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Emergency management processes normally take place in an Emergency Operations Center. Sometimes team members will be unable to get to the EOC or the EOC can be compromised by the emergency. A virtual EOC can greatly benefit the communication and coordination that needs to take place in support of response and recovery activities.
Definition: A “Virtual Emergency Operations Center” (VEOC) is an EOC that exists solely or partially in cyberspace. A VEOC provides an electronic EOC via a computer network or the Internet. It can consist of anywhere from one workstation to thousands of networked computers dispersed throughout the enterprise and around the globe. The first versions of VEOCs were simple information systems based on fixed and mobile wireless networks. Modern VEOCs utilize the latest Internet technology as well as Virtual Private Networks, and satellite communications.
"Virtual EOC" is a concept wherein command center participants can share information, make decisions, and deploy resources without the requirement to be physically present in the command center. Typically using web-enabled software, a Virtual EOC allows participants to work from their normal workstation, from home, or from the field. Emergency plans and reports are available from any location. In fact, all information can be maintained in a central database that is available to command center participants from anywhere in the world.
An EOC is “virtual" when participants can share information, make decisions, and deploy resources without the requirement to be physically present in the EOC. Typically using web-enabled software, a Virtual VEOC allows participants to work from their normal workstation, from home, or from the field. Emergency plans and reports are available from any location. In fact, all information can be maintained in a central database that is available to VEOC participants from anywhere in the world.
A VEOC will permit effective direction and control of resources, automate processes and methodologies, assign and track tasks, and efficiently communicate real-time information. In addition, if configured properly, a VEOC can protect communication and data with needed redundancy, security, and flexibility.
Virtual EOCs can use a variety of technology and communications options:
- Internet, Intranet/VPN, wireless
- Radio, cellular, satellite
- Members participate as appropriate
- Automated journaling
- Access to plans & data
Two-way communications are an essential element of a VEOC. The VEOC must use a structured mechanism for receiving and sending information. Conference calls, e-mails and automated systems are generally used to communicate. The automated systems can use standard categories to route reports to the appropriate positions. 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.
Most EOC software solutions utilize the Internet for connectivity outside the EOC. The Internet is redundant by design but there are some single point-of-failure issues that must be addressed. Redundancy can be achieved by using multiple ISPs, having multiple communication network providers and by utilizing satellite communications. High-speed communications via satellite is a solution for both fixed and mobile command units. Satellites services can provide high speed telecommunications even if wire line systems are disrupted.
With a message sorting and distribution capability, emergency managers can track and log multiple and varied notifications and ensure that the right information gets to the right individual. There are a number of commercial services that provide solutions. See more information in the links section. The services typically support messaging devices such as e-mail, phones, cell phones, and two-way, and one- way paging devices as well as intergraded alpha receivers for managing data driven messaging. Subscribers can receive text notifications of severe weather and other emergency notifications and alerts which are geographically specific.
A Virtual EOC can be a core concept of operations or an adjunct to a traditional EOC. Participants can share information, make decisions, and deploy resources without the requirement to be physically present in the operations center. A Virtual EOC can allow participants to work from their normal workstation, from home, or from the field with data, information and plans available from any location.
Making Your Command Center a Success (Word Document)
Virtual Command Centers (Risk Management Magazine)
Alert Technology offers Ops Center. A complete web-based incident management tool.
Emergency Manager offers a web-based product by the same name.
E-team provides an Internet system that runs on Lotus Notes.
Essential Technologies offers Incident Master, another Web-based crisis management application.
The Public Safety Group offers a system called EM/2000.
Strohl Systems makes business continuity software including Incident Manager.
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.
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.
3n Emergency Notification System - automated notification system for emergency and non-emergency communications.
Maptech MapServer - great topographical maps for any location.
Aerial One provides High Speed Mobile Satellite Internet Solutions.