Most every day, the United States is impacted by high impact weather events. These events range from hurricanes to tornadoes to winter storms. The National Weather Service (NWS) is tasked with forecasting and warning about these high impact events to save lives and protect property. The process of alerting and mitigating these high impact events involves the close collaboration of partners in the broadcast media who are federally mandated to relay weather alerts to the public, and emergency management who organize and respond to weather threats. Historically, these groups have operated on islands during weather events with one way communication systems providing data.
Starting in 2000, some parts of the country started experimenting with Instant Messaging technologies to bridge these islands during high impact weather. At the time, these involved the use of proprietary protocols and clients in an ad-hoc manner. In 2005, a group of interested parties in Iowa started looking for a scalable, secure, and open source / standards system that could provide the level of flexibility necessary to support the real time collaboration of broadcast media, the NWS, and emergency management. This effort was called IEMChat.
After a perusal of IM technologies, IEMChat implemented XMPP and choose the Openfire server to power the project. Openfire's ease of installation, functional administrative console, stability, and active support community has provided the foundation for the IEMChat project to flourish. In a short 2 years, IEMChat's use has spread to over half of the country with 85+ NWS offices, 450+ broadcast media outlets, and hundreds of local emergency managers participating. IEMChat has been put to use in recent high impact weather events such as the Super Tuesday tornado outbreak that ravaged the states of Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky and other states.
Daryl Herzmann, IEMChat's primary developer who is based at Iowa State University, says that Openfire has made the project possible. “Openfire provides us a robust and stable XMPP feature set supported by a fantastic community on Igniterealtime.org. The developers' active support on the web forums and weekly chat has been outstanding and shown their commitment to improve Openfire to meet the needs of the community.”
A huge thank you to Daryl for all of his contributions to the Ignite Realtime community and for providing us with details about this great Openfire success story!