap.pdf) and this Washington Post article.

I knew about it because a Groklaw member who is an expert in the field told me. He was in discussions about the interoperability problem with FEMA before the hurricane hit. They were asking him about open standards and Open Source, but unfortunately the storm hit before everything could get fixed and ready. The same problem showed up in the Tsunami disaster and on 9/11, something I knew because I was in that state when it happened, and it is something you never forget. Here is a snip from the Berkman paper, quoted in a news article, on how communications broke down there in the tsunami crisis:

A thirty-foot-high wall of water - a tsunami - slams into the famed resort islands off Thailand's southern coast. In one tragic moment, thousands of lives are lost, and thousands more are missing. In the race to identify victims and assist survivors, Thailand's government hits its own wall.

"Responding agencies and non-governmental groups are unable to share information vital to the rescue effort. Each uses different data and document formats. Relief is slowed; coordination is complicated. The need for common, open standards for disaster management was never more stark or compelling. The Royal Thai Government responded by creating a common website for registering missing persons and making open file formats in particular an immediate national priority."

This quote, taken from the opening of the white paper, "Roadmap for Open ICT Systems" by the Berkman Center for Internet and Society, Harvard Law School shows how open systems affect more than the business world ...

The issue you raise is a problem too. But the analogy is based on reality.


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