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THE GLOBAL DISASTER INFORMATION NETWORK
497 Seaport Court, Suite 102A • Redwood City, CA 94063 • Phone: 202-647-5070 Fax: 202-647-4628

NEWSLETTER
November 15, 2001

To respond, please email gdincommunity@hotmail.com or fax 202-647-4628


The GDIN Web site is
www.gdin.org

Upcoming Meetings: All GDIN Participants are invited. To confirm your attendance, please send an email to gdincommunity@hotmail.com. (additional invitation memos will be going out over Thanksgiving week)

  1. Next GDIN Leaders Meeting: December 6, 2001 Noon to 5pm EST. The meeting will discuss (a) GDIN Funding (b) Potential GDIN services (c) GDIN bylaws. Venue will be the US Department of State. This will be a catered affair. A small meeting with Dr. Al Simard, John Reitz and Laurie Johnson may also take place on the 5th or 7th at the Department of State. If you wish to attend, please arrive at C street entrance State by 11:30am EST.
  2. Video Conference with the Italian Hosts of GDIN2002: 10am EST, Dec 6th. If you wish to attend this, you will to arrive no later than 09:30.
  3. Infectious Disease Working Group: December 18. Venue will be the US Department of State.
  4. Those wishing to attend meeting at the State Department need to fax their name, nationality, title, organization, phone, fax and email coordinates to 202-647-4628.

INDEX TO THE NEWSLETTER

I.. GDIN Leader’s Meeting of November 5, 2001.

Summary

Funding

  • Direct funding of services or in-kind contributions
  • Creation of a Core GDIN Fund

Report of the Academia Working Group

  • Inventory of Educational and Research Programs
  • An Academia Conference

Outreach and Publicity

  • Public Personalities to Articulate a Message
  • GDIN Talking Points and Brochure

GDIN Services and the GDIN Survey

  • GDIN Fusion Centers
  • Infectious Disease Working Group
  • Possible GDIN Inegration Center in Hawaii
  • GDIN as an Early Warning System
  • GDIN As a Professional Society and/or Professional Journal

II.. Video Conference Held Between GDIN and The Italian Hosts of GDIN2002, November 6th.

GDIN2002 Agenda and Conference Invitations

Marketing and Fund Raising:

Transportation and Hotels at the Conference Site

Conference Web Site:

III. TAB A: TALKING POINTS FOR GDIN PARTICIPANTS TO USE WHEN DESCRIBING GDIN.

IV. TAB B: Concept of Operation for GDIN Infectious Disease Working Group


I.. GDIN Leader’s Meeting a Success

Summary: A meeting of 20 experts interested in GDIN’s future met on November 5 with Larry Roeder, Executive Director, Karen Risa Robbins, Fund Director, Professor Al Austin, Chair of the Academic Working Group, Laurie Johnson, Co-Chair of the Information Facilitator Working Group and Alan Hodges, Chair of the Executive Committee. The venue was Mr. Roeder’s home in Virginia. Mr. Hodges participated by telephone conference from Australia and Ms. Johnson participated by phone conference from California. The main topics were (a) a discussion of ways to raise funds for GDIN (led by Al Austin and Karen Robbins) (b) preliminary results of the GDIN survey (c) recent efforts by the Infectious Working Group (d) a general discussion on potential GDIN services and Outreach

Funding: GDIN is expected to have a fleshed-out funding plan in place by June 2002 at the GDIN2002 Conference in Rome. The Nov 5 meeting was only one in a series of discussions aimed at this goal. This is how the elements of funding broke down:

  • Direct funding of services or in-kind contributions. This is how GDIN has been funded so far, and is expected to continue, especially since up to now, with the exception of the work of the officers and the Secretariat, GDIN services have been of an ad hoc nature. Once GDIN services evolve into a more permanent form, a core fund will be created, and traditional budget making will replace this method in some situations.
  • Creation of a Core GDIN Fund Although a lot of money has been spent on GDIN so far, there has never been a GDIN Fund account. The GDIN Fund Director is now in the process of developing such an account, which can act as a placeholder for contributions until after GDIN2002, when the structure of the fund may change based on circumstances at that time. This fund could be used to hire GDIN staff and directly pay for GDIN services selected by the GDIN community, the Executive Committee, or the GDIN staff.

