Background

For the past three years, the Camp Roberts experiments has catalyzed the development of interoperable disaster management tools. We have brought together interagency partners and humanitarian responders with the institutions responsible for building situational awareness and informing key decision makers. Our work has gathered partners from across the spectrum:

  • US Government: including State, DoD, NGA, DHS, USAID, DoE
  • The Crowd: including OpenStreetMap, Humanity Road, Standby Task Force, and Crisis Mappers)
  • Corporations, large and small (including Google, ESRI, OpenGeo, Lockheed Martin, GeoIQ, and Stamen Design)
  • Non-profits (including the Sahana Foundation, Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team, Ushahidi, InSTEDD)

Together, we have tackled difficult problems in information both within the interagency process as well as the inter-institutional dynamics of major response operations. Our work under the NPS program now called Research and Experimentation for Local and International Emergency First-Responders or RELIEF--has included:

  1. Building a formal policy, legal, and technical infrastructure for sharing commercial imagery purchased by NGA with the crowd (such as OpenStreetMap) as well as unincorporated entities like the Standby Force.
  2. Enabling ESRI and OpenStreetMap to work side by side on the numerous issues involved in making their underlying data models for geospatial information sufficiently compatible as to allow ESRI to write a plugin to read and write data directly to OpenStreetMap within the most common geospatial desktop in the US government, ESRI Arc series.
  3. Rebuilding OpenAerialMap--a free and open archive of digital imagery, essentially a proto-satellite view button on OpenStreetMap--into a viable distributed architecture. This platform may become the primary archive of drone/UAV imagery for the world.
  4. Building an election monitoring system for Afghanistan in 2009 and 2010, which enabled collection of data via cell phone/text message and was one of the only mechanisms for reporting polling violence and fraud when journalists were barred from reporting on the election.
  5. 5. Catalyzing the development of Walking Papers from a great paper-based method for editing OpenStreetMap into a paper-based tool for disaster responders that enables rapid conversion of notes and edits to maps into digital data.

The total cost to taxpayers of these activities is approximately $25-40K per experimentation session. In aggregate, participants often bring more than $10 million in equipment and personnel time into the field, and it appears to be well worth the investment. Some participants have indicated that attendance has shaved 4-6 months off their development time. Some estimates have put taxpayer savings in the millions of dollars.