a regular schedule of staff training. Nonetheless, it is not unusual for someone to show up other than the person who was trained, so Gandy and Posin have written "cheat sheets" which explain basic system use in several pages

Between the "cheat sheets" and the intuitive nature of the system's GUI interface, Gandy has found that users are able to get productive with the system very quickly. Once the emergency is over, there still remains the task of evaluating the EOC's performance. Online access to all the EOC messages generated during the crisis will ease this task as well

The newest features include an electronic bulletin board to replace the white board formerly used to post up-to-the-minute information on developing emergencies. Also, important phone numbers are now kept online, rather than as hard-copy lists previously distributed annually

Although disaster and emergency handling always requires coordination, no two disasters are alike. Agency involvement depends on the circumstances and can change from minute to minute. By providing a flexible structure in which agencies can work and by automating the process of communication and coordination between agencies, attention can be taken off the "how-to's" of communicating, and the hassles of tracking stray pieces of paper, and put onto the task at hand: saving lives

-----------Technicals----------- The EOC's network is Novell-based with Token Ring topology. Server and power backups help to proof it against emergencies. According to Posin, plans are in progress to outfit a mobile EOC van. The mobile unit would have a Notes server onboard and cellular phone connections to outlying areas

David Aden  | 
David Aden DAden@webworldtech.com is a writer from Washington, D.C.