Being prepared and informed is a vital element in reducing the impact of any emergency event. This is why, last year, the Thames Valley Local Resilience Forum (TVLRF) announced that it had selected the Everbridge software platform to support its operational resilience and help it to deploy crucial information during emergencies.
The fire service in the Thames Valley area is part of TVLRF’s remit, and as such, it will receive targeted notifications from the outset and during an incident, helping it to respond appropriately and in conjunction with other emergency services.
The reason that TVLRF chose to move to the Everbridge software platform was because its previous manual system was proving to be slow, inefficient and liable to error. It consisted of basic call sheets to contact emergency service and other partner agencies, and email, which was not effective if there was an urgent need to notify key personnel out of hours, especially during the night or if they were on leave. Whilst this had not impacted their ability to respond to a major incident, the risk was something that needed to be mitigated against.
TVLRF is using Everbridge to initiate and maintain a multi-agency response across different response structures to ensure that all partners are kept informed. The system is used to raise partners’ awareness of incidents, invite them to join teleconferences to share and discuss incidents that are unfolding, and then finally notify all parties when the incident is finished.
Everbridge allows any Category 1 Responder the ability to activate a notification if they consider it necessary, and they have access to a variety of message templates with the option to pre-select which recipient receives which message.
Undoubtedly, other organisations involved in multi-agency response – including fire, police and ambulance services, local authorities and health and environment agencies – benefit from automated solutions that improve communication and co-ordination and lower the risk factors. The fact is that clear communication, delivered in real-time can make an enormous difference in emergency situations.
A phased approach to incident lifecycle management
TVLRF is one of Everbridge’s more recent projects, but since 2002 the company has worked with over 4,800 organisations across the world using communications to keep people safe and operations running.
Everbridge has evolved its platform to provide agencies with a comprehensive solution for managing the full life cycle of a major incident. This Everbridge platform can orchestrate operational communications within the agency as well as public alerts to keep those affected informed.
The benefits to using a comprehensive platform to manage emergencies come from the control it delivers across the different phases:
Phase 1 – Visualise and assess
When initiating an emergency response, the first step is to aggregate situational intelligence by collecting information from all the relevant data sources including CCTV cameras, calls to 999, social media posts and even visual data from on-the-scene smartphone users. The system then consolidates this data to generate a unified view or ‘single pane of glass’ of the entire incident. This delivers powerful visualisation and orchestration capabilities that enable emergencies to be managed quickly and efficiently.
Phase 2 – Locate
To ensure those at risk can be targeted with accurate safety information and can respond effectively, the next step is to locate the site of the incident and map the zone affected by it. This might be areas still populated by people, who need to be dispersed or evacuated, and it will also help to direct personnel to the areas where they are most needed. The Everbridge platform has the ability to dynamically locate people using multiple methods so that any threat to them is based on where they really are located, not just a static office or home location. Key decision makers from the fire service, for example, can use this data to determine precisely who is at risk, and decide on the right actions to ensure they can be kept safe.
Phase 3 – Act
Once the situation has been assessed and those at risk located, action can be taken to manage and mitigate the emergency. By leveraging an integrated system, response processes can be pre-defined by those in command via the platform. This can allow for both those with sight of the overall picture and those on the ground to instantly communicate and share relevant information to make vital decisions.
Phase 4 – Communicate
Effective communication not only forms the basis of the successful management and mitigation of emergency events but can also avert an escalating crisis. Location-based alerting technology allows messages to be delivered to all people in a danger area, giving them information about where to go, and asking them to respond to ensure the message has been received. Public alerting systems work in tandem with emergency-management teams, delivering information via multiple contact paths, such as text, voice, email, digital signage, even sirens. Connectivity can be interrupted, particularly in crisis situations, so every channel of communication needs to be made available.
Phase 5 – Analyse
Once an incident has been resolved, it is imperative that the emergency services take the time to analyse the response times and incident time-to-resolution data for measuring and assessment. This information will provide the vital insight necessary to learn from emergency incidents and improve response times and resourcing for future events.
Notifying targeted populations
Fire services are often faced with large-scale incidents that involve communicating with multiple people and agencies, so as well as managing the crisis, it is also beneficial if they can deploy a targeted message to those affected or those who can help.
The main benefits of public alerting systems are their accessibility from any device, from laptops through to smartphones, so communications can be set up easily and deployed quickly. In addition, they can be fully automated to synchronise with organisational databases, so for example, all fire service personnel, or selected groups within a county or a city could potentially be accessed in order to send alerts or messages. An effective public alerting system can also enable multiple languages to be used.
In Northern California in October 2017, damaging wildfires resulted in 245,000 acres in flames and 100,000 people evacuated. The Everbridge system was used to send over 28 million messages in both English and Spanish via SMS, email and voice giving timely advice on evacuation orders, evacuation routes, shelters, hospital availability, re-entry and how to clean up. Crucially, the system ensures that if a response to a message is not received from the recipient, there are multiple other ways of reaching them until they do respond, so nobody is left behind.
Selecting the best solution
Fire-safety teams, and other emergency responders, can choose from many technology options to help them prepare, make better decisions and respond quickly and confidently to fire events and emergencies. The most important factor, however, is the ability to not just send outward alerts and communications but to receive a response, to have access to pre-set templates to suit multiple emergency scenarios at different phases, and access to real-time intelligence and situational awareness that puts the emergency service more firmly in control from the start.
For more information, go to www.everbridge.com/platform/technology/