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Critical information for critical situations

Each year, tens of thousands of people around the world die in natural and human-caused disasters. In an emergency, the ability to obtain and track highly dynamic status information is crucial for control rooms, incident command centers (ICCs) and emergency operations centers (EOCs).

Researchers at Pacific Northwest National Laboratory have developed an innovative web-based operational status board (OSB) that allows the information regarding an emergency to be easily accessible to shelters, schools, hospitals and government offices. "In an emergency, getting the right information to the right people in time to make the right decisions can save lives and property," says Dave Millard, PNNL project manager.

OSB is a major component of EMADVANTAGEŠ, a PNNL-developed emergency management system that supports all phases of emergency management and makes information available with constant, dynamic updates via desktop computer, the Internet and personal digital assistants.

Historically, emergency workers used a checklist drawn on a whiteboard as a status board within the EOC or ICC that was routinely updated. As information technology spread, status boards graduated to electronic Word documents, Excel spreadsheets and Web pages.

These techniques are adequate for sharing information within a single room. But disasters can potentially impact many different emergency response organizations and public facilities. "The timely sharing of information must be provided between EOCs, ICCs, mobile command centers, joint information centers and key public facilities as well as the general public," Millard says. "Operational status boards directly support the timely sharing of information between components of a site's extended emergency response program."

OSB has the ability to display and update dynamic information simultaneously at the diverse locations involved in emergency management. Using OSB, decision makers and emergency personnel can control the access and distribution of status information among multiple users, identify and view new information regardless of location, add or update pertinent information and share it in real time. Additionally OSB allows decision makers to update the structure and organization of an existing status board and create new status boards to respond to changing events and needs.

A key feature of OSB is the notification mechanism. As users access and view individual status boards, the notification system tracks their entry and automatically marks them as a subscriber. As a subscriber, each user will automatically receive notification of any new information relating to that specific status board.

OSB enables access to the information at an EOC from any personal computer with Internet access and a secure identification.



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