DSS News 
                  D. J. Power, Editor 
             August 31, 2003 -- Vol. 4, No. 18 
       A Bi-Weekly Publication of DSSResources.COM 


Check the article by W. K. McQuay "Distributed Collaborative
   Environments for Decision Support" at DSSResources.COM



* Ask Dan -- How can computerized decision support help in crisis 
* What's New at DSSResources.COM
* DSS News Releases 

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Ask Dan!
by Dan Power

How can computerized decision support help in crisis situations?

It seems that more crises are occuring in both business and public 
domains and the magnitude of them is also sometimes much larger than any 
previously encountered. The good news is that managers and politicians 
seem to want more computerized decision support to help in both crisis 
planning and response. Checklists, vague contingency plans, and 
informal, ad hoc coordination are no longer adequate. The bad news is 
that we still have many unanswered questions about the "what?" and 
"how?" of disaster readiness and crisis and emergency decision support 
that need to be investigated and resolved.

This Ask Dan! has been in the works for months.  In April 2003, my 
research focus turned to advanced decision support for command and 
control in military crises. My summer research focused on what was 
possible. Recent events have brought new urgency to the topic of crisis 
and emergency decision support. 

Only a few weeks ago on Thursday, August 14, 2003, the Eastern United 
States and Canada experienced the largest electric power outage in 
history. Officials are still in an assessment mode about "what happened 
and why?" and "what worked well and what could be improved?", but some 
control and decision support capabilities worked better than others.  
Computerized decision support systems helped manage the crisis, but the 
automated systems and human operators were not able to prevent the power 
grid system failure. Apparently one or more of the "Control Area 
Operators", the computerized centers that dispatch electric power 
generators as needed to maintain balance in the electric power grid, was 
ineffective (cf., The automated decision and control systems 
will likely be updated and new real-time, data-driven decision support 
systems will be developed to support human decision makers monitoring 
the grid. The grid technology will be updated. The likelihood that such 
a crisis will reoccur will decrease. But other potential crisis 
situations of various magnitudes still confront private and public 
sector planners and decision makers.

Improved infrastructure and systems can reduce the chance of a failure 
like the power grid shutdown, but more generalized decision support 
capabilities need to be available for emergency response to a wide 
variety of possible business and public crises, disasters and 
catastrophes. This Ask Dan! focuses broadly on the need for deployed 
"decision support environments" for emergency response, crisis decision 
making and crisis management. These capabilities are also often called 
command centers.

The recent blackout in New York City showcased the operation of a number 
of command centers and computerized decision support environments 
(CDSE). A command center or decision support center is much more than a 
single, integrated computerized decision support system, rather it is a 
complex, planned environment for computing, communications and decision 
support. A variety of computerized decision support tools and systems 
should be accessible and deployed for use in a computerized decision 
support environment.

New York City Transit apparently had a new command center with train 
location (using Global Positioning System technology) and control 
systems that allowed trains to communicate with each other 
electronically. This system probably helped in locating stopped trains 
for emergency evacuation. The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) 
Air Traffic Command Center was certainly a busy facility.  In February 
2002, New York City had opened a "new" temporary USD $3.8 million 
Emergency Operations Center (EOC).  The "new" center replaced the EOC 
that former Mayor Giuliani had built at a cost of more than $13 million. 
It was located on the 23rd Floor of 7 World Trade Center. That 40 story 
building collapsed about 7 hours after the Twin Towers. Giuliani's EOC 
was criticized as lavish and ornate and that is possible, but more 
importantly it was poorly located. Technology obsolescence is a major 
problem with EOCs. On September 11, 2001, E Team ( 
restored New York City command capabilities for emergency operations in 
less than 12 hours in temporary facilities.  The E Team "NYC 9/11 
Emergency Operations" case provides the details and it is sceduled for 
publication at DSSResources.COM on 9/11/2003.

