Building from the ground up

The first step, of course, in assembling an information resource is to find out what information is needed.

In March 2000, when the Consequence Management Interoperability Services (CMI-Services) initiative began, officials went through a series of structured interviews, choosing to talk with officials from small, medium, large and geographically diverse municipalities.

"We needed to attack this from the bottom up — what did they need and what were their requirements," said Dick Munnikhuysen, the project's leader. Officials from Dallas; Los Angeles; Salt Lake City; Portsmouth, N.H.; Johnstown, Pa.; and Stafford County, Va., were the first to be interviewed.

From those interviews, CMI-Services created a list of needs, which was subsequently prioritized by those officials and other stakeholders. The group then conducted a series of e-mail and Web-based surveys, involving thousands of state and local officials as well as almost every federal agency, analyzing the "do-ability" of those needs, Munnikhuysen said. They also conducted hundreds of interviews in person.

"Don't assume what they need, ask them what they need," Munnikhuysen said.

New York City officials and the Interagency Board for Equipment Standardization and Interoperability also signed off on the "need statements" collected from the various communities.

In late 2000, CMI-Services formed the Executive Interoperability Council (EIOC), composed of 21 representatives from the federal government, state and local emergency management agencies, fire departments, health departments, national associations and academia. EIOC, which meets quarterly, acts like a board of directors that reviews the initiative's progress, injects new ideas and advises the government program manager, Munnikhuysen said.

Eventually, the intent is that a federal agency — a logical choice would be the Federal Emergency Management Agency — would assume operation and maintenance of CMI-Services, he said.

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