W3C home > Mailing lists > Public > public-xg-eiif@w3.org > February 2008

relating standards to the mandate, then making whatever tradeoffs [was] Re: FW: EM Standards List

From: C H <craighubleyca@yahoo.com>
Date: Sun, 24 Feb 2008 12:06:32 -0800 (PST)
To: paola.dimaio@gmail.com, public-xg-eiif <public-xg-eiif@w3.org>
Cc: Don Cameron <donc@internode.on.net>
Message-ID: <589361.73490.qm@web51411.mail.re2.yahoo.com>

SUMMARY:  The standards mentioned may be most usefully
characterized in terms of their assumptions about the
environment and actors they work within.  This should
start to flesh out the ontology assumed by their use. 
This XG-EIIF group's mandate provides as good a schema

I suggest that loose characterization of the standards
in a wiki, followed by a tighter more operational
characterization in an RDF ontology, followed finally
by a rigorous capital asset analysis approach suitable
for making tradeoffs, would probably be helpful to

I suggest we worry about the legal status of standards
later, when the W3 effort can muster a bigger stick. 
For now give notice that each named standard is being
consulted as a design precedent, and that it can have
more or less influence depending on how much the owner
wishes to grant permission.  Most would be thrilled to
brag how much influence they had over the W3 standard.
The stick, the threat of obsoleting an installed base
with a new standard that improves on it, may lever us
permission to "interrogate" the existing intalled base
freely.  But that permission is a luxury as it is
generally difficult to prevent copying of the user
interface or vocabulary of any useful system.  It
should be clear that the W3 effort isn't going to stop
cold because someone decides not to grant permission.

To make this absolutely clear, any W3 project should
state a common attitude to the PROFESSIONAL EM
push against these towards UNIVERSAL INTEROPERAILITY
AS A GOAL.  Aside from W3's well known views on
patents and licenses, the EM mandate itself provides
some moral backing and likely suasion.  Who wants to
be accused of not talking freely enough in a crisis
and thus costing lives? (If you consider this off



Don explains the merits of the developed-world
approach. Don "can walk into any EOC during any
disaster in Sydney, Bangkok, Tokyo, Colombo, Ottawa or
pretty much anywhere else on earth knowing the
language of the disaster will be the same; the
ontology of dispatch, investigations, control,
planning and resource management will be the same
everywhere".  This seems to serve developed nations
well in small scale crises.

It would be nice if this actually served everyone on
Earth already.  However, it doesn't, and because it
doesn't, the philosophy of EM/crisis planning has in
many places recently changed from a
government-to-government relationship focus to one
that emphasizes increasing the ordinary citizen's
ability to work or contribute in a crisis.  Open
source software, more transparent planning open to
citizens, roles of NGOs and community organizations
such as religious groups, all represent a pressure to
simplify the interfaces to EM systems so as to gain
maximum citizen intelligence and contribution, as well
as interoperability of the various levels of
government or nonprofit institutions.

Don asks "how do we incorporate all the practiced,
recognised, accredited proprietary EM standards into
this initiative? -  Should we be approaching FEMA,
EMA, JICA, CFA, MCDEM, IAAI etc. for permission to
interrogate and use their EM standards, languages and
systems?"  Yes.  As for who should make the approach,
it should be whoever can make the case successfully to
them that the vast numbers of victims of large-scale
disasters like Katrina, the Kashmir earthquake, famine
or war, cannot possibly be served by a
government-to-government professional-accreditation
approach.  That W3 intends to enable interoperable and
transparent and citizen-run processes in which
governments act more as adjudicators, and that one
implication of this is that governments should not be
making piecemeal decisions regarding who is allowed to
use what "standard" system.

> > These, many other ISO's and adopted standards
> (systems and languages
> > accepted by EM orgs globally and incorporated into
> local standards in the
> > manner the language of ICS became componentry of
> NIIMS and AIIMS) actually
> > form the base of emergency management doctrine.

Doctrine is fine.  By all means document it.  But then
it's important to look at places or contexts that are,
for whatever reason, not being served by the doctrine.


Universal interoperability can be achieved one of two
ways at least:  rigid standardization of interfaces,
or, strict exclusion of systems that behave poorly or
unpredictably.  IETF and ISO use different means to
interoperability:  IETF runs Interop, ISO sanctions
trade via national regulators.  Each has its merits.

--- paola.dimaio@gmail.com wrote:
> 'Interoperability' is never achieved just by
> following the 'one way approach'.

Agreed.  I'd go further and argue that if it isn't the
primary goal of any standards effort, then, it will in
the end be superceded by something that did in fact
put interoperability first.  That was the reason I
mention IETF/Internet vs. ISO/OSI.  Not to disregard
ISO as a source of compiled knowledge or practice, but
to argue that IETF process won the long term standards
battle due to transparency and interoperability and a
public domain licensing regime.  Some W3 efforts get
it right, too, but others get it entirely wrong.  No
one standards body has a perfect track record for real
world implementation.  IETF certainly produced a lot
of RFCs, not all of which are in widespread use.

Don seems to imply that some relevant ISO standards
address the most sensitive and difficult interfaces,
those being the human body/eye/ear.
> > Eg: ISO 7731 describes the requirements for
> auditory danger signals in a
> > structural emergency. ISO 8201 describes the
> internationally agreed signal
> > that unequivocally means "evacuate immediately".

