UBCV deploys web-based communications system

In the event of an emergency, UBCV officials will be able to use DLAN's web-based communications system to monitor, assign and track equipment and assets, and better manage the crisis.

Leading up to the Special Olympics Canada 2014 Summer Games, the University of British Columbia Vancouver (UBCV) deployed Buffalo Computer Graphics Inc.'s DisasterLAN (DLAN), a web-based communications system for use in an emergency.

DLAN is a console for coordinating responders in an emergency situation. The console can be used to distribute critical incident information to key staff via mobile phones or tablets. UBCV purchased the system in June and set up a rapid installation and training schedule to have the system up and running for the Special Olympics, which took place from July 8 to 12. This rapid installation was negotiated in a package worked out between the company and UBCV.

The campus hosted many of the Special Olympics sporting events, which drew several thousand athletes and supporters. The university security operations staff is responsible for 50,000 students and over 14,000 faculty and staff members, as well as 9,000 residents of the University Neighborhoods Association and almost 600 buildings, homes and facilities in and around the UBCV campus.

The school also hosts a number of large events every year which, like the Special Olympics, bring large numbers of attendees. These events, along with the complicated infrastructure described above, bring a wide variety of risk management, planning and emergency response responsibilities.

UBCV needed scalable emergency management system

Before deploying DLAN, emergency management was not administrated with an automated communications system. But according to Reg Fountain, manager of UBCV's Emergency Management & Continuity Planning and Risk Management Services department, UBCV's overall emergency management responsibilities had grown over the past few years, so the group began investigating a more scalable solution.

According to Buffalo, DLAN has been developed in a modular fashion and can be adapted to suit the needs of a variety of organizations, such as government and corporate EOCs, hospitals, nuclear power facilities, and a variety of other industries. The DLAN software is available in four flavors -- Emergency Manager, Local Responder, Enterprise and Healthcare Responder. Each can be further tweaked by purchasing additional modules depending on specific needs. The company offers one year of support, training, installation, configuration, system integration and system customization to all customers. According to Fountain, support continues as long as you pay annual maintenance fees, which are calculated based on percentage of the cost of the modules deployed.

UCBV chose the Local Responder version and Fountain said that it has already allowed the emergency management department to ensure increased preparedness for major disaster events.

"We instituted a resource tracking capability using the software, which allows the group to monitor, assign and track equipment and assets in the event of an emergency," Fountain said. "[DLAN also] allows the emergency management department to better estimate and understand the costs associated with the events." Fountain said that they are also looking at mirroring human resources information from UCBV, which would allow them to identify and locate key personnel in the event of an emergency situation.

"While there are plenty of ENS products in the market I haven't personally seen anything like this -- with the additional emergency management modules," said Paul Kirvan, an independent disaster recovery consultant. "It seems to be an interesting and flexible product. My concern [when evaluating a product of this type] would be in the areas of technical and admin support, security, system access, user training and ease of use in an emergency situation."

Although they haven't yet used the system in an emergency, Fountain said that it is "intuitive to use with an interface that is similar to Microsoft office products."

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