Monroe County is the third largest county in New York with more than 740,000 residents. The county seat is Rochester, home to a number of international businesses, such as Bausch & Lomb, Eastman Kodak, Paychex and Xerox. Potential hazards include severe winter weather, air and rail accidents and problems on the four interstate highways that cross the county, including the New York State Thruway.
“We also have the Ginna nuclear power plant in neighbouring Wayne County, and over 35,000 of our residents live in the ten-mile emergency planning zone,” said Fred Rion, Associate Emergency Manager, Monroe County Office of Emergency Management.
WebEOC for Emergency Management
Before Monroe County purchased WebEOC in 2011, they didn’t use a formal crisis information management system. Information was displayed using white boards or through Access or Excel spreadsheets. “Wayne County already had WebEOC, as did the Ginna nuclear plant, but we still went through a detailed, two-year review before selecting WebEOC,” Rion said. “Now that we’ve been using WebEOC, Mapper Professional, and Resource Manager for more than a year, we think they’re great. We’re looking forward to getting WebEOC Fusion in our new EOC for information sharing with other WebEOC-equipped agencies and FEMA.”
Planning for a problem at the Ginna plant revolves around Emergency Response Planning Areas (ERPAs) near the plant. Monroe County has nine ERPAs; Wayne County has seven. “If we are running an exercise or we’re faced with a radioactive leak, based on things like wind direction, we may have to evacuate or shelter in place one or more of these ERPAs,” Rion explained.
In the past, they would use a map on a white board to identify an evacuation. Today, a specialised WebEOC board enables plant and county managers to view, in a map format, the status and protective actions being implemented at all the ERPAs, and view a live feed for weather and wind direction around the plant. “It’s so much easier now to create situational awareness and get the word out to multiple agencies and jurisdictions at the same time,” Rion said. “We’ve made WebEOC available to 19 towns, ten villages, and the city of Rochester, plus all the hospitals and universities in the county. We’ve also created custom boards for them so they’ll use it on a daily basis and we can see what’s going on in their environments." The town of Irondequoit has WebEOC access in their fleet of over 40 police vehicles.
Rion’s team conducts monthly WebEOC training for newbies and their 9-1-1 Centre operators, who will also be their Resource Manager experts. “On a day-to-day basis, we use WebEOC to share information through the Significant Events, Event Reporting Log, and Road Closures boards, and we use our Special Events board to monitor all the festivals that happen in the county.”
Rion praised WebEOC at a recent state-wide meeting of county emergency managers and he also offered access and training on the system to New York State Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services staff.
WebEOC for Public Health
The Monroe County Office of Public Health Preparedness manages the county’s response to large-scale public health emergencies. In 2007, they adopted a Civil Preparedness Initiative—a plan that created Point of Dispensing (POD) sites where medications are distributed in the event of a health emergency. To date, 36 PODs have been created.
“We involved all of our municipalities and they run these locations,” said Mike Sayers, Program Manager. “From location data to letters of agreement, contact information to exercise updates, the initiative created a ton of paper work to maintain. A WebEOC board gives us a great way to accomplish it all because we will train the municipalities to manage and update their own data.”
“Critical to the success of this was an easy-to-use interface for these end users,” said Shaun Sharp, Public Health Emergency Preparedness Specialist. “The end users get a one-day class and they’re ready to go.”
A grading system enables Sayers and Sharp to instantly view the readiness of each POD. “Remember that prior to WebEOC, we had these 36 plans in 36 different three-ring binders in our office, not in the EOC,” Mr. Sayers said. “Now we can call it up in WebEOC and see it all in seconds,” Sharp noted. “In the event of a large-scale public health emergency, such as an anthrax incident or radiological accident, we can come down to the EOC and as the incident unfolds, we can call up the information, open up additional PODs as needed and, with the grading system, see which PODs are prepared and ready to go.”
The county also has more than 450 special-needs facilities, such as nursing homes. “These people can’t get to a POD, so we’ve tied their data in WebEOC into Mapper Professional, enabling us to pull up a map with icons listing all the pre-identified, special-needs facilities in the affected section,” Sayers said. “WebEOC is an incredible information management tool that gives us the ability to integrate public health data with emergency management—and I can’t overstate the benefits of OEM and public health sharing the same common operating picture.”