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Liability and Reliability Of Crowdsourced and Volunteered Information for Disaster Management

The rapid rate of innovation and adoption of technology, especially mobile technology, by citizens and first-responders alike has the potential to enable a greater level of community preparedness not previously possible. This panel will explore the potential benefits and reliability of crowdsourced and volunteered information for disaster management.

Date & Time

Aug. 30, 2011
2:00pm – 4:00pm


5th Floor, Woodrow Wilson Center
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Liability and Reliability Of Crowdsourced and Volunteered Information for Disaster Management

Commons Lab of the Science and Technology Innovation Program, Woodrow Wilson Center. Co-sponsored with the National Alliance for Public Safety GIS Foundation

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A local engaged citizenry, prepared for all types of hazards, is central to fostering a higher level of community resilience needed to meet the complex and dynamic threats of the 21st century. The rapid rate of innovation and adoption of technology, especially mobile technology, by citizens and first responders alike has the potential to enable a greater level of community preparedness not previously possible.

Image removed.One way that first responders use geospatial technology is to provide heightened situational awareness in daily planning & response operations, in turn enhancing safety & quality of life.  Many local public safety agencies also use social media as a mechanism to provide the public with authoritative information to mitigate threats & increase preparedness in their communities.  Advanced technologies can support real-time crowd sourced & volunteered information exchange through, participatory mapping; alerting systems; location-aware social media; aggregation of volunteered geographic information; and other applications. The emergence of the volunteer and technical communities (V&TC) in recent years provides for a unique opportunity to leverage crowd sourced & volunteered information as a preparedness and mitigation capability—and not just in the aftermath of a major disaster as a crisis response tool. The power behind these innovations lies in the potential for the V&TC to coordinate and collaborate with local public safety agencies and citizens in building the local capacity to operationalize advanced technologies as mission critical tools for all types, and scales, of hazards and threats.

Liability and reliability, pertaining to accuracy and authoritativeness, of crowd sourced and volunteered information is a current knowledge gap that needs further examination. This also includes liability issues in working with technically-oriented volunteers that are not formerly part of any authoritative agency, in any emergency operations scenario. Independent research and evaluation on these issues is needed to serve as the basis by which the public safety community can effectively harness the power of the V&TC and the wisdom of the crowd while ensuring the integrity of information used in decision making affecting the life and safety of our communities.  The purpose of this panel session is to convene a diverse panel of experts to begin the dialogue. It starts by examining the liability and reliability issues at the local level in day-to-day incidents, first as a preparedness & mitigation strategy and second as a response & recovery tactic. It will serve as the starting point to extract lessons learned that will inform the development of a coordinated strategy on crowd sourced and volunteered information for emergency and disaster management.

Panel Moderator

Rand Napoli, Vice-Chairman, NAPSG Foundation


Chief Charles L. Werner, Fire Chief, Charlottesville Fire Department

Charles Werner is a 37 year veteran of the volunteer and career fire rescue service.  He celebrated his 33rd year with the Charlottesville VA Fire Department and presently serves as its fire chief.  Chief Werner is certified as Chief Fire Officer Designate and National Fire Academy Executive Fire Officer.  He has received two life saving awards and numerous commendations throughout his fire service career.

Chief Werner currently serves on the Charlottesville-Albemarle University of Virginia Emergency Communications 911 Center Management Board, and on the Board of Directors for the National Alliance for Public Safety GIS Foundation.  He also serves on several state and national public safety communications and leadership committees, including, Vice-Chair of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s SAFECOM Executive Committee, Chair of the DHS Virtual USA Executive Committee,  International Association of Fire Chief’s Technology Counsel, Virginia’s Statewide Interoperability Executive Committee (SIEC), and the FCC Emergency Response Interoperability Counsel.

He is the recipient of a number of awards, including a three-time recipient of the Virginia Governors Award for Fire Service Excellence, Virginia Fire Chiefs President’s Award, International Association of Fire Chiefs President’s Award, and Fire Chief Magazine 2008 Career Fire Chief of the Year.  He is also a nationally published author with over 70 published articles and serves on the editorial advisory boards for Firehouse Magazine,, and Urgent Communications.

Captain Xenophon “Yo” Gikas, Captain, Los Angeles Fire Department

Captain Xenophon "Yo" Gikas is a 23 year veteran with the Los Angeles Fire Department. He was appointed to the rank of Captain on June 8, 1998. He has also held the positions of Firefighter, Chief Officer's Staff Assistant, and Dispatcher. He is currently assigned to the Operations Control Division.

