FEMA Uses WebEOC Crisis Management System

When Hurricane Isaac hit, FEMA officials from Denton, Texas, to Washington, D.C., got their first experience with a real-time common operating picture of what was going on in FEMA HQ and the regions.


December 11, 2012

AUGUSTA, GA—On August 28, 2012, Hurricane Isaac came ashore on the Gulf Coast of the United States. After raging over a huge area from Florida to Texas, Isaac had knocked out power to almost one million homes and businesses and caused nine fatalities and over $2 billion in damage.

Beginning on October 29, 2012, Hurricane Sandy, the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, devastated the northeastern United States, leaving cities and coastal towns wrecked and under feet of water. Damage from Sandy is estimated to total at least $20 billion and fatalities number more than 110.

In response to this onslaught, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) utilized its new crisis management system (CMS) from ESi®, the global leader in crisis information management technology and solutions.

After the contract was awarded in June 2012, FEMA and ESi embarked on an aggressive schedule to meet FEMA’s implementation target dates. On August 1st, the FEMA WebEOC® crisis management system was launched in the Amazon® Web Services (AWS) Cloud solution – FEMA’s first time operating “in the cloud.”

“WebEOC has made a world of difference in how FEMA personnel communicate information and make requests for support or resources,” said Brad Pond, ESi VP, Corporate and Customer Performance. “Running in the AWS Cloud further ensures that they can use the system wherever they are – disaster site, office, or home—as long as they have Internet access on any computer or tablet device.”

A huge task was to train hundreds of FEMA end-users across the United States. In September alone, ESi personnel traveled to FEMA headquarters and the ten FEMA regions, from New York to Honolulu, and trained over 600 end-users in the new system.

Just days prior to the landfall of Hurricane Isaac, FEMA head Craig Fugate made the decision that WebEOC would be used to manage the response. When Hurricane Isaac hit, FEMA officials from Denton, Texas, to Washington, D.C., got their first experience with a real-time common operating picture of what was going on in FEMA HQ and the regions.

In response to Hurricanes Isaac and Sandy and at the request of FEMA, ESi activated its WebEOC National Response Team to support impacted regions. Certified WebEOC Administrators and experienced emergency managers were deployed to Region 4 (Baton Rouge, LA and Jackson, MS) for Isaac, and Regions 1 (Boston, MA), II (New Jersey), and III (Philadelphia, PA) for Sandy to provide onsite WebEOC operational support, user registration, training, and technical support.
“During these activations, I witnessed true ‘Boundless Collaboration’ between all the emergency support agencies, private sector partners, and voluntary organizations,” said Jerome DuVal, ESi VP, Federal Services. This was the first time everyone was on a common platform able to seamlessly share information—and it just worked.”

“At the same time, we found ourselves ‘working on the engine while the plane was flying’ as we created new status boards and made changes to existing boards as requirements changed. We will continue to tweak the system to help FEMA manage the ongoing recovery effort,” Mr. DuVal noted.

“It’s very rewarding that FEMA was able to use WebEOC on a national scale for collaboration during Hurricane Isaac and in its wide-ranging response to Hurricane Sandy,” said John J. O’Dell, Chief Technical Officer, ESi. “I applaud the concerted efforts of FEMA directors, managers, and responders across the U.S. who have embraced WebEOC and the tireless efforts of so many ESi personnel who conducted the training and implementation of the FEMA WebEOC system. FEMA now has the gold standard in emergency management solutions, and we look forward to a long and rewarding partnership.”

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