 

Report of the Academia Working Group: A powerpoint briefing by Professor Austin is on the GDIN Academia Working Group Home Page

Inventory of Educational and Research Programs

It was decided at GDIN 2001 that the Academia Working Group should begin an international inventory of educational and research programs relevant to GDIN, and prepare the results before GDIN 2002. Professor Austin reported that this tasking is well under way.

An Academia Conference

The Working Group considered sponsoring an international conference on Educational and Research Needs for Emergency Management - An Agenda for the 21st Century, but has decided to concentrate their efforts by using GDIN2002 to work with the Italians and the EC on expanding participation by Academics in GDIN. The Working Group also agreed to provide assistance to the Italian Government in organizing a Scientific and Technical meeting to accompany GDIN 2002. The Working Group also felt that GDIN should assist the Working Groups with funding research. At minimum there should be funding for the administrative activities related to research; especially travel. This could come out of the core GDIN Fund or direct funding.

Outreach and Publicity:

A clear set of mission statements is needed for GDIN that fleshes out the general concept of getting the right information in the right format to the right people on time. Finding who has the right information in the right format in a timely manner can be daunting for any disaster manager, especially during a crisis and in those in areas with limited resources.

GDIN intends to solve this problem by offering a suite of services that would make GDIN a one-stop center to link the user in need with the appropriate information provider. GDIN also intends to pay for that information on occasions when the disaster manager can’t, and lives are at stake. No other organization does this on a global scale or within multiple sectors, and so special outreach products are needed to articulate this message of what GDIN is, and how it operates.

One important reason to do this is that no one will give money to an organization that does not have clear goals and programs. There also needs to be accountability for the funds, and products to show for the money that was spent. GDIN is at the point in every project’s life when it needs to produce services in order to raise funds, but can’t raise funds without services.

Public Personalities to Articulate a Message: Working with MRB Public Relations, Inc., GDIN is developing a plan to engage public personalities such as the Mayor of New York to speak at GDIN2002, or be magnets for private funding.

GDIN Talking Points and Brochure: Given the nature of the project’s evolution, a variety of ideas have emerged on what GDIN is and what it should accomplish. At the same time, supporters of GDIN often describe it in conflicting ways, and that can cause confusion.

To temper that problem, GDIN has developed a set of basic Talking Points per a request at the Leaders Meeting. These are attached as Tab to this newsletter and can be used by anyone to describe GDIN. When amended, they will be sent to you by email, and also posted on the GDIN web site. In addition, a brochure is being developed that will clarify some of the Talking Points. The brochure can be handed out to anyone, and should be ready shortly. In the mean time, use the Talking Points.

GDIN Services and the GDIN Survey:

The GDIN Survey is intended to help you, our partner, tell GDIN Management what you want out of GDIN in the ways of services, and help us define the direction of the project. John Reitz and Laurie Johnson, co-chairs of the GDIN INFO FACILITATOR WORKING GROUP, developed the Survey through outstanding efforts with others. Results will be coming in for several more weeks. In the mean time, several Working Groups have been refining where they want to take their bodies within GDIN. We hope to have them funded by June. A final decision on services will be made by the Executive Committee, upon advice of the GDIN Conference in June, but here is what is happening now:

GDIN Integration Centers: Larry Roeder proposed the concept of a GDIN Fusion Center (now called Integration Centers) at the November 5 Leader’s meeting (see draft powerpoint on GDIN web site on the Forum page of the Executive Committee). If accepted by the GDIN Community, these would be existing entities that do risk analysis in niche areas, as well as propose mitigation solutions. The idea was endorsed in informal meetings by the head of UN International Strategy for Disaster Reduction in Geneva. The work of the Infectious Disease Working Group and center in Hawaii could be two such centers.

