Interoperability: How Universities, Towns and Counties can Plan and Respond as One

jmu-screen-shot As another winter storm season quickly approaches (we had our first snowfall here in New Haven last week), our customers are preparing their responses. Although our many customers in Southern California are not too worried, our east-coasters have a lot to do to ensure that resources are ready and that their whole region is prepared for how it may be affected. Many of our university and municipality customers take advantage of the ability to connect their EOC to the city and surrounding county EOCs for effective responses to emergencies or severe weather as well as the planning and management of large-scale events.

In 2012, the City of Harrisonburg, Virginia and Rockingham County conducted a joint emergency response exercise for their public safety, police, fire and other departments. Their joint departments respond to over 110,000 emergency calls every year. Their main conclusion? They needed to come up with a better communication and documentation system to link all of the various agencies responding to emergencies or events in an organized, seamless way.

After receiving a grant from the state for a web-based EOC, the City of Harrisonburg began their research with budget and customization in mind. They found product after product with cookie-cutter templates that allowed no freedom for modification and with no ability to link to the Virginia EOC. Harrisonburg understood that Virginia Tech and the University of Virginia, the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County were planning on purchasing Veoci within the next few months of 2014. After seeing UVA’s planned coordination with Charlottesville and Albemarle County as a similarity to what Harrisonburg hoped to implement with James Madison University and Rockingham County, Harrisonburg jumped ahead and purchased Veoci.

First Things First: Communication

The City of Harrisonburg shares the same values as the Veoci team, that communication is key. They immediately made use of Veoci’s instant chat feature to share weather and traffic updates across departments while Harrisonburg’s PIO used these updates to share information with the public. They created side rooms for heavy storms and major campus events, such as JMU’s Spring Fest, an event for which they used Veoci to aid them in managing and ensuring the safety of 8,000 students partying across 4 city blocks. Pictures of the masses were shared instantly through Veoci’s chat so police, other agencies and their incident commanders knew exactly what was going on and where.

Mapping Graduation and Football Games

After seeing a presentation by UVA on how they use Veoci to manage their football games, Harrisonburg and JMU decided their next step was to come up with a plan to manage their own graduation ceremonies and football games. To make the current status of the various venues for these events easily accessible and clear, they plot color-coded points with coordinating forms to document and show location, status and other information for each venue. Using the same feature, they plot the location of JMU Campus Police, Virginia State Police, Rockingham County Sheriff’s Office and the Harrisonburg Police as well as the exact site of EM teams, ambulances, fire trucks and treatment areas. They also highlight roadblocks, traffic redirections and indicate open or full parking lots.

See Veoci in Action

Coordinating a region’s university, city and county has proven to be an extremely efficient and effective way for Harrisonburg, JMU and Rockingham County to provide unified plans and responses to any situation that may arise. To find out how the University of Virginia does the same in response to winter storms, join us for our webinar on Thursday, November 17, 2016 and 1:30 PM EST. Lucian Mirra, UVA’s Emergency Management Coordinator, will share how they stay in communication, map road closings and keep resources in check on one single, digitized system. Click here to register now.

Article written by

Julie Reynolds is the Marketing and Communications Specialist at Veoci. She is a recent University of Connecticut graduate and specializes in writing, communication, public relations, marketing and celebrity gossip.

Born and raised in New Haven, she especially loves the fast-paced lifestyle and cultural diversity of the city. She hopes to continue to develop a career where she is constantly meeting new people and bettering her writing. Go Huskies!