Skip Navigation
BlackBerry Blog

Emergency Management: Talking to Each Other

Here in Washington State, the I-5 is the primary north-south passageway between Oregon and Seattle and south to California. Recently, a four-car accident tied up movement for 15 hours, and 17 distinct organizations were called upon to tidy up the wreckage. Fortunately, no fatalities occurred, but it was a significant inconvenience to the general public, mainly because response agencies were not able to effortlessly communicate with one another.

This is only one case of a typical emergency. The Port of Seattle, the Puget Sound locale and the State of Washington with its topographic diversity, face complex circumstances when crises hit. Just inside the Puget Sound district, there are more than 20 distinctive local, regional, state, and federal agencies, and several individual groups that routinely get called upon when there is an emergency, be it the docks or warehouse fire, an issue with a suburbanite ferry, or a noteworthy traffic crisis in downtown Seattle.

Seattle had to upgrade its emergency response system and chose to build up a Common Operating Platform for the State of Washington. Known as WA-COP, it is an accumulation of data sensing and sharing technologies that enable different stakeholders to access indistinguishable applicable presentations of data, to enhance decision making and coordination. With the Seattle Police Department as the lead organization, we got financing from the Department of Homeland Security to execute the system. AtHoc Connect was picked to meet the basic needs of alerting, mass notification, and emergency communications within the general platform.

Bricks Vs. Blocks

We could have built up a system from the beginning, but a brick-by-brick framework created to serve a diverse community would be costly. We know this from experience. The City of Seattle and King County spent more than $10 million for a data administration management that doesn't work the way it should.

The WA-COP administration chose to work with instant "building blocks" by identifying the central components of a perfect system, finding the innovation vendors that offered the best solutions and focusing on connecting everything into a feasible solution. This methodology proved to be quicker, more powerful, and significantly more sensibly priced than building a system from the beginning.

Responding to Crisis

There are five components in responding to a crisis:

1.    Situational Awareness

2.    Incident Command and Control

3.    Interoperable Communications

4.    Interoperable Communications

5.    A User-Defined Operational Picture

WA-COP recognized these components to assemble the bigger system and picked AtHoc Connect for mass notification alerts and emergency communications. We needed data sharing support systems that are adaptable, versatile, and deft.

AtHoc's employees are committed to ensuring that whatever job they did for their customers would work brilliantly, and we required an organization that could be similarly as adaptable, spry, and innovative as the WA-COP scheme already was.

Levels of Emergency and Responses

The typical car accident mentioned above is only one type of emergency that can paralyze a territory and cause all sort of disruptions. There are several levels of emergency:

Level One - An incident in a single jurisdiction (a house fire)

Level Two - An incident in a single jurisdiction involving different issues (a warehouse fire with injuries)

Level Three - Multiple issues involving numerous jurisdictions (a noteworthy car crash in a noteworthy transportation corridor)

Level Four - Multiple issues affecting numerous jurisdiction and various levels of government (a noteworthy ferry fiasco)

The problem is that, typically, every organization has their own crisis plans, frequently separated from their daily operational systems. Seattle alone has three distinct volumes of crisis planning documents. WA-COP urges the different agencies to keep using their typical operational systems while incorporating WA-COP's into their daily communications.

Crisis systems are sometimes utilized so rarely that the users are not familiar with them, making them ineffective. By adopting an organic and consistent methodology as was used with WA-COP, first responders feel more relaxed using their new tools alongside their existing resources when more complex crises happen.

Click here for more information on this technology execution.

Bob Pessemier

About Bob Pessemier

Senior Technology Consultant, WA-COP, Seattle