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New York to Put County and State EOCs on Common Disaster Platform

NY Responds will track requests for equipment and assistance, report the real-time status of emergency situations, and provide a uniform statewide communications network.

New York State Emergency Management vehicles
Through a program called NY Responds, announced by Gov. Andrew Cuomo in August, all 62 New York state counties will get free access to Buffalo Computer Graphics’ (BCG) Crisis Information Management software (CIMS) by the end of the year.

DisasterLAN (DLAN), which has been used in the New York State Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES) EOC since 2004, will be upgraded and rebranded as a component of NY Responds. It will allow county and state EOCs to connect to a common Web-hosted platform. 

Here they will be able to post and track requests for equipment and assistance, report the real-time status of their emergency situations to all NY Responds members at once, and access a centralized source for news, weather and communications among first responder agencies.

“Through NY Responds, every county in this state will have access to first-class emergency management technology, which will help both local and state officials stay as informed and coordinated as possible when responding to difficult situations,” Cuomo said at a press conference. “This is part of how we are building this state to be stronger and smarter than ever before.”

The Power of NY Responds

For county and state EOCs, the provision of free, vendor-supported CIMS software is a significant part of NY Responds. In a state where not all counties have EOCs, and those that do operate on a number of emergency software platforms, achieving seamless disaster management between county and state agencies has been an ongoing challenge. NY Responds will be free and supported by BCG, which will make it easier for counties without EOCs to consider adding it, and those with EOCs to migrate onto the same platform with HSES.

“Offering and supporting NY Responds free of charge to county EOCs is aimed at improving and strengthening the state’s overall level of emergency response,” said New York OEM director Kevin Wisely. “It will not only put us all on a common emergency management platform – which greatly enhances everyone’s operational efficiency – but provides all of us with vastly improved situational awareness in real time.”

Providing users with a real-time view of where requested resources are is a big part of NY Responds, said Christopher Zak, BCG’s DLAN program manager. “With their accounts on DLAN, which we are setting up for all New York county EOCs by year’s end, EOC managers can post requests for equipment, and then see where their requested equipment is while they wait for delivery.” There’s no guesswork to this process anymore: They will know what is happening at all times.”

This is a substantial change to how equipment and service requests are made. Currently there is a potential for duplication of resources,” said Kevin Niedermaier, president of the New York State Emergency Management Association. “With the institution of this new software, we will know the status of our requests real time, and avoid any duplication or diversion of unnecessary resources."

NY Responds’ Other Features

On a larger scale, NY Responds will provide county and state EOC users with detailed, state-of-the-art GIS mapping online. All kinds of data can be layered onto GIS maps as needed, including information directly related to whatever incident is underway. This data will be available online to all NY Responds users.

In addition, NY Responds will offer an enhanced weather detection system using the state’s new mesonet, which is composed of 125 weather stations across the state. It has at least one site in every county with each station measuring temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, pressure, radiation, and soil information. The mesonet also tracks what’s happening in the atmosphere and NY Responds will have real-time data from the flood warning system.

On the communications side, NY Responds will provide a uniform, statewide comm network using the Mutualink IP-based platform. Mutualink allows communitywide sharing of radio, voice, text, video, data files and telephone communications in a secure online environment.

NY Responds’ rollout starts with the end-of-year deployment of the NY Responds platform to all county EOCs. This rollout will cost $1.5 million for NY Responds plus an estimated $406,000 to maintain the system annually.