The NYC Office of Emergency Management (OEM) has another, smaller scale 
command capability and Interagency Command Center, known as the command 
bus (cf.,  It is a "specially designed, 
self-contained emergency response vehicle that acts as an on-site 
command center for incidents requiring multiple agency response. The 
command bus is equipped with a state-of-the-art communication system, 
on-board electrical generation, and external lighting capabilities, and 
it can accommodate several agency heads and/or representatives during an 
emergency". How useful a command bus was in such a widespread emergency 
as the recent blackout is difficult to assess, but if it was located 
strategically (for example at the Ferry docks) it could have made a 
significant difference. Deploying command and decision support 
capabilities in Crises and Emergency situations will always be 

Recently, Terence Hinds and I had an ongoing email discussion about 
creating a group decision support capability for a crude oil and natural 
gas production operation. Business crisis situations don't usually reach 
the magitude of the NYC Blackout or the World Trade Center Terrorist 
Attacks, but oil and chemical spills can create major human and 
environmental disasters (e.g. 1984 Union Carbide accident in Bhopal, 
India; the Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska).  

Terence identified the perceived need as providing more integrated 
decision support for Incident Management. He noted an Incident 
Management Team makes the decisions in crises. This team comprises an 
Incident Commander, Section Chiefs, Marine and Logistics personel, and 
various specialists. Some incidents might include: ruptured pipelines 
(land and sea), failure of critical equipment, and well or reservoir 
failure. The company had many technologies in place, but they were not 
integrated.  Terence wrote the company had HIVE (with an electronic 
whiteboard), a data warehouse, teleconferencing equipment, meeting rooms 
with breakout areas, a number of databases in different departments and 
SCADA systems that provide online, real time and historical data in 
different formats. What was the result? Well ... Terence conducted a 
needs assessment and prepared his final year project for his university 
degree. Actually figuring out how to provide integrated group support 
and collaboration for Incident Management is an ongoing issue and 

Creating integrated decision support environments for command and 
control and emergency response is increasingly recognized as an 
important topic. What are the problems? The historic problems are only 
getting worse. Departments and partner organizations purchase different 
software packages that supposedly serve the same function but can not 
share data. Communication and information technologies continue to 
breakdown in crisis. Stress is high and leads to poor decisions. 
Inter-agency rivalry creates problems. There is often a lack of common 
terminology among responders. Authority among decision units is 
fragmented and decision makers have limited means to coordinate actions 
(cf., Smart and Vertinsky, 1977, 1984;Janis, 1989).

Bill McQuay, Technical Advisor, Information Directorate, Air Force 
Research Laboratory, contributed a relevant article that is now at 
DSSResources.COM. McQuay's paper is titled "Distributed Collaborative 
Environments for Decision Support". The goal is "advanced collaboration 
with distributed information across multiple domains, simultaneous 
interactions, and shared data and applications." Creating such an 
integrated decision support environment or capability for crisis 
decision making is the challenge. I recommend Bill's article to everyone 
interested in computerized decision support in crisis situations.

In New York City, the Management Consulting firm McKinsey & Company 
prepared reports on the New York Police and Fire Department responses to 
the 9/11 crisis. The NYPD report mentioned improving communications and 
information flows. The report on the New York Fire Department response 
stressed the need for more inter-agency cooperation, improved 
communication and technology capabilities, and the use of the Incident 
Command System (ICS).  I am only vaguely familiar with ICS and its 
procedures, but it is a broad approach for managing crisis situations 
and perhaps I can find an article about ICS for DSSResources.COM. 
Decision support integration is clearly much more than improved 
computerized decision support -- it also involves command roles, 
procedures, policies, preparation, practice and cultural changes.

Much more needs to be done. Murray Turoff (NJIT) and Bart Van de Walle 
(Tilburg) are proposing a mini-track on "Emergency Response Information 
Systems" for AMCIS 2004 in New York City.  The minitrack will examine 
functionality that Emergency Response Information Systems can and should 
provide for those involved in training for a crisis situation, planning 
for the response to a crisis situation, responding to a crisis 
situation, and evaluating performance during and after a crisis. If you 
are doing research in this area and want to report your results, contact 
Murray (



Janis, I. and L. Mann, Decision Making: A Psychological Analysis of 
Conflict, Choice, and Commitment, New York: The Free Press, 1979.

