Earthquakes. Severe weather events. Industrial accidents. Acts of terrorism. We hear about these types of unplanned events all of the time. After an event is over it’s important to learn lessons from these events because they can highlight operational inefficiencies and opportunities for improvement, like coordination among groups and effective distribution and communication of response data.
The truth is that many agencies and organizations are still using paper-based SOPs and/or spreadsheets for much of their emergency response. They don’t necessarily have the technology and tools to help foster collaboration during unplanned events. What they do have are processes and protocols and that’s a great start. But having a solution specifically for planning, responding to, and managing the aftermath of unplanned events is a win for everyone involved. Consider these two scenarios.
Record Ice Storm Cripples Toronto
December 2013 was a challenging and demanding month for the city of Toronto; the city was hit by one of the worst ice storm in its history. During this storm, more than 300,000 electric utility customers lost their power, some for as long as nine days. At the storm’s peak, the utility company’s call center received 138,000 calls in a single day, which is more than 30 times the normal call volume of 3,000 to 4,000 calls. When the storm was over, it took the city about eight weeks to clear downed trees and repair damage across the Greater Toronto Area.
Gas Explosion Rocks Toronto Propane Plant
Toronto also faced another difficult month August 2008. Multiple gas explosions took place on the morning of August 10th, which occurred at an industrial propane facility. The blasts caused 12,500 people to be evacuated from their homes and cost almost $2 billion dollars in damage and clean up expenses.
Through the lens of event planning and response, how could have Intergraph Planning & Response (IPR) aided these different unplanned situations? While many of the technology capabilities IPR offers are focused on the preparation phase of a planned or unplanned event, it is also an extremely valuable tool while events unfold in real time.
During these specific events, IPR could have acted as single operating picture for those involved at the emergency operations center level. Think about how many organizations, government agencies, and private businesses rely on information for safety and response commands during situations like a massive storm or industrial accident. If we looks at some of IPR’s modules, the first one that comes to mind when trying to coordinate an unplanned event is a module called The Portal.
The Portal module provides a permanent status bar (operation, function, online status), tab-based windows control, notifications, and overview of running operations during a live event. This capability would help EOCs keep tabs and statuses on all tasks and personnel during a crisis. The Portal module could act as an information distributor to all personnel during an event, allowing crisis situations to work themselves out in a planned and organized manner.
IPR can act as a communications hub during events. The Communications module is used for message exchanges, issuing of orders, and monitoring of status of tasks. Each user is presented with their tasks, as well as any other tasks they have permission to see. Also, as new tasks are assigned, they appear automatically in the task list, and users have the option to be notified through email. During events users can change the status of tasks to show others what is being done. For example, a task can be marked as received, in progress, completed or any other status defined by the agency or company. The Communication module allows users the ability to communicate with all of the right people in the appropriate time, which is critical during an unplanned event.
If you would like to learn more about how IPR could be used in other situations, like an amber alert or live shooter situation, please visit our booth at these upcoming Canadian conferences: OAEM, CANSEC, CACP. We are also taking part in a webinar hosted by The Conference Board of Canada, which will discuss how a virtual EOC would work in the example of a rail disaster. Register today!
Pamela Bernier is a senior marketing specialist for Hexagon's Safety & Infrastructure division. Bernier has five years of experience in the public safety and utilities industry including police, fire, emergency management, and distribution – gaining valuable insight into the global business. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Wilfrid Laurier University.