Infectious Disease Working Group: The Working Group has posted a paper on diseases in Afghanistan, which we believe will be very useful for relief workers entering that country. In addition, the Working Group has developed a paper on anthrax and smallpox. By June, we anticipate the Working Group will have developed country health profile reports for 180 diseases in 19 nations with regular natural disasters. The Working Group is also discussing expansion of this list of countries and other ideas such as a GIS-based web component, catalog of NGO presence, and serving as a conduit for emerging technologies for epidemic and disaster responders. These efforts will require additional funding beyond what is available for the initial 19 country reports.

Possible GDIN Integration Center in Hawaii: (I’ve used Integration instead of Fusion — to avoid confusion with other programs) The development of a demonstration project using resources in Hawaii from the Asia Pacific Area Network, Virtual Information Center, the Pacific Disaster Center and the Center of Excellence in Disaster Management and Humanitarian Assistance is under consideration. An analyst in APAN, using resources of the four entities, would develop natural disaster risk analysis studies of areas within the Pacific, and make mitigation proposals. APAN will also provide a web based network capability for the disaster management sectors in the Asia Pacific region to provide one site to integrate information or provide quick links to all Asia Pacific DIN members.

Eventually, the idea is to set up similar centers in each of the regions that support GDIN in order to better understand the disaster problems in each region, and what information can be brought to bear on it. The aim is to assist resource-challenged nations in each region with constructive ideas. Such centers might also be expected to help regional working groups develop an inventory in their region of potential partners with GDIN.

GDIN as an Early Warning System: Space Imaging and other organizations have proposed this idea. Many resource-challenged disaster managers don’t have time to find the right imagery or GIS products when responding to a crisis. GDIN could solve that problem through an MOU system. If GDIN government or private sector partners were able to anticipate a natural disaster such as a hurricane about to strike the coastline of a country, they could collectively develop products for that country that describe the impending crisis in formats most appropriate to the needs of the national authority. The formats would be developed by GDIN in discussion with the national authority, and in consultation with GDIN partners. Such a system would avoid needless duplication and could enhance a poor nation’s ability to respond. Similarly, GDIN might organize appropriate products to be shipped to UN relief organizations or NGO’s without having to be asked, if the guidelines were in place in advance. Of course, such a service would cost money. Some users will be able to pay and other won’t, which means a GDIN Fund will be essential to the success of this notion.

GDIN As a Professional Society and/or Professional Journal: Professor Austin and Karen Robbins both had different takes on a common notion: GDIN could charge membership fees, and act as a professional society. Building on that notion, others have also proposed GDIN develop a magazine on Disaster Information.

These are new ideas, but have support in the preliminary results of the survey, and anecdotal accounts from GDIN conferences that a key service of GDIN is that it uniquely brings together experts from different fields to help them understand each others needs, and how to bridge the information gaps between them. From the standpoint of the Academic Working Group, a journal would be a good place for a researcher to get published, as well as a legitimate outlet for their work to receive review from their peers and give legitimacy to their own research.

II. Video Conference Held Between GDIN and The Italian Hosts of GDIN2002: November 6th at 08:15 (Washington, DC time). The next one will be December 6th at 10am (Washington, DC time)

GDIN2002 Agenda and Conference Invitations: Dr. Guerra, the host of GDIN 2002, told the group that the agenda for GDIN2002 is almost ready. It is open for regular revision, but a paper version will be distributed in the later part of November, which will begin the season for inviting experts to GDIN2002. Over 600 are expected to attend. Invitations will be sent from Italy, with GDIN maintaining the database. Announcements will also be sent in March, April and May.

Marketing and Fund Raising: The GDIN Secretariat and the US and Italian Governments will do considerable marketing, including the use of US Department of State satellite links to Embassies, an Italian TV Telethon (which will also raise funds for the project), and a fashion show at the Conference to raise funds for the project. In addition, the GDIN officers and the Italians will engage notable personalities in support of the upcoming conference.

