Project casebook: Emergency planning

Wireless examines how technology is helping public services cope with local incidents and natural disasters

Project casebook: Emergency planning

SEPA on red alert for floods

Those at risk of flooding in Scotland are set to benefit from a new early warning system already used by the likes of Birmingham City Council in the UK.

From April, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) will begin using a geographical mapping and multi-channel communications service from specialist public sector emergency warning systems firm HTK as part of a five-year, multimillion pound deal it has inked with them and BT Business to deliver Floodline Warnings Direct.

While BT supplies the helpdesk and contractual framework for the solution, HTK’s Horizon will be managing flood warnings and tailoring responses to the level of threat and specific target area.

Horizon then automatically sends out emergency messages, cascading them from a single system, to mobiles or landlines via automated voice calls, SMS, email or pager to people that have registered for the service.

Up till now, flood warnings have been issued to the police and published on Floodline, an online and recorded message service, in a predominantly manual process using phone and fax.

The new system, which runs through a standard web browser, will involve the creation of a fully-managed, hosted multimedia platform for recording and automatically disseminating flood warnings throughout Scotland to partner organisations like the police, fire and rescue, local authorities and the public.

Professor James Curran, SEPA’s director of science and strategy, believes that the deal represents a significant core investment in communications technology.

‘Together we are building the Floodline Warnings Direct service, which will be at the heart of providing the people of Scotland, at home or in their businesses, with a better flood warning service to help them to take action and reduce the impact of flooding on their lives,’ he says.

CCTV helps North Lanarkshire to protect and reinvest

When North Lanarkshire Council (NLC) decided it needed an improved and more cost-effective method of monitoring local incidents it decided upon a wireless communications network designed and built by MLL Telecom.

With everything from accidents to incidents of anti-social behaviour to monitor, Lanarkshire opted for over 20 mobile CCTV cameras that can be mobilised and used to monitor various locations and events.

Costing a fraction of the fixed-site cameras that they compliment, these mobile cameras enable specific targeting and longer-term monitoring as and when required.

NLC set up North Lanarkshire CCTV Limited to look after its CCTV network of over 300 public space CCTV cameras covering seven town centres, housing estates and schools. The wireless network itself consists of five node points mounted around the local authority area that together provides coverage for more than 100 square miles and its Wi-Fi-enabled cameras.

As Emma Walker, company manager at North Lanarkshire CCTV Limited puts it: ‘There are pockets of anti-social behaviour – youth gathering, fights, and demonstrations that change frequently, so we needed a cost-effective way to address these. The best solution for us was to use mobile CCTV cameras that can quickly be deployed and then moved as requirements change.’

Although its primary focus has been on providing 24/7 public space CCTV monitoring services in support of community safety, crime reduction and regeneration, an added bonus has come in the form of new commercial contracts for tailored remote monitoring solutions, with any revenue from these being reinvested back into the CCTV network and associated services.

Walker says that North Lanarkshire CCTV also carries out special operations where necessary on behalf of Strathclyde Police.

‘The revenue generated from commercial contracts is used to invest back into council monitoring services to provide communities with peace of mind, ensuring North Lanarkshire remains a pleasant and safe place to live, work and visit,’ she says.

Headquarters Land Forces harnessing the power of GIS in times of national crisis

When natural disasters, such as the floods in Tewkesbury, strike, they often happen without warning and leave the police force and emergency services stretched to the limit. Thankfully, in the UK we can call upon Headquarters Land Forces (HQ LF) to help.

HQ LF is responsible for coordinating military support for the UK during exceptional circumstances such as natural disasters, terrorist incidents and more often, strikes.

Of course, directing forces in such times requires information to hand and mobile and Geographic Information Systems (GIS) in particular have helped open the door to real-time planning and response to every eventuality.

To do this, HQ LF is using ArcGIS software from ESRI, which allows them to build complete GIS containing data, maps and models on the desktop, serve them to a GIS server, and then send them to the desktop or mobile via GPRS.

Already widely used by the UK defence community, ArcGIS, provides a simple mapping interface that can be used via the various parties to relay information being complied to those in the office and those out at the scene of the incident.

Those working within HQ LF are also able to compile military information from all divisions of the army across the UK, including the locations of camps and medical facilities, sharing this with those in the public sector also using the solution.

This means that the HQ LF liaises with the likes of the Department for Communities and Local Government, fellow ESRI GIS users, transferring relevant data between departments on things like fuel installations and police boundaries.
As a result of this, LUNDY, the Army’s GIS-driven portal solution, is now accessible to anyone in the Army on the restricted security level of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) intranet. This means that in times of emergency everyone gets exactly the same view on what’s occurring as it happens.

To support response teams HQ LF also uses LUNDY to generate hard copy briefing maps and can link it in to video conferencing systems, enabling commanders to view maps of specific locations onscreen and share them in real time with planning teams close to an incident.

LUNDY has already seen action during the floods in Gloucestershire – where the British army used it to effectively share situational understanding during rising water levels – and during the fire service strikes where the army was called upon to operate fire engines in several regions of the country. It proved to be particularly useful for finding out if a fire was near a hazardous site.

Written by Wireless magazine
Wireless magazine

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