RENCI roles out new emergency management tools at NCEMA fall conference

Clemmons, NC – The 2008 annual fall meeting of the North Carolina Emergency Management Association (NCEMA) featured a variety of resources and disaster management tools developed by RENCI.

Emergency managers and responders across the state attended the three-day conference, held Oct. 12-16 in Clemmons. The conference provided a forum about the latest topics, tools and technology in emergency management.

RENCI seized the opportunity to demonstrate its new and existing innovations through a training session and exhibitor’s booth. Over 60 participants attended the RENCI training session about interactive desktop conferencing and the NC FIRST weather portal.

The RENCI booth also featured existing programs and introduced new disaster research projects, such as the North Carolina Geographic Information Systems (NC GIS) Team, the lightning detection network, and the Immersive Media camera system. Over 170 people visited the booth including U.S. Rep. David Price (D-Durham). Rep. Price, who is chairman of the Homeland Security Subcommittee, was recognized by the National Emergency Managers Association for his continued efforts to help state and local emergency managers meet preparedness goals. Recently, Rep. Price visited RENCI headquarters in Chapel Hill and expressed his appreciation for RENCI’s collaborations with the NC emergency management community to improve disaster preparedness, response and mitigation.

The booth also included a video presentation about the Severe Weather Data Inventory (SWDI), a collaboration with the National Climatic Data Center and RENCI’s engagement center at UNC Asheville. The SWDI provides efficient and user-friendly access to an extensive archive of severe weather data. It assists in quality control of severe weather products, facilitates new research and assists in disaster response and mitigation.

Other disaster research tools and prototypes presented at the conference by RENCI are:

  • SmileTiger. This is the RENCI-hosted video conferencing system that is available to all NCEMA members. SmileTiger is a low-cost and effective solution that allows members of the NC emergency management community to keep in touch.
  • NCEMA Portal. RENCI hosts a Microsoft SharePoint collaborative website for the NCEMA that allows all members to update and post their own content. The site is used by NCEMA committees and working groups and to post training opportunities, documents, and other content.
  • Immersive media camera system. RENCI recently acquired a system that captures 360-degree high definition images from a moving vehicle. The system will be tested for its usefulness in rapidly assessing disaster situations from both a car and a helicopter. RENCI has acquired its first data from the camera and will soon begin to collect comprehensive data along the coast in preparation for the next hurricane season.
  • NC GIS Team. RENCI and its engagement centers at UNC Asheville and East Carolina University are creating a new volunteer geographic information systems (GIS) support group that will utilize RENCI expertise and capabilities to gather information for county and state emergency managers during disasters. Local capabilities are often overwhelmed when disasters strike, and that’s when emergency personnel need critical information about real-time events. NC GIS Team will make RENCI’s computing resources, staff, and network connections available to state and county emergency workers to ensure they have they have the information they need to respond quickly across the state.
  • Lightning detection network. This device is a cost effective way for emergency teams to detect lightning strikes in real-time and display the data visually in a Web portal environment.
  • NC FIRST. This weather information portal keeps emergency managers informed about local weather conditions and helps them interpret and easily access scientific weather data so they can make better decisions during weather emergencies.
  • Automated Vehicle Location (AVL). This new RENCI prototype is a very low cost system developed to track emergency vehicles in the field. The system relies on open source software and can track vehicles using a Blackberry, a laptop computer and a mobile phone aircard.

RENCI…Catalyst for Innovation
The Renaissance Computing Institute brings together teams of talented researchers, engineers, technologists and leaders in government, business, the arts and humanities to attack major research questions and community issues in ways that accelerate discovery and drive innovation. RENCI has nationally significant expertise and capabilities in high performance computing, visualization, collaborative tools, networking, device prototyping, and data systems as well as engagement sites across the state. 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