Transportation and Hotels at the Conference Site: Participants are expected to make their own hotel reservations, as there are many hotels in the region. Transportation to the Conference site will be provided by the host for invited guests.

Conference Web Site: A Conference web site will be developed by Italy, as was done by Australia during GDIN2001, a link to it will be found on www.gdin.org.

 

III. TAB A: TALKING POINTS FOR GDIN PARTICIPANTS TO USE WHEN DESCRIBING GDIN. THESE WILL BE AMENED FROM TIME TO TIME. FOR THE LATEST VERSION GO TO WWW.GDIN.ORG.

What is the web site address of GDIN? www.gdin.org is the official web site of the project.

Are there other GDIN related web sites?: Here is a partial list. It covers the web sites for the various official GDIN Conferences, and several other websites mentioning GDIN; but www.gdin.org is the official site of the project.

  • The U.S. State Department maintains a permanent electronic archive of information released prior to January 20, 2001 on http://www.state.gov/www/issues/relief/gdin.html. This contains information on the first International GDIN Conference, which was held in 1998 in Washington, DC, and some other conferences. There are also many old web sites that use GDIN to describe the US Domestic Program, now called the National Hazards Infrastructure Strategy.
  • The second GDIN Conference was held in Mexico in 1999. The web site for that conference is at: http://www.state.gov/www/issues/relief/gdin99.html
  • The third GDIN Conference was held in Ankara, Turkey in 2000. The web site for that conference is at http://www.metu.edu.tr/home/wwwdmc/gdin.html
  • Emergency Management, Australia hosted GDIN2001 in March, 2001 in Canberra, Australia. Their web site is http://www.ema.gov.au/gdin/
  • The fifth International GDIN Conference will be held in Rome in June, 2002, hosted by the Government of Italy. The web site for that conference will be announced shortly.
  • ERIM International, Inc., hosted an industry symposium in support of the US and international GDIN programs on 9 October, 2000 in Honolulu, Hawaii . That website is http://www.erim-int.com/CONF/GDIN/gdin.html. See also http://www.uni-freiburg.de/fireglobe/course/meeting/archive/meet00_15.htm
  • In September, 2000, an exercise involving US-GDIN, GDIN-International and Russia took place. The web site for that exercise is at http://calder.ncsa.uiuc.edu/ACCESS/Events/Pics/2000-09-20_gdin/
  • NASA is developing a demonstration project called FIRE, and GDIN is a collaborating entity, We expect to see this project discussed at GDIN 2003. The web site is http://geo.arc.nasa.gov/sge/UAVFiRE/links.html
  • Israel announces a National Disaster Information Network (GDIN Israel): Israel
    announced that they are beginning to develop a national disaster information ...
    http://www.gdin-international.org/news/gdin_news_0501.html
  • The GDIN pilot project known as PeaceWing is both on www.gdin.org and http://www1.etl.noaa.gov/radiom/peacewing/. See also http://www.dfrc.nasa.gov/PAO/X-Press/1999/Oct29/frontfull1.html, http://www.solaraircraft.com/HTML/06LINKS.HTML and http://dup.freeservers.com/_private/p15.htm

What is GDIN?

  • Official, detailed project descriptions of GDIN are on the website in the Ankara Declaration and the Canberra Statement, statements agreed to by the GDIN Community at the annual GDIN Conferences in 2000 and 2001.
  • In summary, GDIN is an active, collaborative association of NGO’s, governments, International Organizations, Industry representatives and academics who are committed to assisting disaster managers in disaster prone nations obtain the most appropriate information needed for mitigation, response and recovery in the more effective format and in a timely manner.
  • Another way to look at GDIN is to describe it as a voluntary, independent, self-sustaining, non-profit association with an interest in sharing disaster information to provide the right information, in the right format, to the right people, in time make the right decisions.
  • The members of GDIN are nations, organizations, and professionals, from all sectors of society including NGO's, Industry, Academia, Governments, and International Organizations.

