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Several challenges hinder effective multi-jurisdictional and cross-discipline disaster response and recovery, including a lack of clarity in leadership, difficulty in information sharing and collaboration, poor situational awareness, problems with logistics support and supply chain coordination. These challenges exist due to the dizzying array of agencies and organizations that respond to disasters. Because these players represent not a single “system” of disaster preparedness and response, but a multitude of varying and often overlapping systems, a “system of systems” approach must be developed to successfully address the myriad challenges associated with disaster response and recovery.

One key development laying a foundation for such a system is the infusion of geospatial and collaborative technologies throughout all sectors and particularly, the introduction of these technologies into disaster efforts. When effectively deployed, these technologies can create a “culture of collaboration.” For example, hundreds of unaffiliated technology volunteers activated in response to the Haiti earthquake, deploying these technologies to improve situational awareness, information sharing and collaboration. While this deployment was effective, it also lacked coordination with official response organizations. For a large-scale response to be successful, geospatial and collaborative technologies must be used to combine volunteer efforts with those of official response agencies.

One successful example of this is Virtual USA, a partnership of the Department of Homeland Security, state, and local response organizations, which leverages technology to dramatically improve situational awareness, information sharing, and collaboration. Deployed during the Gulf Coast Oil Spill, the Virtual USA initiative demonstrates how technology can create this critical culture of collaboration and lay the foundation for creating a system of systems.

This presentation will outline how we can leverage technology driven initiatives like vUSA to help build a disaster response “system of systems” as part of a National Resilience Framework.


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