In order to effectively manage the mile-wide "monster" tornadoes that tore through the state of Alabama on April 27, 2011, the Jefferson County Emergency Management Agency utilised its WebEOC systems. In the storm’s aftermath, the county’s Emergency Management Agency reported twenty deaths and identified 5,700 structures, including 4,800 homes, that were significantly damaged or destroyed. Ultimately, the tornadoes left a path of destruction across the state and killed more than 130 people. Emergency Management officials credited WebEOC for assisting throughout all of their recovery efforts.
Emergency ResponseJefferson County, Alabama, which has a population of 680,000 and Birmingham as its county seat, had more than 70 individuals in their EOC at the time of the storm. They tracked all of their responses to the storms in the WebEOC Mission Task Board. “We were lucky that our schools had been let out early, and many businesses had sent their employees home. We activated over 250 sirens and the media did a great job of warning people about the approaching storm,” said Allen Kniphfer, Emergency Management Coordinator for Jefferson County, Alabama.
“We moved street by street doing damage assessment on homes and buildings – and now we’ll go back and do building permit assessments so roofs can go back on and reconstruction can begin,” he said. “We’re using WebEOC Mapper Professional to track this activity. We can bring up the map and zoom in to see what we’ve done in each neighbourhood, down to each building.” In the middle of their response, Jefferson County staff were asked to support Tuscaloosa County whose emergency operations centre had been destroyed by the storm. “We deployed a mobile EOC to Tuscaloosa and operated it for them for two weeks, “ Mr. Kniphfer said. “We also sheltered and fed over 400 members of search and rescue teams that came from as far as Tennessee to help us.”
Aftermath & RecoveryThree days following the storm, the Jefferson County EMS switched from response to recovery. Yet, Mr. Knipher was not pleased with the process flow of their WebEOC system due to the lack of technology being used that would have made the entire process run much more efficiently. “Intermedix, as usual, stepped up to the plate, and sent two customer support specialists to help us,” Mr. Kniphfer said. “By the next day, they gave us a new Reporting and Mission/Task process and included new auxiliary processes like Points of Distribution (PODS), Damage Assessment, Road Closures, and the standard Situation Report. This enabled us to track what we needed to track, and gave us the accountability and simplicity we were looking for.”
“WebEOC is one of the better tools in the nation for tracking information, and it’s great for sharing information electronically so people are no longer writing everything down,” Mr. Kniphfer said.