Does GDIN Intend to Replace the current suite of National, Private Sector, UN and Regional Operations Centers? No. Instead, GDIN plans to develop a formal partnership that links these centers with private sector and government information providers so that the comparative advantage of each can be used to benefit the whole. This kind of global, multi-sectoral partnering does not now exist. Through this linkage, which GDIN manages, GDIN will give each element additional strength without controlling any of the parts. GDIN is thus also not a competitor with existing systems. It is a enhancement facilitator.

What is main group of people GDIN wishes to help? GDIN has helped its members (as it did Turkey in 2000 when two earthquakes struck that country) and other disaster managers elsewhere in the world enhance their capacity to receive and use disaster information, generally through the more effective use of existing resources.

Why is GDIN Important/Special? Finding who has the right information in the right format in a timely manner can be daunting for any disaster manager, especially during a crisis and in those in areas with fewer resources. GDIN intends to solve that problem by:

  • Offering a suite of services that makes the project be a one-stop center to link the user in need with the appropriate information provider.
  • Paying, on special occasions, for that information when the disaster manager can’t and lives are at stake.
  • Fostering the development of pilot projects.
  • Providing integration across disaster sectors and regions to get information rapidly. While many other organizations facilitate information sharing, no organization does it on this multi-sectoral way or on a global scale.

Does GDIN Only focus on remotely sensed data?

  • GDIN is not tied to any one format; but instead adapts information to fit the format needs of those in need. What GDIN tries to do is help disaster experts find information that they are otherwise hard pressed to locate
  • GDIN has facilitated the development of fresh GIS products based on remote sensing for Vietnam, Mozambique and Turkey.
  • GDIN has also assisted others in finding existing maps on the internet, and more recently, developed textual reports on infectious diseases in Afghanistan and a well regarded paper on Anthrax.
  • GDIN also sees as a distinct service its ability to convene meetings of experts from all sectors, sitting as equals around a single table. This allows for a unique cross-fertilization of ideas.
  • GDIN has also recently created fresh reports on its own on infectious diseases in Afghanistan and a well regarded paper on Anthrax. This is part of an effort to develop products that will help relief workers best understand their risks before entering a disaster area.

 

Is GDIN an American Government Project? No. The United States government should instead be considered a key partner.

  • The US did originate the idea in 1997, based on experiences with the G7 and the UN; but at the first GDIN Conference in Washington, the international community quickly decided that GDIN would be an international project that operates in partnership with all sectors, and it is not owned by any one entity.
  • The United States has covered the costs of the GDIN secretariat, contributes the GDIN Executive Director and has paid for most of the products that have been facilitated by GDIN. This has been done to seed the field. But the project is expected to be self sufficient in the future.
  • Also contributing funds as well intellectual capital, have been the very substantial efforts of Mexico, Turkey and Australia, who sponsored the annual GDIN conferences in 1999, 2000 and 2001. Without those intellectual and financial contributions, GDIN would not have prospered, especially as the conferences form the primary basis for defining GDIN’s mission.
  • Italy is also making such a contribution in 2002 by sponsoring the annual conference that year.
  • Australia has also been a full partner, not only by sponsoring GDIN2001; but also by co-sponsoring the Asia-Pacific Working Group. In addition, the former Director General of Emergency Management, Australia chairs the Executive Committee.
  • Russia, China, South Africa and many other nations, private sector experts and firms, and NGO and the UN have also made significant intellectual contributions, without which the project would lack definition.

Is GDIN an International Organization? No. IO’s only have governments as members. The UN is an example. GDIN members come from all sectors.

Who Can Join GDIN? Any expert or expert body involved in disaster management. This could be an academic who researches the causes of earthquakes, a corporation that could provide satellite imagery or GIS products, a government officer who manages refugee camps, an NGO that focuses on medical treatment of displaced persons, etc.

Who manages GDIN?