McKinsey & Company Study on WTC Response - FDNY, URL

McKinsey & Company Study on WTC Response - NYPD, URL

Smart, C.F. and I. Vertinsky, "Designs for Crisis Decision Units," 
Administrative Science Quarterly, Vol. 22, pp. 639-657, December 1977.

Smart, C.F. and Vertinsky, I., "Strategy and environment: A study of 
corporate responses to crises,"  Strategic Management Journal, Vol. 5, 
pp. 199-213, 1984.


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What's New at DSSResources.COM

08/29/2003 Posted article by McQuay, W.K., "Distributed Collaborative 
Environments for Decision Support". Check the articles page.


DSS News Releases - August 18 to August 29, 2003 -
Read them at DSSResources.COM and search the DSS News archive.

08/29/2003 CompUSA wins first annual eTail 2003 award for advanced use 
of Web analytics.

08/29/2003 Dealix Corporation announces launch of Dealix Business 

08/29/2003 U.S. Air Force successfully launches final Lockheed 
Martin-Built DSCS III Spacecraft.

08/28/2003 Army, Boeing-SAIC LSI team complete core Future Combat 
Systems team.

08/28/2003 Cutter & Buck expands Business Objects deployment to create 
end-to-end business intelligence solution.

08/27/2003 Deutsche Bank taps Fair Isaac technology to create 
enterprise-wide credit decisioning and risk monitoring tool.

08/26/2003 According to IDC, worldwide analytic applications software 
market to reach over $4.8 billion in 2007.

08/26/2003 Cummins Inc. Engineering Group implements SkillView for their 
human capital management initiative.

08/26/2003 3rd Annual Pharma & Biotech Business Intelligence Summit 
September 18-19, 2003 in Princeton, N.J. examines CI as key to Strategic 
Decision Support.

08/25/2003 Cobb EMC to deploy Intergraph solution for outage and mobile 
workforce management.

08/25/2003 Choice Hotels selects Informatica for enterprise-wide 
Business Intelligence.

08/25/2003 International Truck and Engine accelerates corporate 
performance with Ascential Software enterprise data integration 

08/22/2003 New Sobig worm and Blaster mutants signals arrival of 
widespread blended malware attacks.

08/21/2003 Databeacon announces Linux support for its Web reporting and 
data analysis application software for the enterprise.

08/21/2003 Crystal Decisions' acknowledges CI0-100 award winner 
Huntington National Bank.

08/21/2003 Worm/Sobig.F may establish a Trojan Cyber Army for possible 
attack; potentially millions of computers awaiting instructions.

08/20/2003 Experts at Ascential Software forum at TDWI cite new IT 
mantra: Business Rules!

08/20/2003 Decision Support Inc. releases new version of application for 
lower cost mainframe-server integrated reporting.

08/20/2003 Hyperion highlights newly available products through its OEM 
agreement with Brio Software.

08/19/2003 Best Software offers Carpe Diem on BlackBerry(R); legal 
professionals can track and record their time From anywhere.

08/19/2003 Core Microsoft Office system products are complete, released 
to Manufacturers.

08/19/2003 Hummingbird delivers content cache solution for Hummingbird 
Enterprise (TM).

08/19/2003 Innovative Health Solutions and Information Management 
Systems: new partnership will provide integrated Decision Support 

08/18/2003 Call for Papers: 16th Annual DAMA International Symposium, 
May 2-6, 2004 in Los Angeles, California.

08/18/2003 Microsoft Business Solutions announces new functionality for 
Microsoft business portal.

08/18/2003 IDC sees bleak future for the unconnected PDA.

08/18/2003 Informatica SuperGlue empowers CIOs with greater visibility 
and control of enterprise information.

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