State Emergency Service CIO pre-positions mobile command centers to manage floods

The NSW State Emergency Service is pre-positioning mobile command centres - including PCs and wireless broadband-powered LANs - to help manage expected floods. The organisation is also looking at the iPad, Samsung Galaxy and other tablets to help during future incidents.

The New South Wales State Emergency Service (NSW SES) has pre-positioned computers and networks it needs to manage floods expected to hit the State’s north in coming days and weeks.

“We have a lot of kit that we keep on standby,” NSW SES CIO Andrew Edwards told SearchCIO ANZ. “They’re mobile operations centers that we can move around and set up as needed.”

“This coming weekend we expected a lot of flooding around Lismore so we deployed a lot of technology up there to manage it.”

“We can also see the floods in Queensland,” and as the flooded rivers in that State flow into NSW Edwards is already dispatching mobile operations centers to areas in NSW that are likely to be affected.“We either ship it with a courier, or stick it on a helicopter,” he said.

The command centers ship in what Edwards described as “crash cases” and include laptop computers, wireless broadband routers and switches to establish a local area network on site. The SES has created these configurations and packs them away so they can be deployed ready for use as and when needed. Many of the organisation’s 226 units also posses electricity generators that can provide power if mains electricity is not available during an emergency.

The laptops are pre-configured with the same application used in the SES’ call center and many offices. Citizens in need of assistance call to notify the SES of their needs, and the software includes a despatch system that allocates jobs to the appropriate unit. If that unit is using the mobile operations centre, the experience is therefore the same as it would be if they were in their office. Using the same software therefore means staff and volunteers can be trained on a single application, whether or not they are working from their local headquarters.

The SES is also considering how mobile technology might assist it to take its applications even further into the field.

“We’re trialling the iPad,” Edwards said. “We’re also having a look at the Samsung Galaxy, and there’s an HP tablet we want to have a look at.”

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