Melbourne, Australia, on the country’s southern coast, boasts a metro-area population of over four million citizens. More than 700,000 commuters come into the city each working day. The city hosts over 2,000 events per year, including 20 major events, making it the major events capital of Australia. Major planned events include the Australian Football League Final parade, Moomba Festival, the Melbourne International Film Festival and Spring Fashion Week. “We host dozens of other sporting events and festivals, commencing with our annual New Year’s Eve party that attracts over 500,000 people and features fireworks at 15 sites around the city," said Susan Kempson, Spatial Systems Team Leader, City of Melbourne.
During the running of an event, the Melbourne Events Operation Center (MEOC) coordinates the management of any incidents that may arise and the allocation of tasks among the various agencies that need to be performed on the ground. The previous event management system was a hard-copy, manual reporting system based on a seven-column Excel file and there were concerns about risk management. Some of the concerns revolved around information clarity, misplacement of paper and the possible miscommunication between field officers and the MEOC due to lack of location intelligence. The City of Melbourne decided the solution was an upgrade to WebEOC.
“Because WebEOC is a Web-based, commercial, off-the-shelf product it’s easy to configure and manage and provides real-time information to our staff,” Kempson said. “WebEOC enables us to restrict levels of access, offers automatic date and time stamping, is easy to update and enhance, and a bonus is that we can run simulated exercises as part of our training. It also gives us the ability to learn from past events.“In particular, because WebEOC centralizes information it can then be viewed by external agencies – so everyone’s on the same page, especially during an emergency.”
Another major requisite was the ability for City of Melbourne staff out in the field to send and receive incident reports with accompanying photos and/or videos. “This provides us with the capability to use WebEOC out in the field on mobile devices, including iPhones and iPads, enabling officers to quickly and accurately describe an incident in the field which is immediately reflected in the control center,” Kempson said. “Everyone in the control center can see the incident and can allocate it to a responsible agency and track it to resolution.”
To ensure speed and accuracy, design of the WebEOC data entry screens was refined to eliminate all unnecessary complexity. The flexibility of WebEOC ensured that it could be tailored to best integrate with Melbourne’s existing emergency response frameworks. Feedback on the customization was sought from representatives of the Victoria State Emergency Service, Victoria Police, Department of Human Services, Metropolitan Fire Brigade, and local municipal emergency response officers.
Municipal Emergency Management
While the Melbourne Events Operation Center initially purchased WebEOC solely for event management, it’s now also used by the Municipal Emergency Control Center where police, ambulance, fire and other emergency services work together with city council staff to monitor reports in real time and deploy resources in response to incidents as they occur. “Having WebEOC in our Events Operations Center, Emergency Control Center and within our Safe City Program Center means that if an event turns into an emergency all three agencies will be using the same system and have all the relevant information at hand,” Kempson said.
WebEOC is used to manage Melbourne’s Safe City Program, which includes “Safe City Camera” and “Safe City Taxi” operations. The Safe City Camera program uses 53 closed-circuit TV surveillance cameras in areas where anti-social behavior or criminal activity is more likely to occur. Safe City Camera staff use WebEOC to monitor and record activity on the cameras 24 hours a day and officers in the program drive around in patrol cars and use iPads to update incident information via WebEOC.
Safe City Taxi ranks are central city locations manned by safety officers who provide a safer environment for passengers waiting for a taxi and for drivers waiting for passengers. The program uses WebEOC to capture taxi destinations and driver identification numbers. Collecting statistics is vital to expanding services, evaluating the need for service and testing new locations.
WebEOC has been used successfully in city council scenario exercises, such as ‘Exercise Reliant’ when over 90 people from government and private organizations participated, and during the Moomba Festival weekend in March when Melbourne was hit by major storms. Plans call for the City of Melbourne to use WebEOC to disseminate information on dangerous weather conditions and to provide weather report updates on a daily basis.