Specialized Software Aids Post-Katrina Efforts

The State of Louisiana uses E Team's emergency management system instead of supply chain software for managing supplies, logistics and other resources.

Throughout Hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, the State of Louisiana has used E Team Inc.s emergency management software, together with Business Objects Inc.s reporting tools, for managing a barrage of requests for rescue teams, foods supplies, shelter, transportation and other resources.

In some ways, E Teams system provides similar functionality to the inventory tracking, demand-side planning, and sourcing capabilities of SCM (supply chain management) packages, for example.

But unlike the business-oriented category of SCM products, the E Team system is specifically geared to processes used in crisis management, said Matt Farlow, IT director for Louisianas Office of Emergency Management, during an interview.

Built from software originally developed in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD)s DARPA program, E Teams software is now widely deployed for emergency management across many other pockets of government, according to Eric Kant, E Teams director of field operations.

For example, Tarrant County, Texas, is now using its own E Team deployment to help get resources to Katrina evacuees from Louisiana. So, too, is New York City—the new home of hundreds of other Katrina victims.

Back in 2001, New York City used the system to help deal with the 9/11 terrorist attack among 1,700 users from 150 local, regional, state and national jurisdictions, along with nonprofits, utilities, and private companies such as Macys West.

/zimages/1/28571.gifSupply chain security poses opportunities, obstacles. Click here to read more.

E Teams Windows-based, browser-accessible software has also been used in settings ranging from the City of Los Angeles and the National Pharmaceutical Stockpile to the 2002 Winter Olympics and Super Bowl 2003.

E-Teams system can interface with Business Objects Crystal Reports or Crystal Reports Server to produce statistical reports, said Robb Eklund, Business Objects vice president of industry solutions, in another interview.

Louisiana first started using E Team, together with Crystal Reports, about four years ago, said Bob Jackson, director of E Teams Southeast Region, also during the interview

The BI tools from Business Objects also support a variety of other enterprise software systems, including SCM products.

In Farlows opinion, though, SCM tools are designed much more directly for use in day-to-day business procurement, as opposed to resource management in the face of emergencies.

How is E Teams system different? For one thing, the product takes a "mission-oriented" approach that dovetails well with the processes that emergency responders follow in real life, Farlow said.

E Teams software is structured to support operations, processes and methodologies along organizational rules defined by the ICS (Incident Command System), according to Kant. ICS is an emerging standard for describing how government agencies should organize for and respond to emergencies.

E Teams system also includes ICS forms for disaster incidents or events, which can be distributed electronically or in hard copy.

Participants in the system post information to a realtime repository called the "virtual whiteboard." The whiteboard presents summaries of critical information, both in tables and maps. From the whiteboard, users can drill down for details.

/zimages/1/28571.gifClick here to read more about lessons learned from Hurricane Katrina.

Agency personnel can use the E Team software to assign tasks, track resources, set objectives, monitor status and identify problems, for instance.

"Our product helps emergency management agencies to carry out command and control," said E Teams Kant.

In E Teams software, as in the physical world, emergency management tasks tend to be described along the lines of "missions," said the State of Louisianas Farlow. "Your mission might be to [bring] X numbers of trucks to 123 Main St., for example," he said.

Before, during and after Katrina, Louisiana has been using the system to filter and task requests across local and federal as well as state agencies.

Once requests from local and state agencies are entered into the system, state personnel determine where to assign tasks. "Tasks are then moved to an agency for scheduling," he said.

Next Page: Software helps sort out tasks and deliveries.