EmerGeo to the Rescue (Tested During 2003 Fire Storm and Disaster Exercises)
Vancouver Company Puts New Mapping Technology to the Test
Vancouver, November 4, 2003: EmerGeo Solutions Inc. of North Vancouver, B.C. has developed a new internet-based emergency mapping application called “EmerGeo”.
EmerGeo was recently put to the test during a citywide disaster exercise in the City of Vancouver. A large wildland fire started by an overturned gasoline tanker caused the evacuation of hundreds of residents. To make matters worse, a gas main burst in the area released flammable materials into the air. This scenario was a smaller scale version of BC’s worst wildfires this summer.
EmerGeo was used to maintain a situation map for all the city emergency responders working in the Emergency Operation Centre. Fire, Police, Engineering and other departments could access their own version of these maps to plan their response actions and publish critical information such as evacuation areas and road closures to the situation map so all decision-makers had a common operating picture.
This web-based mapping program was also donated to the B.C. Ministry Regional Operations Centre (MROC) this summer in support of the fire fighting efforts. “We saw provincial government web sites describing evacuation alert areas by listing streets and landmarks as boundaries. We recognized that emergency planners could use this tool to effectively communicate critical information. Using EmerGeo, evacuation areas, locations of special needs populations who may need help evacuating, evacuation routes and other critical information can be communicated in real-time to anyone with approved access, a web browser with internet connection”, explains Mike Morrow of EmerGeo Solutions. “We were fortunate to be able to deliver mapping data with our application through a generous donation from a leading commercial mapping data supplier in Canada, DMTI Spatial Inc.”, Morrow states.
Electronic mapping (or Geographic Information Systems) is not new to emergency management. Some emergency response organizations can easily call upon technical experts to run mapping systems for them. Smaller organizations and communities are often the first line of defence in emergencies but typically do not have the in-house capabilities or financial resources to manage their own mapping system. EmerGeo can provide these groups with much needed capabilities.
A recent article in a leading US Homeland Security publication highlights some problems with existing mapping systems: “While emergency responders worked fast during the terrorist attacks on September 11th, they could have worked faster if the maps had arrived sooner. The problem was that none of the data was available in a central repository. It was located on individual desktops across the city. The GIS team had to go to where the data was, collect it — often on disk — and import it into the GIS laptops and desktops”. The article goes on to say: “The single most important lesson learned in New York City was that all of this data has to be brought together, Russ Johnson of ESRI says”. “Had a GOS ‘Geospatial One-Stop’ style system been available on Sept. 11th, emergency responders would have had instant electronic access to the data and the information the GIS mapping team had to assemble by hand.”
EmerGeo Solutions Inc. is a partnership of two B.C. companies, EMIS Technologies Inc. and Lookfar Solutions Inc. The companies’ founders have worked alongside emergency responders, often called in to emergency centres to run mapping programs. “The EmerGeo application is designed to be really simple to use, give users a single place to access mapping data they need from multiple sources across the Internet, yet able to operate even when the Internet is down. Emergency managers finally have a tool that allows them to access the right maps and information themselves without having to wait for the mapping experts to arrive”, states Tim Webb , one of EmerGeo’s designers. EmerGeo has recently been installed in the City of Vancouver’s Emergency Operation Centre and many government agencies and corporations are planning implementations.
EmerGeo Solutions, Inc. provides consulting services and fully integrated situation awareness technology solutions to help manage risk in Emergency Management, Environment Health & Safety, Security and Business Resilience for government and industry. Our EmerGeo software application provides all decision-makers with timely access to critical information and the decision-support tools needed before, during and after emergencies and major events.
EmerGeo’s unique managed Common Operating Picture (mCOP™) technology allows information stored in siloed systems to be shared securely and in a controlled way among work groups so that all decision-makers are working from the most up-to-date, accurate and validated information available. Our hosted Learning Management System (eLearning) ensures customers can implement our technology and best practices in a cost-effective manner.