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FutureShield and the University of Windsor joined forces with emergency responders to provide emergency operations centre software

April, 2011

EOCWindsor, Ontario - Three years ago Cynthia Weeden, CEO of FutureShield Inc., began working with the visionary team of Campus Police and Emergency responders at the University of Windsor. Director Robert Cowper (ret.), and Sgt. Chris Zelezney wanted to build a fully virtual Emergency Operations Centre. The University of Windsor now has one of Canada’s most sophisticated EOC’s in the area of integrated software for incident tracking, situational awareness, and mass notification.

In late 2010, the University decided to share their systems with the City of Windsor, County of Essex (and the 7 towns within) with the support of Phil Berthiaume, Emergency Management Coordinator for the County of Essex, and Fire Chief Dave Fields of the City of Windsor and their respective teams. This first of a kind Ontario regional implementation provided situational awareness and interoperability to the internal and external agencies who would be involved in a coordinated response (Police/Fire/EMS, Transport Canada, Red Cross, Hospitals, Canada Border Services, Elected officials, etc).

"We at the University of Windsor are excited in our role of hosting and expanding the software solution that will allow responding officials to share real-time information during an emergency situation. The solution provided by FutureShield allows us to establish a Web-based virtual Emergency Operations Centre, so we can access common situational maps and events posted by many area emergency responders. The University knows that the region and area stakeholders must work together in large-scale crises and now we have the platform to do this.

This year's exercise demonstrated a never-before seen ability to share situational information from anywhere the user logged in whether within Windsor/Essex/Detroit or external stakeholders from as far away as Ottawa. The region is becoming smaller, and that means safer, with more efficient knowledge and communication between emergency responders and now cross-border emergency agencies. We have never seen that before, and it's very exciting for the University and its community partners.”

- Sgt. Chris Zelezney – University of Windsor Campus Community Police

ScreenshotThe value of WebEOC was recently demonstrated as part of Exercise Central Gateway 1, a major exercise held on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday, February 22-24, 2011 by the City of Windsor, County of Essex, University of Windsor, and the City of Detroit. The purpose of this joint exercise was to test emergency preparedness and response during a mock terrorism event – one of the biggest Ontario exercises ever. With Windsor being so close to the US border and a vital traffic flow corridor for trade between the US and Canada, participants understood the value of securing their location for the economic well-being of Canada.

Ms. Weeden, with the assistance of the sub-contracting team from Emergeo™, was instrumental in coordinating the regional implementation of the ESi911 WebEOC™ and Emergeo™ Fusionpoint software within a 6 week period including training over 200 users. Fusionpoint™ is a role-based software that offers a customized dashboard view that assists the decision makers and operational team. It offers the ability to see live video feeds, GIS mapping, hazard modeling, activity logs, significant events (WebEOC™) and Mass Notification links (MIR3™) via a secure web portal. Fusionpoint™ offers a tailored made view for each role, which allows the ability to share the right information at the right time with the right people.

Training

Emergeo™ also integrated and tested the Multi-Agency Situational Awareness System (MASAS), which offers basic web hosted tools for posting and sharing information and alerts across jurisdictions, including US agencies. The primary objective of integrating MASAS into the exercise was to introduce responder agencies to the enhanced situational awareness afforded by MASAS, as well as assess the effectiveness of using the system for information exchange in the context of a multi-agency response and identify further improvements. MASAS was initially developed through the Geoconnections program at Natural Resources Canada. In 2009, Geoconnections entered into a partnership with the Defence R&D Canada - Centre for Security Science’s, receiving funding from its Public Security Technical Program to further evolve and operationalize MASAS.

In addition to providing an opportunity to test the performance of systems like WebEOC, Fusionpoint and MASAS in an operational setting, Exercise Central Gateway was also used to validate the capabilities that have been identified by the City of Windsor and Essex County through a federal pilot project. The project is funded by the Defence R&D Canada – Centre for Security Science (DRDC CSS) under the Chemical, Biological, Radiological-Nuclear, and Explosives (CBRNE) Research and Technology Initiative (CRTI). The purpose of the project is to apply capability-based planning (CBP) approaches to emergency and security planning, which basically involves comparing the capabilities you actually have to the ones you would need to respond to specific situations. This is accomplished through risk assessments and the development of threat scenarios, and the results help planners and decision-makers identify gaps and make more strategic decisions about where to direct future investments.

