In Case of Emergency
A few years ago, as Sarasota County, Fla., began planning construction for a new Emergency Operations Center (EOC) to replace an older facility located close to Sarasota Bay, Emergency Management Chief Ed McCrane realized he needed an alternate communications plan if the current EOC was threatened by a major hurricane before the new facility was completed. If a storm surge forced the EOC to evacuate and damaged communications networks, staff would need computers and other technology to continue response and recovery efforts.
To aid evacuation, McCrane had all of the EOC computers converted to laptops and trained the EOC staff to operate out of an alternate site. Although EOC staffers were mobile, their effectiveness would be hampered by a loss of Internet service. So, Sarasota County contracted with CACI Corp. and Cisco to supply a portable satellite communications kit that provides telephone, fax and Internet access. The small system can be carried in a car or truck, runs on car batteries if necessary and provides sufficient bandwidth for 20 phones and computers.
McCrane coordinated with the county IT department to ensure the equipment would be compatible with current communications equipment, which is comprised of basic Cisco routing, switching, VoIP and wireless. By connecting the kit to the county network, updates and patches are sent automatically, so the kit is ready to operate at any time.
The county conducts an EOC evacuation drill annually to test the satellite communications kit and all other systems and procedures. It plans to have the new EOC/911 center completed by the start of the 2012 hurricane season.
Project: Emergency communications system
Jurisdiction: Sarasota County, Fla.
Agency: Emergency Management
Vendor: San Jose, Calif.-based Cisco; Arlington, Va.-based CACI Corp.
Date: May 2007
Cost: less than $150,000