Miami-Dade County Uses Scala for Quick Disaster Management Updates
When a natural disaster or terrorist threat strikes Southern Florida, the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) for Miami-Dade County springs into action. The OEM coordinates all aspects of disaster management for Miami-Dade County, including the organization of public safety, fire and medical services, road traffic situations and updates on shelters for displaced residents.
To ensure that critical information is rapidly updated, OEM needed a software system that could display immediate changes. For this, OEM turned to Scala to continuously update information without service interruptions.
Scala software is used to display live information on five plasma screens set up for specific sections of OEM’s Emergency Operations Center (EOC), each concentrating on different elements of a disaster situation.
The EOC contains 72 seats occupied by representatives of each agency or function to ensure that the community’s needs are met. In times of peak emergency, between 200 and 300 people crowd into the EOC, including government officials and the media.
“We gather all of the information to get a true picture of the disaster, assess the needs of the community and then distribute scarce resources,” said Bill Johnson, OEM’s Assistant Director. “Scala’s software allows us to respond to information as soon as it is available, something that becomes incredibly important in times of disaster.”
Scala is used to update the five information service screens that include Miami-Dade County’s areas of human services, public safety, infrastructure and operations. Because response time is critical for the OEM, four operators collect and update details via keyboards, and data are simultaneously updated and displayed on the screens.
Key areas include the capacity of all of the area shelters, public safety board listings of the location and hours of curfews, possible automobile traffic issues, road and bridge closings, as well as, power and communication interruptions. The large operations screen provides the overall snapshot of what has already been done, as well as future plans.
“It is essential for the people at these tables to know what the others are doing. So we have five status boards that are continually updated,” Johnson said.
Prior to our use of Scala, we relied on flip charts and dry erase markers, pieces of paper and projection monitors. Having someone brush by a board and accidentally wipe off our disaster plans had been known to happen.
Johnson added that Scala allows for a better, quicker snapshot of the status of an incident. “Scala has markedly improved our ability to gather and disseminate information and respond effectively as information changes.”