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#218704 - 03/10/11 05:56 PM Emergency Management Tech on the Cheap
MartinFocazio Offline


Registered: 01/21/03
Posts: 2170
Loc: Bucks County PA
We're about to have yet another flood event in our area, and I thought some of you might be interested in how my local emergency operations center and my neighboring township's emergency operations center manage to run on literally no budget at all.

We're using Wordpress.com's free version to let us create a dynamic web site with the most recent information. My township is at http://bridgetonema.wordpress.com and I can update that site with a computer, a smart phone, via email or even via a phone call with a voice message that will play on the site.

Another tool in our kit is Skype. Skype gives us an alternative communications channel that works great.

We also use Google Voice - my emergency management phone number is actually a Google Voice number that - under normal conditions - routes to my personal iPhone, but as volume goes up, I add in two prepaid phones (a Tracfone that's on Verizon and a new Metro PCS phone) and they also ring when my phone is called.

Of course, all of those tools depend on a working internet connection, and I have alternatives for that too. My iPhone is jailbroken and can act as a (slow but workable) hotspot for Wifi Access to the internet, and I also have a Verizon MiFi device for the same purpose. The Verizon MiFi device is actually for work, they let me use it during emergencies, otherwise it's $60 a month.

Of course, you can't be fully reliant on the telecom infrastructure being up, so I keep all my emergency management files synchronized with other computers by using Dropbox.

Dropbox keeps a common folder "in sych" across multiple computers and with their servers - but the cool part is that if two computers are on the same network, the shared folder will synch using only the local network - no external network needed. So I have 4 laptops all running dropbox software and all of them stay in sych if they are connected to the same wifi hotspot - even if that hotspot has no internet connection.

For software to keep documents and stuff up to date, we use Open Office, a complete office suite that creates MS Office compatible files (word, PPT, XLS) and it's free and runs on any old computer we can find.

We can't afford a county radio, which is a shame, because we have to borrow one from the fire company and they don't always have one to spare, but we've found that GMRS radios work pretty well in our area and they are CHEAP.

#218708 - 03/10/11 06:31 PM Re: Emergency Management Tech on the Cheap [Re: MartinFocazio]
paramedicpete Offline

Registered: 04/09/02
Posts: 1920
Loc: Frederick, Maryland
Not sure if either of these two communication tools would be of any use, but they have been shown to be of benefit in our area. Note: They do cost money, but the cost has been borne by the fire companies.

First: Code messaging – The ECC, in addition to sending out the traditional tone alert that activate fire pagers/house sirens also send out a text message through Code Messaging http://www.codemessaging.net/ which gives the dispatch location, units dispatched, map data, etc. You can also reply as “responding” which allows a specialty team such as ours know who is responding and to where (station, scene LZ, etc.) This has worked quite well for us. There is monthly fee, but it has been reasonable so far.

The other program we are adding at our station is “I am Responding” http://www.iamresponding.com/v3/Pages/Default.aspx

All of these are tools to help determine responses, but can be used to send out information on drills, changes in response locations, available resources, etc.

#218716 - 03/10/11 10:52 PM Re: Emergency Management Tech on the Cheap [Re: MartinFocazio]
dougwalkabout Offline
Crazy Canuck
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 02/03/07
Posts: 2941
Loc: Alberta, Canada
Very interesting, Martin. Lots of good ideas. Thanks for posting.

How do you handle network and data security in these various scenarios? Anybody who would vandalize emergency management sites or networks is of course a complete jackass, but unfortunately these types exist.

#218728 - 03/11/11 01:05 AM Re: Emergency Management Tech on the Cheap [Re: paramedicpete]
MartinFocazio Offline


Registered: 01/21/03
Posts: 2170
Loc: Bucks County PA
I looked at both of those, and with a budget of $0.00 this year, they are out of the question, plus we're not busy enough to warrant them. But they are interesting.

#218729 - 03/11/11 01:08 AM Re: Emergency Management Tech on the Cheap [Re: dougwalkabout]
MartinFocazio Offline


Registered: 01/21/03
Posts: 2170
Loc: Bucks County PA
Wifi is all WPA2, Wordpress.com has much better security and attack prevention than anything I could build. Skype is encrypted end to end. I use Truecrypt for sensitive data files.

GMRS radios are in the clear, and so are county radios (well, they are Motorola Astro digitals, so it's not like you can tune them on a normal scanner).


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