Captain Gikas is currently assisting four technology interoperability programs having multi agency and multi jurisdictional impact. These projects include: The Tactical Information Program (a GIS based system to deliver critical response information to front line emergency personnel), a hazmat sensor integration and interoperability project; the area wireless and reconnaissance evaluation project (a pre-deployed public events monitoring system); and the United States Department of Homeland Security Science & Technology Directorate’s First Responder Resource Group supporting the Virtual USA initiative.  He also serves on the National Alliance for Public Safety GIS Foundation’s Southern California Regional Leadership Team.

Captain Gikas' professional experience includes Commander of the fire departments Urban Search and Rescue Company wherein he handled all aspects of technical rescue including swift water, confined space operations, collapsed structure, and firefighter rapid intervention. He previously held the position of commander of the fire command and control systems CAD and 800 MHz network unit wherein he handled all issues pertaining to emergency communications including evaluation, purchase, and integration of new radios, software, mobile data computers, and communications equipment for the LAFD. Throughout his career Captain Gikas' responsibilities included performing analysis, design, and development on numerous projects involving mission critical systems. Previous assignments also included the Advanced Technology Unit of the LAFD Tactical Planning Section and the United States Department of Homeland Security's project Archangel as the fire service representative developing the Automated Critical Asset Management System. Captain Gikas attended the University of California at Los Angeles and California State University at Northridge earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Business Administration. He is also a certified hazmat technician as well as a Communications Specialist and Technical Search Specialist for FEMA's California Task Force 1.

Brad Kieserman, Chief Counsel, Federal Emergency Management Agency

Brad Kieserman began serving as the Chief Counsel of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in March 2010.  The Office of Chief Counsel advises the Administrator and all of FEMA’s directorates on legal matters related to agency programs and operations.

Prior to coming to FEMA, Mr. Kieserman served as Associate General Counsel for Operations and Enforcement in the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of the General Counsel. In that role, Mr. Kieserman’s portfolio included emergency and incident management, use of force, counterterrorism operations, law enforcement authorities and activities, international operations, border-, aviation-, maritime-, and transportation-related security, and screening and credentialing programs.   Mr. Kieserman led the DHS operational legal team responding to the H1N1 outbreak in 2009, the 2009 Christmas Day bombing attempt of Northwest Flight #253, and the response to the 2010 earthquake in Haiti.

In 2009, Mr. Kieserman received an appointment to the Senior Executive Service after 22 years in civilian, enlisted, and commissioned officer positions with the U.S. Coast Guard.  His tours of duty in the Coast Guard included 11 years at sea, 10 years as a federal maritime law enforcement officer, and two years as Commanding Officer of the USCGC Point Countess in South Florida.  Mr. Kieserman was a first responder during the Exxon Valdez oil spill in 1989 and the Caribbean mass migrations in 1994, and participated in dozens of search and rescue operations at sea. 

After serving as the Legal Advisor to the Coast Guard’s Chief of Law Enforcement during and after the attacks of September 11, 2001, Mr. Kieserman was selected in 2004 as the first Chief of the Coast Guard’s Operations Law Group.  In that position, he oversaw the provision of real-time, on-demand legal advice for worldwide Coast Guard operations, conducted numerous international negotiations, and trained hundreds of attorneys.  Mr. Kieserman is also a co-author of the President’s Maritime Operational Threat Response (MOTR) Plan and served as the Federal MOTR Coordinator for hundreds of maritime incidents and interdictions, including the pirate attack on the U.S. flagged vessel Maersk Alabama off the coast of Somalia in 2009.

Mr. Kieserman is a graduate of the State University of New York, and received his J.D. magna cum laude from the Columbus School of Law at Catholic University in Washington, DC, where he was managing editor of the Catholic University Law Review.  In 2008, Mr. Kieserman received the Secretary of Homeland Security’s Silver Medal, which is awarded for exceptionally meritorious service to the department, and to the federal government.  His military awards include the Legion of Merit and the Meritorious Service Medal.  Mr. Kieserman and his wife Cathy have two sons, Hunter and Noah.

