FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.– Florida is the most hurricane-prone state in the country, having been hit by seven hurricanes just since 2004. This year, many emergency responders throughout the state have a powerful new tool to help them manage the impact of the inevitable storms. WebEOC, the world's first web-enabled crisis-information management system, is being widely implemented throughout Florida in preparation for the hurricane season.
Developed by ESi, WebEOC enables emergency managers at command centers to share information with each other and with first responders such as fire, emergency medical services (EMS), public works and police teams. The technology, used by more than 500 counties, municipalities, federal governments and corporations worldwide, has gained significant momentum in Florida, with recent adoptions by Baker, Broward, Clay, Duval, Hernando, Miami-Dade, Monroe, Nassau, Palm Beach, St. Johns and Sumter counties, and the South Florida Water Management District.
These counties join other Florida public-sector and corporate WebEOC users including the City of Tallahassee, Carnival Cruise Lines, CSX Transportation, Florida Power & Light Company, NASA Kennedy Space Center, Patrick Air Force Base, Tyndall Air Force Base, the United States Southern Command (with over 1,200 military and civilian personnel), and Alachua, Charlotte, Citrus, Okaloosa and Putnam counties.
"Recently, Duval County converted to WebEOC, and our vision of what direction we wanted to go was very complex," said Captain Bruce Scott, training program manager for the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department. "A team of ESi consultants spent many hours guiding, customizing and directing our software implementation. As we go into the hurricane season I feel very comfortable knowing that Duval County has these WebEOC professionals on our side in the event we need to activate and put the system to the test."
Cecilia Patella, the emergency management director for the Hernando County Sheriff's Office, is confident that her staff is more prepared than ever to keep county residents safe with the addition of two new shelters, planned accommodations for pets, and the adoption of WebEOC software as some of the notable improvements. "WebEOC replaces a system designed in-house that had caused some problems in the past and was not user-friendly," Ms. Patella said. "WebEOC is easy to use and will help better coordinate the efforts of emergency responders and other agencies that participate in responding to a disaster."
"We adopted WebEOC this year as part of a four-county collaboration between Monroe, Miami-Dade, Broward and Palm Beach counties," said Chuck Tear, the director of the Palm Beach County Division of Emergency Management.
"The main reason we selected WebEOC is that it's a web-based system that can be accessed virtually anywhere," Mr. Tear noted. "So with minimal training, all of our first responders, hospitals, state agencies, and support groups like the Red Cross can get access to real-time information during a crisis situation and send us data through any web browser."
"WebEOC also comes with a full range of status boards that give us the ability to post and share information immediately. It's ready to go out of the box, but it also gives us the ability to customize it. We're also going to use ESiWebFUSIONTM for regional collaboration, as it enables our WebEOC system to communicate with the WebEOC systems in other counties. We're progressively improving our response capabilities with WebEOC and the lessons learned from previous events," Mr. Tear added.
Doug Bass, director of safety, security, and emergency management for the South Florida Water Management District, noted, "This WebEOC implementation is effective because each of the four counties will have its own individual view and then, through ESiWebFUSION, the counties will also openly share information that has regional impact. ESiWebFUSION also will enable outside WebEOC users, such as the Water Management District, to view and share information." In addition, ESiWebFUSION will enable WebEOC users in Florida to share critical data with WebEOC users in other coastal states promoting more collaboration and a cohesive response to major storms.
With over 2,300 miles of canals and levees and 2,200 water control facilities, the South Florida Water Management District protects regional water supplies and alleviates flooding in 16 Florida counties by managing and moving millions of gallons of water in and out of the Everglades and Lake Okeechobee.
"Now, when people report flooding to us or we are actually implementing flood control, we will be able to share all that information with the other counties. Because we can have such a huge impact on flood control, WebEOC will also enable us to share information on things like road closures so we will be able to get our employees where they need to be during a hurricane response," Mr. Bass said.
Broward County recently completed participation in a statewide disaster exercise that simulated the effects of a Category-5 storm. "We purchased WebEOC at the end of last year, and this was the first time we used it in an exercise," said Chuck Lanza, the county's director of emergency management. "We had over 225 WebEOC users in the emergency operations center and the system worked very, very well. There was a large group that needed training and after a quick 20-minute briefing, everyone was able to use the program. It's great that the four counties in the southeast region all are using WebEOC now, and it's my hope that the state will get on board with WebEOC soon so we'll all be able to operate under a common operating picture during our missions."