California Office of Emergency Services|
California Office of Emergency Services Enhances Emergency Response Efforts with Lotus Notes
The California Governor's Office of Emergency Services coordinates state level disaster response in support of local government. During disasters, communication among the multiple levels of emergency response is critical in providing efficient response to those in need. Dealing with hundreds of resource requests simultaneously during a disaster response effort drove the need for a more efficient emergency response system.
OES' response effort had historically been managed by a time-consuming, manual, paper-based process. This method was slow and cumbersome and had been cited as needing improvement in disaster After-Action Reports. Incoming resource requests normally arrived via fax or telephone, and then were manually recorded, stored, analyzed, and prioritized.
"In the early stages of a disaster, there is a blizzard of resource requests coming into our offices," explains John Bowles, Chief, California OES Information Technology. "It was difficult to prioritize these requests, and for management to track requests to obtain a 'big-picture' overview of the response activities."
The generation of reports to the operational areas, Governor's Office, the Legislature, other state agencies, and the public, was also a labor-intensive process. Under the manual system, it was difficult to change report formats or sort information for individual groups or agencies, and significant time was wasted transferring and summarizing information from paper reports to the word processor.
After the emergency response is concluded, OES is mandated by law to generate After-Action Reports. OES spent an average of $25,000 per disaster on these reports alone. The paper-based system made it difficult to generate, access, and interpret historical records for accounting, legal, planning, and training purposes.
In order to increase the efficiency of emergency response in major disasters, OES needed to find a system that would improve its ability to respond to, manage, and coordinate requests for resources and collect, process, and disseminate information during and after a disaster.
"We were looking for the system to solve five primary business challenges," said Bowles. "It needed to eliminate the backlog of resource requests, the misdirection of resources, the lag time in status report generation, the duplication of effort of response and recovery personnel, and provide clear historical records for reporting, training and audits."
"Primarily, we required that the system allow us to communicate to all the different levels of emergency management without having to design a custom communication infrastructure," explains Bowles. "For universal usage by all the levels, the system needed to be cost-effective, intuitive, and easy to use and maintain. The system also needed to provide the functionality to allow personnel to use it for both emergency and everyday activities to ensure familiarity and proficiency when a disaster strikes."
Lotus Notes Response Information Management System (RIMS) Improving Disaster Response Efforts
"Notes not only met all of our requirements, but it was also the most cost-effective and user-friendly solution that we found," said Bowles. "In our in-depth research, we found that the development costs for Notes applications average 60 to 90 percent less than for the alternative technologies evaluated," said Bowles. "And, the training course only requires one day of our emergency personnel's valuable time, versus one to two weeks with the alternatives."
RIMS was used to coordinate the response to the 1997 New Year's and 1998 El Niņo flood disasters in California. Thousands of resources, as well as the developing situations, in over 48 counties were managed and tracked with RIMS. In addition, more than 50 minor disasters have been managed in Notes. Such incidents included fires, plane crashes, train derailments, the Yosemite rock slide, the Long Beach oil spill, winter storms, and tornadoes. Notes was even used in emergency contingency planning for the Republican National Convention. RIMS was recognized by the National Association of State Information Resource Executives (NASIRE) in its 1997 Technology Awards program, winning the award for Best State Government Client/ Server Application.
RIMS has been fielded to over 75 locations statewide and is expected to expand up to 5,000 users once it is deployed at the local level. On a daily basis, Notes is used by personnel for inventories; time reporting; workflow applications, such as purchase requests for emergency and non-emergency resources; electronic mail; work plans; discussion database; and personnel directories. In addition, RIMS is low-cost, easy to modify and expand, provides interactive Internet access, and can be used for daily activities, as well as emergency response.
Lotus Notes' scaleable architecture enables the system to easily grow in size and sophistication as new technologies continue to develop. It is a standards-based solution, offering compatibility with other emergency management systems in the state and federal organizations that, incidentally, are not compatible with each other. Notes will help tie them together. It also provides LAN, WAN, remote modem, satellite, and Internet communications capability, including a Web browser, Web publisher, and Web server.