Edward S. Robson, Esq., Attorney, Robson & Robson LLC

Edward S. Robson is the managing member of Robson & Robson LLC, a law firm located in the Philadelphia suburbs.  Mr. Robson has represented volunteer fire and ambulance companies in a variety of matters, including First Amendment issues, civil rights, employment, contract negotiations, internal governance, personnel policies, SOP's and equipment purchases.  

He has volunteered as an emergency medical technician since 2003 and currently serves as a member of the Board of Directors of a large suburban fire company. Mr. Robson graduated with honors from both Villanova University and Villanova University School of Law and is a member of the Pennsylvania and New Jersey bars.Mr. Robson may be reached at 610.825.3009 and by email at His website is:

Deborah Shaddon, Core Team Member & Infrastructure Working Group, Crisis Commons

Deborah Shaddon is an IT Enterprise Architect at CNA Insurance and an active volunteer for CrisisCommons, for which she serves as a member of the Core Team, acting Infrastructure Working Group Lead, and Chicago CrisisCamp Lead.

Ms. Shaddon has more than twenty years of IT experience with expertise in SOA/integration, application, and technology architecture, visualization and strategy, new technology introduction and risk management, performance and quality of service engineering, open source frameworks and practices, and agile development. She has served as lead architect on many projects, ranging from 10k to 10million. In 2010 she supported the response efforts of CrisisCommons for earthquakes in Haiti and Chili, floods in Tennessee and Pakistan, and a blizzard in the Midwest. She also organized Chicago's first Random Hacks of Kindness Event in December 2010, and works to build local partnerships between the volunteer & technical community and traditional relief organizations, such as the Red Cross and CERT. She holds a masters degree in software engineering from DePaul University. 

Governor Jim Geringer, fmr. Governor of Wyoming – Director of Policy, Enivronmental Systems Research Institute

Jim Geringer received a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Kansas State University, then spent 10 years active and 12 years reserve service in the US Air Force working on unmanned space programs for both the Department of Defense and  NASA.   Projects included remote sensing satellites, the GPS system (NAVSTAR), Mars Viking Lander, the NASA HEAO and others.

Upon leaving active duty, he served as contract administrator for the construction of a 1700 megawatt coal-fired electric power generation plant near Wheatland Wyoming, then took up agricultural pursuits along with serving in the Wyoming Legislature from 1983 to 1994, including six years each in the House and the Senate.

Geringer served two terms as Wyoming Governor, from 1995-2003, during which he focused on improving education through standards, accountability and technology, modernizing Wyoming’s economic base to extensively include technology, changing how natural resource agencies among state, federal and local governments worked together, establishing community-based health and family services programs and implementing strategic planning and information systems.  While in office, he chaired of the Western Governors' Association, the Education Commission of the States, was lead governor on energy policy and served on a variety of national and regional education and technology initiatives.

He was a member of the Committee on America’s Climate Choices under the National Academies, served on the Mapping Sciences Committee under the National Research Council; current member of the Community Resilience Committee under Oak Ridge National Laboratories; NASA PNT Advisory Committee for the Global Positioning Satellite System; Western Interstate Energy Board ; Vice-Chair of the Association of Governing Boards for Colleges and Universities; Operation Public Education; the Board of Governors of the Park City Center for Public Policy; Board member of NatureServe;  co-chair of the Policy Consensus Initiative; Current Chair of the Board of Trustees, Western Governors University

Jim joined Environmental Systems Research Institute (Esri) in the summer of 2003 as Director of Policy and Public Sector Strategies to work with senior elected and corporate officials on how to use geospatial technology for place-based decisions in business and government.

Martin Valentine, Senior Manager, USAA Insurance

Marty Valentine is senior underwriting portfolio manager for USAA Property and Casualty Insurance Group. USAA provides insurance, banking, investment and retirement products and services to 8.4 million members of the U.S. military and their families.

Mr. Valentine leads efforts that help USAA members learn how to build disaster-resistant homes that make for more durable communities. He is an expert in loss mitigation and catastrophe risk management with more than 21 years of experience.

Mr. Valentine works closely with the Federal Alliance for Safe Homes (FLASH) and the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS) to promote strong, well-enforced building codes and loss prevention programs that protect homes and families. He is co-chair of the IBHS Residential Lines Committee and serves on the IBHS FORTIFIED for Safer Living® task force.

Mr. Valentine earned his M.B.A. from St. Leo University and holds a B.A. in Finance from the University of South Florida. He is a Chartered Property Casualty Underwriter and holds an Associates in Management designation.


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