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How technology assists with crisis management, enabling faster collaboration and a better, coordinated response

Whether an event is planned or unplanned, emergency situations can spiral quickly out of control. Two cases in point are the wildfires that swept through Fort McMurray in spring 2016 and the Stanley Cup Riots that erupted in Vancouver after Game 7, 2011. While one was a natural catastrophe and the other a public disturbance, the goals of emergency service agencies responding to both events were largely the same: to restore order quickly and effectively through preparedness and collaboration. But how?  

Most organizations still have outdated emergency response plans that use spreadsheets, checklists and assorted paper print-outs. While they may involve radio or email communication, they’ll use disparate data sources and likely lack an intelligent mass notification strategy.

But times are changing. Technology is helping to eliminate the slow-downs caused by paper and the lack of shared resources. Reliable new web-based solutions are helping support theplanning and response needs of law enforcement, fire and rescue services, even allowing multiple agencies to share information seamlessly using one common operating picture.

All for one: the benefits of a common operating picture

From political demonstrations to natural catastrophes, special operations and events often require the coordination of multiple public safety and emergency management agencies. But, providing real-time information and communication to every agency involved can be a huge strain on IT infrastructure and network systems. Special operations and events can also interfere with the day-to-day operations of dispatch call centres. Having one common operating picture—a central hub where all relevant information is uploaded for the various agencies and organizations involved—eliminates duplicity, wasted time and valuable resources.

Intergraph Planning & Response

In Canada, Intergraph Planning & Response (IPR) is just such an application used by emergency operation centres and mobile command staff to manage major events. Users can coordinate information and resources among diverse organizations at the strategic and tactical levels. Seamless integration with PSAP dispatch systems enables additional coordination at the operational level, ensuring efficient and effective processes and collaboration for both planned major events and unplanned disasters and emergencies.

Aside from providing inter-agency collaboration, IPR gives agencies the ability to interface with external systems, like city road networks and cameras, internal web pages and access to CAD information. This ability to interface with other systems reduces the number of people needed to communicate with external agencies as well as reduces communication time. It even captures all of the activities during a special operation or an event, providing the organization or agencies with in depth analytics. Then as each operation is completed, IPR can be used to review and analyze how an operation transpired.

The key features of Intergraph Planning & Response (IPR):
1. Map

IPR’s map provides users the ability to place symbols for units (as well as other annotations) by dragging and dropping from a list. Users can query the map data and create graphical areas showing where the operation is located and how resources are being deployed. They can also change the layers of the map to display additional information that may become available.

2. Portal

The portal provides a permanent status bar (operation, function, online status), tab-based windows control, notifications, and overview of running operations.

3. Command

The command tab is used for message exchanges, issuing of orders and monitoring of status of tasks. As new tasks are assigned, they appear automatically in the task list. Users can change the status of tasks to show others how it is progressing or if it is complete.

4. Mind Map

Included in the IPR software is an innovative mind map module, enabling users to outline planning and decision processes. The tool uses drag and drop to manipulate the process or for restructuring. The mind map information can be added to a report.

5. Interfaces

IPR seamlessly integrates with Intergraph Computer-Aided Dispatch, I/CAD, or any other dispatch system. This guarantees smooth interaction between a command and control center and the command staff post. IPR can be integrated with other applications, such as video, communication systems, dispersal of hazardous substances, and more.

6. Untethered Usage

IPR has the ability to run in a disconnected mode, allowing users a complete set of forms, templates and map for operation on a laptop or mobile device. Once a user reconnects to the network, the data is uploaded to the database.

To find out more about IPR and today’s web-based technologies that assist with emergency response planning, visit: www.hexagonsafetyinfrastructure.com.