Internet access is bi-directional — allowing local governments, the media, the public, and other persons and organizations not directly on RIMS to get situation and response information and to interactively fill out RIMS forms with any Internet access tool. "We are taking everything in RIMS and exporting it to our home page through Lotus Notes and Domino," explains Bowles.
Return on Investment
Improving OES' level of service will provide major benefits to the residents of California in both quality of life and financial terms. By accelerating and optimizing the application of response resources, Notes could help save hundreds or thousands of lives, limit the severity of thousands of injuries, and save millions of dollars in recovery costs in the next major disaster.
Assuming the same disaster response load as for OES' baseline analysis, personnel resource reductions for status reports, administration, field reports, and recovery liaison will total 16,464 hours. Historical document and data retrieval labor reduction, including declarations and proclamations, mission tasking, hazmat forms and reports, and search and rescue reports will total 14,939 hours. The total cost avoidance based on a $41,000 annual salary, overtime, benefits, and operating expenses is $619,000.
The Lotus Notes solution allows the OES to increase its level of service by reducing resource request processing time, providing automatic prioritization of requests, and eliminating misplaced requests. The system has reduced resource request processing time by up to 75 percent. By automating OES inputs to FEMA, federal agency resource request processing time can also be reduced.
The ability to automatically synchronize distributed databases throughout the state enables changes made at an operational area Emergency Operations Center to automatically be updated in the database, thus the regional and state agency will also have access to the changes — eliminating duplication of effort. Additionally, Notes' Internet capabilities will allow those emergency response personnel not on RIMS to access real-time disaster response information.
By automating data, RIMS' reporting capabilities eliminate out-of-date, incomplete, and labor intensive status reports, making both summary and detailed information — sorted by region and county — readily available to all involved parties. Notes has enabled OES to include maps, databases, and video information in these reports. Users are able to add, modify, summarize, or enhance information in reports from any response level without reentering data, enabling big-picture or location-specific reports to be easily generated. The time to generate and disseminate status reports has been cut by 80 percent. Furthermore, detailed electronic information from the operational areas, media, and other agencies is sorted and available to all agencies on a real-time basis.
The OES has also integrated its Geographic Information Systems (GIS) with RIMS to provide real-time mapping and disaster data integration. Using RIMS and other GIS tools, OES will be able to generate simulation and modeling information for disasters and rapidly disseminate that information to the field. This allows emergency response personnel to quickly predict probable damage levels and begin mobilizing resources even before the first reports are received from the disaster area.
OES is evaluating Notes for the automation of disaster recovery claims and grants processing. For a moderate disaster, tens of thousands of claims for public assistance can be received, amounting to several billion dollars. Each claim can have from 10 to 1,000 pages of documentation. Notes document management and workflow capabilities could automate the claims and grants processing, potentially saving OES more than $1 million annually.
Benefits of Lotus Notes and Domino
Implementing and utilizing Lotus Notes and Domino has improved the California OES' performance across the board. Specifically, OES and other California emergency response organizations have realized the following gains as a result of implementing and utilizing these solutions:
• Improves OES' ability to respond to, manage, and coordinate requests for resources and collect, process, and disseminate information during and after a disaster.
• Provides OES the capability to communicate, collaborate, and coordinate with other federal, state, and local emergency management organizations.
• Increase OES' level of service by reducing resource request processing time and assisting in prioritization of requests.
• Helps eliminate out-of-date, incomplete, and labor-intensive status reports, making both summary and detailed information readily available.
• Allows personnel to more efficiently perform their daily tasks, including time reporting, purchase requests, work plans, and personnel directories.
• Provides real-time HTML emulation to enable Internet users to easily access up-to-date information.
Bring the Power of Lotus Notes and Domino to Your Organization Today
Join the growing number of government agencies that recognize the power of Lotus Notes and Domino. To discover what Lotus solutions can do for your government organization, call 1-800-346-1347, or explore Lotus on the World Wide Web at www.lotus.com/gov