I suggest that having such standards is a sign that at
least some ISO efforts have got their priorities
It's also nice that the ISO can enforce its standards:
> >Elements of these standards
> > are not open to interpretation; they are globally
> accepted to the extent
> > they impact on international trade (manufacturers
> >of emergency alert systems
> > cannot export or have imported any devices that
> >fails to meet the ISO standard).

So these are 1. de jure standard 2. implemented by
many suppliers 3. a condition to meet the regulatory
requirements of many countries, would not be totally
defensible as a design choice.  I suspect however
there are exceptions, e.g. alarms that are designed to
warn deaf people.  In which case some other
defensibility criteria would have to be used...

I don't think anyone would try to interpret or work
around standards where 1, 2, 3 all apply.  Having a
way of specifying design rationale where all three do
not apply, however, or for exceptions, remains useful.

A "notwithstanding clause" to deal with situations
where interoperability must take precedence, e.g. if
two standards are both being applied and contradict.


A significant minority, maybe a majority, in W3 would
likely prefer to "interrogate and use [existing] EM
standards, languages and systems" without seeking any
permission at all.  But I suspect this is unnecessary
as few governments would stand against the goal above.

Governments that vend systems to each other may become
convinced that a share-alike approach would work just
as well as their current mix of proprietary methods. 
It's worth a try.

Sadly the PROFESSIONAL EM DOCTRINE restricts access to
the underlying standards documents.  Don is even
concerned that this W3 standards effort 
> > may lack the resources to properly identify
> > and where necessary seek and gain approval to use
> > all these standards.

Being of the "forgiveness not permission" camp, I'd
point out that one can post to wikis or mailing lists
from anonymous proxies via TOR, should some "standard"
prove essential but inaccessible via "standard" means.
 P2P (bittorrent, eMule) contains many useful
standards documents if one just needs to read them.  

Without commenting about the legality of this in any
given country, I personally don't understand how any
document that is supposed to provide a level playing
field for trade or a basis for competition among
vendors can be prevented from widespread or even
universal distribution.  Transparency is not optional.
 Are we supposed to take some individual expert's word
that "I have seen the standard and yes this meets it?"
 That flies in the face of the mass peer review logic
by which all standards are verified.

Again I suggest IETF is right and that standards must
be freely publishable.  One purpose of a W3 working
group might be to provide a freely publishable summary
glossary/taxonomy/ontology that draws on all the
restricted ISO standards but is not subject to their
republication restrictions.  One that the individual
experts can then be invited to comment on, and that
governments or vendors can be invited to sue over...
Who would?  Be bold, as the wiki trolls say.  Horrible
publicity is easy to arrange for anyone who might sue.

It's also relatively easy to take any standards track
document and rewrite it to be more readable and more
operational.  They are not produced by good writers,
in general.  Often, summaries or articles written by
third parties provided a better overview than original
documents, and a better guide to how to interoperate.

If all else fails, someone intelligent can usually be
found to claim that they derived the vocabulary or the
interface from common usage without looking at any of
the precious proprietary documents.  It's not so hard
especially if experts correct every term you get


As Renato wishes the above issues to be more
explicitly related to the deliverable goals of the
group, maybe the right thing to do is ask a few
difficult questions about each of the standards.

"Reduction - the reduction of hazard impacts and
community vulnerabilities to natural and human-made
events."  For each standard, what specific reduction
of impacts is intended?  For instance ISO 7731 is
intended to reduce the risk of someone failing to
understand that a structure is about to collapse on

"Readiness - increasing the capacity and capability of
communities to response to events including planning,
training, exercising, warning systems and public
education."  For each standard, what education of the
public would be required, if any?  A database schema
for exchange of medical or missing persons records is
not likely to require public education since it's only
invoked when dealing with officialdom.  But ISO 8201
evacuation signals must be recognized even by

"Response - response to an event focusing on immediate
life safety and survivals needs (medical, food, water,
and shelter)."  How are these needs characterized by
the standard?  For instance, food can be measured in
calories, grams of fat or protein or carbohydrate, or
vitamin content, or more generally as a daily ration
including some balance of these.  Water likewise has a
whole associated taxonomy of quality and likely

"Recovery - the restoration of the impacted community
to near or improved pre-event levels."  What state of
emergency is implied or recognized by the standard, if
any?  How does authority hand off to the EM systems or
procedures, and how is it handed back after the

In addition each standard has its own assumptions of
how to characterize "hazard", "impacted communities
and community infrastructure", "pre-event sharing of
information", "warning systems", "disaster impact
information", "logistics", "supporting networks of
local services and groups".  Even some fairly simple
specification like ISO 8201 implies that there is a
path and means of evacuation and some confidence on
the part of evacuees that they'll find some shelter.


Seeking interoperability among the various standards
documented might accordingly require:

- producing a fairly comprehensive semi-structured
database (say in a wiki) of all the relevant standards
and how they view the underlying or pre-/post-crisis
infrastructure, community, support systems and roles

- producing a more exact taxonomy of how a crisis or
event is characterized and what changes in authority
or response systems are assumed within each standard,
e.g. a quarantine process assumes certain such shifts
of powers and civil rights

- producing a very exact and rigorous ontology of the
various capital assets (individual, social,
instructional, financial, infastructural, natural) the
above imply, so as to enable priorities and tradeoffs
during a crisis, in pre- and post-crisis planning, and
even arguments with national and international bodies
regarding any need to change their cost-recovery model

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Received on Sunday, 24 February 2008 20:06:47 UTC

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