Essential Elements of Information
As part of our work on improving information sharing, the NISC has been gathering information on best practices and guidance on essential elements of information, also known as EEIs. In March 2015, the NISC published an EEI Publication Guidance and launched the NISC member portal. Together, the publication guidance and resources in the member portal can be used to learn about EEIs and improve the way your organization uses them.
An essential element of information, also called an EEI, is any key piece of information an official needs to have in order to make a decision. Because EEIs are essential – that is, a decision maker cannot achieve full situational awareness without them – you typically can identify what they will be before they are needed. This means EEIs can be defined as information requirements before a decision is made. When community members and stakeholders come together and determine what information they will need to make good decisions in an emergency, the resulting list of information needs are known as EEIs. A common example is road status. Anyone from a first responder, to a utility company, to an evacuation planner needs to know whether or not roads are passable. Attributes (details you need to know about an EEI, like name, location, and condition) can be chosen, and individuals know what they need to share and what information will be available to them. By agreeing on what information is needed and how it will be shared, community members become better prepared to make decisions. When groups of stakeholders come together and agree on specific information requirements they need to access, they are taking the first step towards effectively using EEIs.
EEIs let you share information efficiently- both within an organization and between jurisdictions. When stakeholders in a given area – a county, a state, or even an entire region – identify and standardize EEIs, it will become easier for these stakeholders to communicate during emergencies, which can lead to a better response and recovery. By agreeing on EEIs and their definitions, it becomes much easier to share information and to know what is going on in other jurisdictions.
The EEIs in our guidance and member portal are:
- Rail Networks
- Fuel/Gas Station Status (coming soon)
- Electricity Grid
- Natural Gas Grid
- Water Grid
- Private Sector (coming soon)
- Area Command
- Evacuation Orders
- Hospital Status
- Injuries & Fatalities
- JRSOI Sites
- Points of Distribution
- Staging Areas
- Damage Assessment (coming soon)
The NISC EEI Publication Guidance and member portal currently contain guidance on EEIs in three categories: Transportation, Infrastructure, and Operations. These EEIs have been developed based on those used in CUSEC’s CAPSTONE-14 exercise, a major earthquake exercise that took place in 8 states in the summer of 2014. These are by no means the only EEIs that can be used or that are being used across the country, but they represent an emerging, field-tested model that we think will be of use to many communities. These EEIs are strategic in nature. One of the NISC’s ongoing efforts is to work with the Incident Management Information Sharing Subcommittee (IMIS-SC) to define up to 30 priority EEIs and to identify tactical-level attributes for first responders.
Many different individuals within an organization interact with EEIs. Operators, GIS administrators, and database administrators all work with the same EEIs, but need to know about different components of them. Different templates are described in the EEI Publication Guidance to help identify who needs which parts of an EEI. Operations, technical, and planning personnel should all be involved in the creation and definition of EEIs for a given organization. An ideal scenario is a system where all levels of personnel collaborate on the design so that technical personnel configure EEI templates that operations personnel can use on their own to input or edit data during an emergency event or exercise.
EEIs can be used in a variety of contexts: in a multi-state region like in CUSEC’s CAPSTONE-14 exercise, on a national level, or at the local level, like the NISC's Local First Responder Project in Virginia and South Carolina. The EEIs described in our EEI Publication Guidance were developed during the CAPSTONE-14 exercise. Three years of planning went into the major earthquake exercise, and much of that time was spent identifying and defining EEIs, and agreeing on what attributes, or types of information, needed to be collected for each one. The use of EEIs and the ways they improved information sharing was a key takeaway from CAPSTONE-14, and the model used by the participants can be replicated around the country and tailored to fit the needs of various groups of stakeholders. We published the NISC EEI guidance so that others may follow the process used in that exercise and create or refine their own EEIs.
- Are you new to EEIs and want to know where to begin? The NISC EEI Publication Guidance is available to everyone. Download it today to get started with EEIs.
- After you read through the EEI guidance, visit the NISC member portal (become a member here if you aren’t already!) to test drive the EEI templates described in the guide. When you find a template that meets your needs, download the corresponding map package and configure it for your organization – or forward the link to a colleague.
- Do you already use EEIs but want to be able to share information with your partners more effectively? You can check out the EEI guidance too – especially the section on the EEI Design Process, since a good first step towards sharing information with more organizations is bringing partners to the table to identify what information needs to be shared.
- Even if you already have a solid set of EEIs and you don’t need entirely new data models, you can learn from the examples in the EEI guidance and test drives, and pick and choose new attributes to add to the data you’re already sharing. You are also encouraged to let us know if you use EEIs that aren’t on our list- there’s a good chance other NISC members would want to use them too!
In the NISC member portal, members can ‘test drive’ the EEI templates described in the EEI Publication Guidance by editing data points in both ArcGIS Online Web AppBuilder and Operations Dashboard. They can view their test data in real time and see EEI status and other types of information displayed on an interactive map - both in Esri apps and in the NISC Situation Room. Members can also download the data models and map packages used in these test drives and configure them for operational use in their native environment. All NISC members are given credentials to the member portal, where they can access a variety of tools and resources – many of which are related to EEIs. Members can log in to the portal to leverage the resources, and non-members can request access today!