    • The head of GDIN (Executive Director) is elected at the annual conferences (conventions) of GDIN. The current head is Larry Roeder, Policy Advisor on Disaster Management in the Bureau of International Organization in the Department of State. Most of his expenses are donated by the US Government.
    • The policy governance body of GDIN is the Executive Committee, which is headed by Alan Hodges, retired Director General of Emergency Management, Australia.
    • Various Working Groups on important topics are managed by industry, government and UN experts in their respective fields.
    • The Annual Conferences also act as "shareholder conventions" in that participants can vote on what they believe should be the direction of the project. This tool is used to make sure that GDIN is developed bottom-up, rather than top-down.

Who Pays for GDIN and how is the money spent?

    • Any entity or person can contribute to the GDIN Fund, which is managed by an elected officer, Karen Risa Robbins, President of Amtech (a non-profit organization that promotes technology progress through partnerships.)
    • Overall management of how money is spent is done by the Executive Director, the Executive Committee and the Fund Director, acting as a team.
    • In the past, services have been supported by direct cash contributions or in-kind contributions, mostly from the US Government and the governments that have sponsored annual conferences, Mexico, Turkey, Australia and Italy.
    • While direct cash contributions will likely remain a key way of financing GDIN efforts; but the project also hopes to fill a fund with sufficient resources to directly hire GDIN officers and pay for services directly.

Who Has Contributed to GDIN?

  • GDIN Conferences have been paid for by the host governments, the United States, Mexico, Turkey, Australia and Italy, and the participants.
  • The US government contributes the Executive Director and support staff, and has covered the costs of the GDIN secretariat.
  • The US Government also paid for a variety of GIS products delivered to Turkey, Mozambique and Vietnam, which were based on private and public data.
  • The European Commission has hosted the Mediterranian Working Group.
  • Australia hosts the Asia-Pacific Working Group.
  • The firm SAIC, the United States Institute for Peace and the executive branch of the US Government have jointly hosted the GDIN Infectious Disease Working Group.
  • The firm ESRI has hosted the GIS/Remote Sensing Working Group, in partnership with the UN.
  • Iowa State University in Ames Iowa contributes the chair of the Academia Working Group.
  • Many world class experts such as Laurie Johnson of Risk Management have contributed to GDIN in their own right.
  • The United Nations has chaired or co-chaired a variety of GDIN working Groups and made a significant contribution towards advancing the Information Facilitator Working Group.

Does GDIN intend to be a primary funding source for disaster managers? No; but GDIN does intend to offer specific services, based on the advice of its members, to foster pilot projects and research.

What kind of disasters does GDIN focus on? GDIN is available to assist in any natural or technological disaster. It also can help in humanitarian emergencies; but it is politically neutral.

Who are some of GDIN’s partners? GDIN has many partners that assist. These are only a few. Others are mentioned elsewhere in the talking points, and a special "partner web page" is being developed. In addition, in 2002, GDIN intends to develop a formal MOU system with some of the partners who are prepared to take an active role in specific information sharing procedures.

  • The governments of Australia, Turkey, Italy, United States, Canada, Russia, Mexico, the UN, the EC and OECD.
  • The American Red Cross, Iowa State University, the Virtual Information Center, Space Imaging, SPOT Image, SAIC, the United States Institute for Peace, the ADPC (Asian Disaster Reduction, ADRC) and ADPC.
  • Within the US Government, the US Departments of State and Defense in Particular, USGS and NOAA, and the HQ Pacific Command: the Asia Pacific Area Network, the Center for Excellence, the Pacific Disaster Center and the Virtual Information Center, as well as the United States Institute for Peace, which is part of the Legislative Branch.

Tab B: GDIN Infectious Diseases Working Group Concept of Operation

 

Summary

The GDIN Working Group on Infectious Diseases recognizes the importance of global infectious disease surveillance and response in the interest of minimizing the impact of natural disasters on personal lives, national economy, and global security.

Changes in global and regional environment, human demographics and behavior, industrialization, urbanization, expanding international travel, pathogen adaptations, deterioration or loss of public health infrastructure, and a substantial decline in international support have contributed to global infectious disease incidence. As a result, emergence of new infectious agents and reemergence of previously contained infectious diseases have occurred.

