Emergency Operation Centers (EOCs)


Emergency Operations Centers


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What is an EOC? 
EOC Design
Incident Command System
Event Information Tracking 
EOC Software 
Decision Making 
EOC Links
Notification Systems

See a PowerPoint Presentation on Designing EOCs.  

Source: Seattle Emergency Management

A critical part of the emergency management process involves preparing to operate an Emergency Operations Center.  A well-designed EOC can greatly benefit the coordination of response and recovery activities. Clear operating procedures, staff roles, and responsibilities are required as is an effective workspace and a safe location. 

EOC Consulting Services

All Hands Emergency Management Consulting provides Emergency Operation Center (EOC) Review and EOC Vulnerability and Capability Assessment services. They review your existing EOC and help you improve it both physically and operationally including development of your EOC organization, writing your Operations Manual, and developing Staff Action Guides for each EOC Position. They will also help you with training, software selection, and EOC design services.

What is an EOC?

Definition: An EOC is the physical location where an organization comes together during an emergency to coordinate response and recovery actions and resources. These centers may alternatively be called command centers, situation rooms, war rooms, crisis management centers, or other similar terms. Regardless of the term, this is where the coordination of information and resources takes place. The EOC is not an incident command post; rather, it is the operations center where coordination and management decisions are facilitated.

EOC Design

A properly designed Emergency Operations Centers (EOC) should serve as an effective and efficient facility for coordinating emergency response efforts. An EOC may serve a number of uses including operations, training, meetings and other uses. The EOC can optimize communication and coordination by effective information management and presentation.

Incident Command System

The Incident Command System (ICS) provides a management structure and system for conducting emergency operations. It is applicable to small scale daily operational activities as well as major mobilizations. ICS, provides EOC and operational staff with a standardized operational structure and common terminology.  Because of this, ICS provides a useful and flexible management system that is particularly adaptable to incidents involving multi-jurisdictional or multi-disciplinary responses. ICS provides the flexibility needed to rapidly activate and establish an organizational format around the functions that need to be performed.

See a white paper on the ICS in Word format.

Event Information Tracking

Managing response and recovery operations involves a tremendous amount of information.  The EOC's job is to collect this information and to manage and control event information and response activities.  Typically, the information flow will look something like this:

1. Incident occurs

2. Notification sent to staff

3. Status evaluated by EOC managers

4. EOC activated, Incident Log opened 

5. SOPs implemented using checklists

6. Tasks assigned according to plan

7. Resource allocation (tracked in log)

8. Task performance (tracked in log)

9. Status briefings and updates to stakeholders

Information Management

All of this information will need to be managed and documented.  A strong information management system will be a must. Emergency Managers need to provide a robust command, control, and monitoring function that will:

  • Above all else - be easy and efficient to use
  • Collect failure information to allow rapid and early contingency response
  • Track multiple incidents and resources
  • Communicate activities across the enterprise
  • Provide documentation capability

Good information management tools can help contingency managers create and organize their plans as well as in exercising and executing them. While contingency plans often end up in binders or files, a good information management system can make plans and supportive materials easily available to managers.

Of course, in operating our command center, good command center software will make your life much easier.  The software should be able to perform all of the following functions:

  • Operate an Alert Network
  • Event Alert Evaluation and Triage
  • Incident Logging
  • Team Tasking
  • Resource Deployment and Monitoring
  • Status Boards
  • Executive Briefings
  • Documentation

The Ideal Information System

The ideal EOC would be an easy to use and robust information and decision management system that provides:

  • Central command and control
  • Early alert communications 
  • Functionality as a "Virtual EOC".
  • Secure data sharing over the Internet and other networks.
  • Event tracking and logging
  • SOP and contingency plan check-off lists
  • Resource management
  • Documentation of response actions 

EOC Software

Software can help you effectively manage the vast amount of information that is generated during a crisis.  The ideal information system would create a "virtual emergency operations center", turning every desktop in the organization into an intelligence-gathering and reporting workstation. The information management system must be able to provide:

Two-way communications…a structured mechanism for receiving and sending information. Standard categorizations will be needed to route reports to the appropriate position in the Command Center.  Emergency managers should be able to centrally receive and evaluate this event information from both inside and outside the enterprise. The system should help manage this information in real-time and keep records of events as they unfold.

Automated response and recovery checklists... for all of their major functions to ensure that the recovery is complete. The key is to put an automated checklist in the hands of the right person anywhere and everywhere in the organization. Make it easy for them to send the checklist results as data and make it easy for managers to see the progress in executive reports.

Alert notifications… with a sophisticated message sorting and distribution capability so managers can track and log multiple and varied notifications and ensure that the right information gets to the right individual.

EOC Decision Making

Strong management will be needed during EOC operations. EOCs should be activated as soon as possible to ensure that rapid decision making can occur. During the incident response phase, the real-time tracking of incidents and response resources is critical. Resources may be in short supply while multiple requests for services pile up. An operations log capability in needed to fulfill the requirement of documenting, tracking, and managing the response to an infinite number of concurrent incidents.

Conclusion

You can be certain that good planning and preparedness now will improve emergency response and speed the recovery process.  Having good plans in place, drilling on them and using a robust information management system to implement and track their execution will prove to be invaluable, no matter what the problem.

If you need assistance,  DavisLogic provides EOC software selection and implementation services. Contact us for more information.



Books

Exercise Alternatives For Training Emergency Management Command Center Staffs

Articles

Making Your Command Center a Success (Word Document)

Virtual Command Centers (Risk Management Magazine)

The Incident Command System (ICS) in (Word format)

Information Systems for Crisis Management in Areas of Controversy

Emergency Operations Center Software

Alert Technology offers Ops Center. A complete web-based incident management tool.

Blue292 offers a Emergency Management application and provides personal protection equipment and safety supplies.

Emergency Manager offers a web-based product by the same name.

Emergency Services integrators are the makers of WebEOC - designed to bring real-time emergency information management to any size Emergency Operations Center.

E-team provides an Internet system that runs on Lotus Notes.

Essential Technologies offers Incident Master, another Web-based crisis management application.

SoftRisk touts an incident driven design.

The Public Safety Group offers a system called EM/2000.

Strohl Systems makes business continuity software including Incident Manager.

Notification Systems

Alertcast - Offers an emergency notification service that facilitates contingency planning, emergency preparedness, and disaster recovery.

Cascade International Technologies offers RapidReach - Automated Notification System. 

Community Alert Network, Inc. (CAN) is a high-speed, telephone emergency notification company that gives you the ability to get critical information to large numbers or a precise number of people in a short period of time. CAN uses the latest in computer, telephone and digitized voice technology.

E-Alert USA - a fee-based service that provides emergency notification messages via any e-mail enabled device. 

The Emergency E-mail Network - a free service that provides notification of an emergency by e-mail, cell phone or pager
from local, regional and national agencies.

Dialogic Communications Corporation 

3n Emergency Notification System - automated notification system for emergency and non-emergency communications.

The  DAPage Notification Server - designed to enable large groups of users carrying a diverse set of wired and wireless devices to receive an alpha message quickly and concisely from a single inbound message. 

AtHoc Emergency Notification - emergency alerting and warning systems for mass notification, first response and critical communications.

Other Links

All Hands Consulting offers an array of EOC and emergency management services that can assist customers in maximizing the effectiveness of their EOC. All Hands has developed a comprehensive EOC Review methodology using a 44-page assessment tool that provides a complete report and comprehensive recommendations for improvements.

PowerPoint Presentation on Designing EOCs.  

Maptech MapServer - great topographical maps for any location. 


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Last updated: Sunday, October 30, 2005 09:49 AM

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