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Staff participates in disaster preparedness exercise

During the past two months, three GIS personnel from NKAPC were trained to assist emergency responders during emergencies while a fourth staff member participated in a regional training exercise using these same tools.

 “We have found GIS mapping to be one of the most important tools needed when responding to a major disaster: centralized, readily available, highly accurate information is mission critical,” said Steve Hensley, Director of Kenton County Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

“During these events we have utilized the dedicated staff of the Northern Kentucky Area Planning Commission to assist us with GIS mapping and structural inspections. On every occasion, where we have utilized their services, Dennis Gordon and his staff have performed over and above expectation.”
Joe Busemeyer, GISP, Principal GIS Programmer; Gretchen Brown, Associate GIS Specialist; and Kathy Stephens, GISP, Associate GIS Specialist, attended training seminars for WebEOC (Web Emergency Operation Control) and RAVEN911 (Regional Asset Verification & Emergency Network). Ryan Kent, GISP, Principal GIS Specialist; Christy Powell, GISP, Senior GIS Programmer; and Tom East, Senior GIS Specialist, have also been trained on these systems. Training is administered by the Urban Areas Security Initiative (UASI). Its coverage area consists of 12 counties in the Tri-State area referred to as SOSINK (Southwestern Ohio, Southeastern Indiana and Northern Kentucky).

The main purpose of UASI is to address the unique planning, equipment, training, and exercise needs of high-threat, high-density urban areas. The initiative also assists in building an enhanced and sustainable capacity to prevent, respond to, and recover from threats or acts of terrorism. The UASI headquarters for the Cincinnati metro area is located the Regional Operations Center (ROC) in Cincinnati.

Training for the WebEOC and RAVEN911 software components was conducted by Steven C. Siereveld (ROC Technology Planner). The WebEOC software is an incident management system that can be accessed through the internet. This enables WebEOC software users to assist in disaster management from anywhere there is internet access; thus not having to be at the ROC.

UASI uses WebEOC to coordinate the use of the region’s assets. It provides a link from UASI to local Emergency Operation Centers during real-time events and exercises. It allows multiple emergency personnel agencies to have access to real-time information simultaneously.

RAVEN911 is an internet based mapping system developed from the perspective of an emergency operator utilizing exemplary technical expertise, and the latest in GIS (Geographic Information Systems) computer technology. The RAVEN911 mapping system brings together responder defined critical data sets with easy to use mapping tools (or widgets), thus allowing users to interact with the map in a meaningful and efficient way during an emergency.

Some of the tools include RSS feeds of weather warnings, radar loops, earthquakes, wildfires and more. Other tools assist emergency personnel in dealing with bomb threats, plume areas, using Twitter to gather information, finding missing persons and setting up containment zones. RAVEN911 offers users access to the location of critical infrastructure and assets as well as a host of tools to gather information and analyze particular situations.

Christy Powell participated in a training exercise in Latonia that used the RAVEN911 system to determine affected properties, containment zones, and compromised infrastructure during a simulated train wreck. CSX hosted this training exercise to train local emergency responders how to safely respond to incidents on and around railroad property.

First responders from many local and state agencies spent the morning developing plans to deal with an unfolding situation involving fire and leaking chemicals. The data from the RAVEN911 system and linkgis.org were projected onto the wall for all to view. Additionally, an iPad with a custom LINK-GIS map application was in use by one of the groups.

“The devastation of the Piner tornado in 2012 and the flooding event in 2011 are sobering reminders that we always need to be prepared to respond to large-scale natural disasters. When faced with incidents of this size, we investigate all available resources in preparation, including those it we don’t typically utilize under normal conditions,” said Hensley.

WebEOC and RAVEN911 are critical components for putting emergency personnel in the right place at the right time during tragic events. With the training received by NKAPC staff, they can assist UASI with their mission to prevent, respond to, and recover from disasters that may occur in the SOSINK region.