Brunswick County updates emergency operations center website

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By Brian Slattery

When emergencies strike, Brunswick County opens its Emergency Operations Center.

But to be ready when emergencies strike, Brunswick County is upgrading its webEOC site.

The new site was previewed during the quarterly Local Emergency Planning Committee meeting Nov. 21.

Scott Garner, Deputy director of Emergency management, said the county has used the webEOC site for more than 10 years.

Most of the departments that would need to be in contact in the event the county Emergency Operations Center opened have access to the site.

The old site allowed all the participants - emergency management, emergency responders, hospitals, county management, municipal governments, police, fire and rescue – to login and receive or post updates during an emergency.

During an online exercise in August, Garner said 70-80 representatives signed on to the old site.

But after the web exercise, the Emergency Management office felt there were some issues with the site that needed updating, so they asked web host Intermedix to review the system.

Instead of just a few upgrades, the company and EMS decided to start from scratch to update the whole site.

Garner said the EMS office expects the new webEOC will be up and running at the start of the new year.

“It will make it easier to use in the field and more data will be available,” Garner said.

“We tried to streamline it. Now we can put in a bunch of information so we can easier understand what is needed,” Heather Ryan, Emergency Management Planner for Emergency Services, said.

“We want to avoid receiving requests and then having to call back for more information.”

Ryan is working with intermedix to tweak the pages and get the bugs out of the new website.

“Once it is finalized, we will pump out a bunch of webEOC trainings (online) or in person,” she said.

Garner said part of the goal of the update is to align the associated groups, for example in an emergency in Leland, the Leland town staff and the Leland Fire Department aren’t reporting redundant information.

“We do not want to put in the same information between the two and then have to determine whose information is right,” Ryan said.

Ryan said the new system will be available for use at all times, not just when the Emergency Operations Center is opened.

It will include a Brunswick County dashboard for updates the participants deem important, whether it’s road closure or town updates, which will appear on one screen on the website.

There will also be a situation report board to provide updated reports in emergency situations - traffic issues, evacuations, structure damage or if a state of emergency has been declared.

The website will also provide updates to participants when conference calls with the state, county or towns are scheduled to keep everyone on the same page.

“The old system had a lot of boards with long lists, the new one gives you menus of your information,” Garner said.

Ryan said it’s important to make the new webEOC user friendly so it’s easy to get the information needed onto the site in the middle of an EOC activation.

The new system will provide more specific logins so every member of a department can connect to the website.

Garner said people can sign in under multiple positions to provide information.

“If Bryan Watts is in under Deputy EOC manager but needs to (provide information under his role as) EMD division director, he can flip to send out different information,” Garner said.

“You can see (the person’s) name as well as function.”

Garner said the county will still use conference calls to share information, but the webEOC is another method to update information as quickly as possible.

“We can do updates and also track damage (reports) and requests for resources. Plus if we get multiple requests for something like a generator, we can prioritize needs,” Garner said.

“Everyone is singing off the same sheet of music.”

In the event of an emergency that calls on use of the site before the upgrade is complete, the old site is still active and would only take a call to Intermedix to switch back on.

Ryan said once the new site is fully up and running the current participants’ user identification and login passwords would no longer work, but if they need to switch to the old site before the new one is ready, the usernames and passwords would still be accepted.

Brian Slattery is a staff writer for The Brunswick Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or bslattery@brunswickbeacon.com.