Superstorm Sandy has, for good reasons, dominated the national attention over the past few weeks. No one wants to find themselves in the midst of a disaster, but, unfortunately, disasters do occur. And when they DO happen, we want to be sure that our federal, state, and local officials are ready.
At the Gartrell Group, one of our specialties is helping those that plan for disaster relief be better prepared. Our practical, on-the-ground experience providing mapping support in the wake of major hurricanes, tsunamis, and other natural and human-caused disasters and crises has taught us to value the benefit of planning and the importance of having the right tools to do it.
Recent project work in Disaster Relief Planning…
Some of our recent project work has included helping the Oregon Office of Emergency Management (OEM) design and implement a contemporary Geographical Information System (GIS) with the goal of improving the agency’s spatial intelligence in tracking and managing the response to emergency incidents. Call center operators working with OEM’s “Ops Center” incident tracking system now have a flexible set of capabilities to record geographic details associated with incidents. These improvements allow for entering, viewing, analyzing, and updating incident information through a simple map interface; they also allow OEM to share their incident data as a web service with partners in the emergency response community. The value and critical importance of cross-platform and cross-agency data sharing is close to the heart of anyone who has been involved in decision support in the midst of disaster. OEM intends that these changes will help them to fulfill their mission of “coordinating and facilitating emergency planning, preparedness, and response activities with the state and local emergency services agencies”.
We have also been working closely with the emergency management and GIS team at Multnomah County, Oregon for over a year to design and develop their enterprise emergency planning and response system, called “Bridge”. Bridge is a situational awareness mapping product that gives emergency responders a flexible toolbox for managing and analyzing information related to a wide array of incidents and emergencies. Using Bridge, managers and responders have the ability to select data from a catalog and rapidly configure a series of interactive maps suitable to the requirements and questions of a particular event or scenario; they can easily switch between area views to ‘zoomed-in’ location specific views as needs dictate. In addition to working with well-described data that is included in the Bridge Data Catalog, users may also dynamically load other data (including secured web services) that may be provided by partners or retrieved from the data sphere when an unanticipated need or question arises. Bridge also includes tools for indentifying critical infrastructure, vulnerable populations, or other resources of interest that may fall within a particular response zone, area of concern, or within a defined distance to an incident location.
Not only does Bridge help responders deal with emergencies as they happen, but it can help event planners visualize the impact of their event on a community well before their event. The tool allows responders and planners to save and share events, so they can plan for that parade, or are ready when a water main has flooded a street. A simplified mobile version of the application has also been developed for use on smartphones and tablet devices.
The team at Multnomah County has done an exemplary job of engaging with their partners and stakeholders in the emergency management community through the design and development of Bridge — it is very much a reflection of the expressed needs, preferences, and desires of this group, which helps explain its steadily increasing number of partners and subscribers. The Bridge subscriber community now includes officials from public agencies, fire departments, and schools, as well as staff from hospitals, utilities, and private companies in the greater Portland, OR area.
Geospatial tools and the operational support they offer are fundamentally important to:
- Information sharing and communication;
- Response planning, management, and coordination;
- Vehicle, personnel, and asset dispatch, allocation, and tracking;
- Field assessment and reporting;
- Damage calculations;
- Business continuity planning;
- Scenario modeling and predictive analytics;
- Portfolio risk management, asset exposure analysis.
For more information about how we might help you be better prepared, or to see a demo, please contact contact us.
The new generation “Common Operating Picture” (COP) applications are making the long-promised possibility of effectively integrated data and well-informed response teams a reality. Multnomah County, Oregon (Portland area) was selected by the Department of Homeland Security’s Virtual USA program to develop a COP prototype for Oregon. The resulting “VENOM” application (which was recently redubbed “Bridge”) has helped to set some new standards in supporting network awareness and a more cohesive and well-informed response team for emergencies. Our crew has enjoyed the opportunity to partner with the County on this project.