August 14, 2009 By Corey McKenna
"This is E-Sponder. There has been an emergency. Please respond." And so the call goes out to first responders and emergency managers across the city, county or state. "Press 1 if you will be reporting to the EOC [Emergency Operations Center] in 30 minutes. Press 2 if you will be reporting in 1 hour ..." and so on up to five options.
In a very short time, the incident commander knows who he has responding to his call, when they will arrive at the EOC as well as who didn't respond. And the system can reach out to command staff or volunteers by phone call, e-mail, text message and pager.
That sort of knowledge of where a commander's people are isn't necessarily available with a traditional phone tree in which 10 people each contact 10 others and so on down the line. This process can require many people to make many phone calls, tying up valuable people and time at the beginning of an incident.
Emergency responders have turned to automated incident command notification software to reach out to their staff, not only to know their status, but also to push important information out to them.
Wisconsin Emergency Management (WEM) uses E-Sponder and E-Sponder Alerts to oversee all of its EOC activations. "E-Sponder has become the actual record of the actions that were taken," said Bill Clare, WEM's planning section supervisor.
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This Digital Communities white paper highlights discussions with IT officials in four counties that have adopted shared services models. Our aim was to learn about the obstacles these governments have faced when it comes to shared services and what it takes to overcome those roadblocks. We also spoke with several members of the IT industry who have thought long and hard about these issues. The paper offers some best practices for shared government-to-government services, but also points out challenges that government and industry still must overcome before this model gains widespread adoption.