Prairie city prepares for emergencies, disasters

The City of Lloydminster, Sask., is the first Canadian municipality to implement CivicCenter Emergency Support, an emergency preparedness and response application. The application was built by Edmonton-based Kanotech Information Systems Ltd. using Autodesk Map and Autodesk MapGuide and designed to

help local government authorities during a community disaster by making data and related documentation available.

Don Newlin, director of finance for Lloydminster, says the city implemented the main part of the solution — the property module — in the spring.

“”What we have now is a working system on our server which has all the property mapping for the city,”” says Newlin. “”It gives us a good tool to respond to an emergency, in that you can take any spot on the map and if there were an incident at that location … you could see which properties were in that zone.””

The software allows the city to layer on top of that mapping information resource-related data, such as the availability of shelters, hospitals, police, fire departments and social services, for example.

“”It lets you see the best area to route someone and the best resources to use,”” he explains.

One of the reasons Lloydminster chose CivicCenter, he says, was for the graphic display of information it offers.

“”Before, we had to key in the information. You can still do those things but this takes it down to the visual level.””

As well, he adds, CivicCenter has proved easy to learn.

“”We reviewed numerous systems over the years,”” he says.

“”We were always looking for something easy for the non-professional user to learn. That’s really the advantage of CivicCenter — you could probably teach someone to use it within half an hour. It’s substantially different from the other programs we use.””

The implementation was straightforward as well, he adds.

CivicCenter is one of two applications Autodesk recently added to its U.S. homeland security initiative.

Developers use Autodesk’s design, mapping and mobile technology to help government organizations at all levels plan, respond, manage and recover from crisis situations relating to homeland security.

Its key tool is Event Digitizer, which allows real-time tracking of an emergency from incident notification to debriefing.

“”People are always concerned about being able to respond as quickly as possible when some kind of disaster happens,”” says Regina-based Mike Schlosser, national geospatial project manager for Autodesk Canada.

“”What a lot of people don’t realize is this information is sitting somewhere and unless it is integrated into the system, being able to access it quickly becomes difficult.””

For example, he says, emergency response teams need to know how to access critical building infrastructure information such as the location of entrances and exits, gas mains and hazardous material storage sites.

“”If there is some kind of explosion where are the valves on the gas lines that I need to turn off? Having that information at my fingertips is crucial.””

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