We began over a year and half ago to try and develop a special issue that would focus on the Emergency Information Systems that directly support individuals and organizations to effectively deal with all the phases of Emergency Preparedness: Planning, Training, Response, Recovery, and Assessment. Both editors have experience in working in Emergency Preparedness environments and felt that while there was much research and development activities dealing with hardware in computers, communications, and sensors, there did not appear to be a community of research in the design and requirements to facilitate what people and organizations have to deal with. The assumption that seemed to be operative was that current technologies such as databases, messaging systems, and synchronous meeting systems could somehow be pasted together to handle whatever was needed.
In an attempt to develop a community in this area, we decided to organize two meetings in 2004. The first meeting was an international workshop on Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management (ISCRAM2004) held in Brussels, the capital of Europe. Much to our surprise, more than 80 researchers, practitioners and policy makers from about 20 countries registered for the meeting, far surpassing the more modest number of 20 attendees we originally had in mind. The second event was a track at what was probably the largest IS conference in the United States in 2004, the Americas Conference on Information Systems (AMCIS2004) in New York City. Once more, the number of submitted papers exceeded our expectations, and we were able to put together three excellent sessions. From both experiences, we had to conclude that an active research community was 'out there', but it was a highly fragmented one and most members of the community were in general unaware of each others' work.
At both meetings, we actively targeted presenting authors to solicit papers for this special issue. A special Call for Papers was widely distributed as well, leading to a fairly wide exposure of this special issue of JITTA to the Emergency Response community. Consequently, we received more outstanding papers than we felt we could use for this issue. We therefore decided to move four papers, with the authors' permission, to a special issue of the Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management (JHSEM), while seven papers remain in this issue.
Together with the JHSEM issue, we view this special JITTA issue on Emergency Preparedness and Response Information Systems as a very important milestone in the growth and maturing of our community. We have not only been able to put this research topic on the map for the readership of both journals, but we can now also convincingly show researchers in Emergency Preparedness and Response that their work can indeed be published in high quality journals. We do hope that this encourages many prospective authors in Emergency Response to submit their work to journals such as JITTA and contribute to the growth of this field.
Our efforts within the Emergency Response community continue in the coming years. Since mid 2004, we have a community website at http://www.sckcen.be/iscram, which at the time of writing has 200 registered members. Our flagship meeting in 2005 will be the ISCRAM2005 conference, again taking place in Brussels from April 18-20th, but in 2006 we hope to see it move to the US. We also plan to continue to encourage more sessions on this topic at appropriate conferences and to work on more special issues as a result of conferences and workshops. The current community needs more opportunity to interact and begin to develop a relevant accepted body of knowledge. It also needs to interact with what is a collection of disciplines that should form the basis of a true interdisciplinary community for a more effective design of information systems. In this respect, we are happy to announce our call for contributions to a truly interdisciplinary Emergency Response track at AMCIS 2005 (Omaha, August 11-15, 2005), which is co-sponsored by no less than three AIS Special Interest Groups: Medical Systems, Decision Support Systems and Human Computer Interaction. …