Microsoft on Emergency Response

I am at a Microsoft event in Christchurch (New Zealand), co-presented by Intergen New Zealand. The event is focused on how to use various Microsoft technologies for emergency response. You can learn more about the initiative at Microsoft Citizen Safety Architecture, at www.microsoft.com/csa. The architecture describes how to use various Microsoft technologies to support agencies and organizations focused on citizen safety. There’s about 50 people here for the 2 hour session.

Some of the Microsoft platforms included in the architecture are Microsoft SharePoint, Exchange, Groove, InfoPath, Office Communications Server, Virtual Earth, and more. The idea is to leverage what organizations already have, and bring it together in an overall architecture.

A video of Strong Angel III was shown, a response demonstration is San Diego. Strong Angel was a 5 day event, focused on how different organizations would work together under an emergency. Groove was a key focus of the video, looking at how bi-directional synchronization between different systems could be supported. The Simple Sharing Extensions (SSE) to RSS was discussed, as well as the SPOT watch for notifications and alerts.

Microsoft Innovation Centre
The Microsoft Innovation Centre was established in August 2002 to support innovating ideas from government agencies. The centre has funded 28 projects since 2002, and Microsoft puts up to $1 million a year into the Center (in New Zealand). Some of the projects are:
– Government Address Book (NZ Fire) … how to automate the sharing of contacts in Active Directories from different organizations, in a federated way.
– TVNET News Capture (MFAT) … a system to record news feeds and teletext information, and store this for later access.
– Mobile Incident Location COP (NZ Police) … how to visualize information on top of a map, eg, a chemical fire, combined a live feed of wind direction, to ascertain threat areas. It can include presence from OCS to support contactability.

Emergency Management e-Forms Prototype
This is another project that was sponsored by the Microsoft Innovation Centre, in conjunction with a variety of civil defense organizations in Christchurch. The local groups were looking for a way to manage communication between the central hub when an emergency hit, and all of the local agencies and people out in the field. Eg, the incident could be a fire, an oil spill, flooding, foot and mouth outbreak, or snow.

Before the new system:
– most information was captured in paper, thus manual processes
– difficult to share information between people
– wanted to automate some of the communication tasks

Went for SharePoint, as it allows multiple people to view and work with the same information, and support automated workflow. Also InfoPath 2007, and Microsoft Live Services (for Virtual Earth).
– a user fills out a form on the web, which is submitted to SharePoint
– Virtual Earth is used to overlay geospatial information.

Tony showed a live demonstration of the prototype, with a couple of examples:
– filling out a form in the InfoPath 2007 client about an emergency, and then saving it back into a SharePoint list.
– creating a summary report in SharePoint, based on the data from multiple forms.

Next steps for this solution:
– making it production ready
– look at how this example can be extended based on what’s known within the Citizen Safety Architecture.
– evaluate enhanced reporting

All of this is available in a Kick Start pack, from Microsoft.

E-SPONDER Express
Rob Wolf, the President and CEO from E-SPONDER in the US is here to talk about their offerings for emergency response. The firm is exclusively focused on the Microsoft stack, and the firm is headquartered in St Louis MI. The reason for basing it on Microsoft technologies is the familiarity of the environment.

Rob showed a video on how the E-SPONDER system was used to support the SuperBowl in Tampa FL … the tracking of all incidents and all activities to support the Superbowl across multiple agencies.

The system supports events (known events) and incidents (unknown or surprise events). The challenge is how to take multiple communities of interest and bring them together in a single system. Aim is to help people communicate and work together, and collaborate towards a resolution.

The E-SPONDER technology allows things like:
– using multiple communication networks … even two-way radio … from a PC, to support person to person communication
– taking weather reports from one radio channel and broadcasting it on another radio channel
– within the E-SPONDER service, you create an event site to that everyone uses.
– provides links to all the resources about dealing with the event
– server-side InfoPath forms, for capturing data and getting them back into the system.
– there’s a script to generate an After Action Review.
– there’s a positional check list to tell people what they are expected to do during the event, eg, Medical Unit Leader. This provides a common and open way to quickly bring new people up-to-date with what’s involved in the role.
– broadcasting of messages to multiple people, with pre-defined response options.
– extension of the keywords lists, eg, for Incident types, can be done on the fly by authorized people.

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