“Capability Based Planning (CBP) is all about planning, preparing and prioritizing how to prevent, protect, respond, and recover from potential events that jeopardize the safety and security of our country at a national, regional and local level.

CBP specifically is about building these strategies, within an economic framework, for situations of uncertainty that will provide capabilities suitable for a wide range of challenges. The Windsor-Essex 1st responders and area official have been pioneers in the development of Canada’s CBP.”

Tom St. Onge – Subject Matter Expert, on Contract to CRTI, DRDC CSS

EXERCISE CENTRAL GATEWAY 1

The scenarios in Windsor were based on 3 operational calls of the RCMP & OPP explosive disposal units that had occurred in other parts of Ontario and were re-enacted in the Windsor/Essex/Detroit x-border corridor. The first real threat that the exercise was based on was from an off-shore source consisting of the detonation of 5 LVBIED’s and 3 PBIED’s in the Toronto area. The threat was believed credible at the time, but later was deemed to be fraud and extortion. The 2nd threat was “The Toronto 17” a successfully investigated and prosecuted file involving a “Home grown” terrorist organization and the deployment of three 1 metric tonne LVBIED’s to attack CSIS, the Toronto Stock Exchange and the Department of National Defense. The 3rd was a threat received and believed credible at the time of an 18 wheeler headed to the Blue Water Bridge in Sarnia with a radiological device.

During the exercise, the OPP was able to show off two of their new hi-tech devices at the event. One is the “ROV” which is able to search under vessels for dangerous devices, and the other is the “Battle Wagon”. This robust robot is able to quickly and efficiently disarm a bomb by dispersing water at a high velocity towards the LVBIED. Further explosives capabilities were also exercised through a scenario, also funded by the CRTI, which aimed to validate activities related to intelligence gathering and analysis, equipment and procedures, as well as post event forensic and remediation processes. The scenario also provides an opportunity for participants to test the activation of a CBRNE Emergency Response Assistance Plan, as mandated by Transport Canada, in collaboration with other levels of government and industry.

This event was a “first” for many things, and it seemed to be the most-used phrase among participants: “first time” things were tried, “first time” to see something function in the field, “first time” to see something work. And one of the biggest “firsts” that were shown in this exercise is the realization that private industry, academia, government officials and first responders can work together to enhance and improve our ability to keep our nation safe and secure. With the incredible efforts among the exercise coordinators and participants, the government funding by organizations such as the DRDC Centre for Security Science and its CRTI and PSTP programs, with private industry like FutureShield offering their technology support and products, this exercise showed that this first will not be the last.

Download PDF: FutureShield and the University of Windsor joined forces with emergency responders to provide emergency operations centre software (April, 2011)

References

"We all did great at the Windsor/Essex EOCs, for the most part, and the Detroit EOC was impressed with how we could get info to them ahead of the game...their IT guys have it down pat there and assisted us with laptop and access. The Emergency Management software tools you provided worked excellent, when radios and other online communications failed! Bravo, and thanks for such a great solution, I am very impressed...especially the automatic updates, and link to MASAS."
- Dan Metcalfe, EW-EMS President OAEM - 2011

“Amazing work and support during all phases of initial IT consultation to long-term implementation. I could not have asked for a better level of service and professionalism which is ongoing. Never had a more client-focused and attentive service provision from any company before or since.”
- Sgt. C. Zelezney, Emergency Preparedness Coordinator - University of Windsor, Campus Community Police - April 21, 2010

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> University of Windsor’s Community Police receive the Microsoft Technology Innovation 2012 Award (MTIA) | Press Release (Feb. 28, 2012)

> Operation Central Gateway opens the door to emergency management improvements | Canadian Security Magazine (July 18, 2011)

> EXERCISE CENTRAL GATEWAY 1 | Official Press Release (Feb. 17, 2011)

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