RENCI tools for disaster management featured at NCEMA spring conference

CHAPEL HILL, NC, March 18, 2008 – The 2008 North Carolina All Hazards Conference, the semi-annual meeting of the North Carolina Emergency Management Association (NCEMA), featured a variety of projects and programs of the Renaissance Computing Institute (RENCI) aimed at helping emergency managers.

Emergency managers and researchers from across the state attended the conference, held March 2 -5 at Sunset Beach. RENCI, in collaboration with emergency management partners at the state and county levels, conducted two sessions about deploying Web-based tools and prototypes of new technologies for disaster planning and response. RENCI also set up an exhibitor’s booth to showcase and demonstrate its various disaster management tools.

“It was an outstanding informational conference,” said Ken Gallupi, RENCI director for emergency management. “The sessions and booth were both well attended with conference attendees, including state officials, interested in our desktop conferencing, NC-FIRST, weather information portal, projects on storm surges and flooding, and ideas for new prototype ideas for emergency management.”

For its first conference presentation, RENCI researchers and representatives from the NCEMA Technology Committee and NCEM Geospatial and Technology Management, presented plans for integrating and deploying electronic tools for the emergency management community. RENCI demonstrated its Web-based workspace for emergency managers that pulls together a number of RENCI-developed products and services, including NC-FIRST, the RENCI weather information portal, and desktop conferencing software.

The second presentation introduced new RENCI prototypes of technologies for emergency managers and discussed how these tools enhance communications and capabilities when used with other tools, such as WebEOC, Web-based software designed to communicate real-time emergency information to emergency operations centers. The new prototypes are:

  • Portable GIS. The deployment of portable geographic information systems (GIS) available on flash drives the size of a thumb will enable emergency managers and responders to take critical data and GIS functions to the field. The flash drives with portable GIS data can be used on any computer with no licensing fees for mapping, identifying and using critical information. The portable information will also free up GIS experts to work on more critical tasks, since basic GIS information will be available to anyone.
  • GPS tracking. This prototype global positioning system uses wireless cards communicating over cell phone networks to track vehicles in the field and identify what is happening at specific sites during an emergency. The device can be used with a laptop or PDA and is intended to be a low-cost entry into Automatic Vehicle Location (AVL) systems.
  • Lightning detection network. RENCI introduced a prototype of a device that is designed to detect lightening strikes in real time and display the data visually in a Web portal environment. Commercial lightening detection devices are available; however, they are usually too expensive for county or even state government.
  • Micro Rain Radar. This device provides advanced warning of icing events and other localized weather. Data acquired during several winter rain and ice storms was displayed to illustrate how the MRR can be used.

RENCI…Catalyst for Innovation
The Renaissance Computing Institute brings together computer and discipline scientists, artists, humanists, industry leaders, entrepreneurs, state leaders and educators for collaborations designed to reshape science, the economy, the state of North Carolina and the world. RENCI leverages its expertise and resources in leading edge computing, networking and data technologies to ignite innovation and find solutions to previously intractable problems. Founded in 2004 as a major collaborative venture of Duke University, North Carolina State University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the state of North Carolina, RENCI is a statewide virtual organization.  For more, see