Local, national, and regional outbreaks of infectious diseases can be considered ‘disasters’. Biologic agents can not only have devastating effects on human morbidity and mortality but also national agricultural industries such as livestock and food crops. It’s recognized that the impact of infectious diseases can extend to economic, political and societal issues as well.

Typically, the international community’s response is grossly delayed. Due to deficiencies in surveillance capacity and delays in reporting and global alerting, outbreak verification, decisions by the international community to provide assistance, coordination, and implementation of response operations frequently results in team placement weeks to months after an outbreak is well underway. Improvements are needed at multiple points in the chain of events in order to achieve timely, efficient, and cost-effective outbreak response.

GDIN’s operational role, with unique expertise in information coordination to facilitate disaster response, provides the opportunity to provide information support that could enable more efficient global infectious disease prevention, prediction, preparation, response and recovery, and the reduction of health and economic losses.

 

GDIN Infectious Diseases Working Group Objectives

  1. Epidemic Intelligence: Global Alerting and Outbreak Verification
  2. Information Support
  3. Promotion of Connectivity

 

Epidemic Intelligence: Global Alerting and Outbreak Verification

Sources of epidemic intelligence can be considered in 3 categories (Heymann, DL and GR Rodier- Global Surveillance of Communicable Disease, JEID vol.4 no.3): 1) formal, 2) informal, and 3) legally mandated sources. Formal sources include government and academic institutions tasked with public health initiatives. Informal sources include media and Internet reporting systems. Legal mandates such as the International Health Regulations are closely tied to formal sources such as the World Health Organization.

Several global infectious disease surveillance systems exist for alerting purposes such as the Global Public Health Information Network (GPHIN) and ProMED. Each system has its own unique data capture mechanisms and reporting schemes. Gaps in data capture exist for all global systems currently in operation. With the addition of new reporting sources, global surveillance is enhanced through increased reporting sensitivity. GDIN’s objective will be to address these gaps and provide greater global reporting sensitivity due to its unique capacity to utilize resources in the disaster response community.

Once an outbreak alert has been initiated, verification is needed to evaluate the need for international response. Verification is typically achieved through formal sources- in other words, government, academic, and other research institutions with expertise in infectious diseases. Occasionally, verification is provided through field personnel with appropriate experience. WHO currently utilizes the Outbreak Verification List (OVL) for use in selected infectious diseases of serious international concern. Limitations of this system have included reliance primarily upon outbreak reporting through official government channels, geographic emphasis (usually excludes Central and South America), and the restricted list of diseases addressed. Reliance upon government admission to outbreaks is a major limitation, as accurate reporting either is delayed significantly or never occurs. Outbreaks involving pathogens of international concern can smolder for months, increasing overall morbidity and mortality and the chance of extension of the pathogen to other countries by ground or air. Rapid containment and management then becomes compromised.

GDIN could utilize its unique input of epidemic intelligence and associated expertise to enable a flexible outbreak reporting and verification network that augments existing national and intergovernmental infrastructure available to the interlocking national, state/provincial, and local public health and emergency management systems. This could enhance not only surveillance sensitivity but timely verification. Leveraging GDIN’s international community of collaborators and practitioners, rapid coordination and enhanced response are within reach.

Information Support

Information support would include advanced high performance computing, communications, information technology and applications development. Due to multiple data sources, information retrieval becomes cumbersome in the midst of a crisis situation. Rapid, easy data access has been and will continue to be a critical issue in disaster response.

To assist in information management, the GDIN Working Group on Infectious Diseases proposes the compilation of a readily accessible list of information and data pertaining to global infectious disease surveillance and response. Information resources will be organized in the following categories:

