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Emergency response gets SES on board

By GovTechReview Staff
Tuesday, 27 November, 2012

Few government bodies have as intensive a need for quick response and smooth information sharing during meetings than the State Emergency Service (SES), where staff work long and hard shifts to keep on top of ever-changing developments during natural disasters.

At the Geelong division of Victoria's SES, staff recently moved to replace an aging system in its Incident Control Room (ICR) that relied upon PC-linked data projectors. That system had been downtime-prone and, being designed mainly to present rather than create information, offered little in the way of collaborative interaction.

To improve the situation, the team installed a pair of 77-inch Panasonic UB-T880 Interactive Whiteboards. Working together, the devices not only allowed the presentation of up-to-date information during disaster response, but have enabled staff to interact with the information using nothing more complicated than their fingers. They can also join videoconferences that are run directly onscreen, combining multiple modes of communication in the one interface.

"The new setup allows a much more collaborative approach to emergency responses," says Shane Reeves, regional training officer within the office. "During the recent Victorian floods, we were able to use the boards as an interactive discussion board; our volunteers could easily keep abreast of updates from anywhere in the room rather than having to huddle around individual computers or maps."

Interactive whiteboarding has also become a feature of regular training for SES volunteers, who undergo extensive operational management training and are finding the new meeting-room technologies to be a significant improvement.

"The trainer is no longer bound to a computer or projector to deliver the information," says Reeves. "Training session are more focused and smoothly run, with participants able to easily flick through information such as PowerPoint presentations or Web pages."

The installation also included the addition of a pair of Panasonic PT-S10 short-throw projectors, which use special optics to project an 80-inch image on a wall just 71cm away. This simplified installation and allowed more space in the meeting room to be used for other tasks.

"When an incident arises, availability and visibility if information is vital," says Reeves. "This solution has made it quicker and easier to display, discuss and share information; it's quicker than having to work off a single computer, and saves us valuable time." - David Braue

This story originally ran in the February-March 2012 issue of Government Technology Review.

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