  1. Epidemic intelligence
    • Indicators and Warnings
    • Medical climatology
    • Outbreak forecasting
    • Remotely sensed epidemic intelligence (RSEPI)
    • Cultural, behavioral, environmental contributors to disease occurrence or spread
    • Refugee / Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs) concentrations
    • Presence of armed conflict
    • Status of national public health infrastructure and NGO capability
    • Status of emerging medical services capability
    • Alerting
    • Outbreak verification
  2. Ground support and logistics
    • Communications / connectivity
      • Assurance of proper communication capability in-field
      • In-field access to data and information
    • Local Points of Contact (POCs)
    • Catalog of NGO presence
    • Ground security (i.e., presence of armed conflict)
    • Demographics (i.e., locations and movement vectors)
    • Orienteering and tools for epidemiologic investigation
      • Remote sensing
      • Geographic Information System (GIS) databases
      • Models of outbreak propagation (i.e., anticipated geographic spread of an epidemic)
      • Global Positioning Systems (GPS)
      • Climatology
        • Baseline climate patterns
        • Real time climate forecasting (e.g., anticipation or presence of excessive rainfall which can inhibit response team transport)
      • Updated mapping resources
        • Topography
        • Hydrology
        • Road access
          • Anticipatory overlays indicating access during flood conditions
        • Airstrips

No readily accessible universal global infectious disease database currently exists. Likewise, no formal archiving of in-country POCs, ground security information, RS, GIS, climatologic, or mapping resources has been accomplished. GDIN will facilitate archiving and integration data by 1) epidemic intelligence and 2) ground support and logistics with the goal of efficient access for rapid retrieval in crisis scenarios. Data archived and integrated could be available for rapid, efficient access through the GDIN website ( http://www.gdin-international.org/). Medical term referencing in the form of an online thesaurus and search engine will further enhance access.

The GDIN infrastructure databases that support all hazards for risk and vulnerability assessment are also critical to infectious disease. Understanding the mechanisms for infectious disease transmission cycles and modulating factors of outbreak initiation and propagation will allow us to prepare for possible changes in epidemiologic patterns due to climate, culture, or demographic changes. Modeling techniques and other technologies will improve and become practical tools allowing some useful prediction in the future. GDIN’s contribution to understanding all aspects of disease will move us closer to preventive measures, thus giving increased leverage to reduce losses.

Promotion of connectivity

Promotion of connectivity can include international, national, regional, local and private or public centers. Unique expertise in all phases of disaster management, information sourcing, and connectivity are major strengths of the GDIN international community. GDIN will promote connectivity through the following mechanisms:

Facilitation of open communication

Crisis management requires open communication. GDIN will serve as a catalyst for enhanced communication between multiple agencies involved in disease surveillance and response, and for the identification of those parameters that could lead to outbreaks or the development of conditions that could facilitate new emergence, reemergence, or mutation.

One example of connectivity is response management using multi-media communications at the Alliance Center for Collaboration, Education, Science, and Software (ACCESS). In such an environment, multiple international participants can converse audio-visually with sub-windows devoted to image display. Remotely sensed imagery and GIS-generated maps of road access can be displayed for open discussion to enable more efficient, timely response.

Connectivity ultimately contributes to data capture, universal archiving, and access for more efficient disaster response. GDIN personnel could be available on an on-call basis 24 hours a day / 7 days a week for assistance in communication between agencies and ground personnel and the transfer of information essential to all phases of a comprehensive emergency management/public health partnership.

Promotion of Innovation and Change

GDIN will facilitate funding opportunities for proposals designed to enhance data capture, archiving, networking, reporting, and quality assurance. Many health ministries report high temporal and spatial resolution infectious disease data online. This is a major resource for determining areas of need and emergence of novel pathogens. GDIN will promote the assistance of technologically challenged national health ministries by facilitating efforts to enhance access to the Internet. GDIN will also promote innovative data mergers that ultimately enhance disaster response.

Members of the GDIN international community are leaders in the field of disaster response. GDIN will promote ‘think tank’ environments for innovation and forward-thinking planning. This approach will enable responding agencies to constantly adapt for more efficient, cost-effective response to international emergencies.

Conclusion

GDIN will function independently but in concert with official infectious disease reporting and verification systems. Its objective will be to server as a resource multiplier and a facilitator of efficient, rapid, cost-effective infectious disease management by the international community and individual governments through improved communication and information support. GDIN will serve to promote standardization of data, quality assurance and interoperability.