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New tech for emergencies

A new collaboration between the Kelowna Fire Department and a Vancouver based software company will soon bring real time emergency data to the masses.

The idea for a Multi-Agency Situational Awareness System (MASAS) was formulated following the events of the 2003 Okanagan Mountain fire.

“The entire province was on fire,” says Brian Moore, Dispatch Supervisor with the Kelowna Fire Department and Deputy Emergency Program Coordinator with the Central Okanagan Regional Emergency Program.

“The Kelowna wildfire was the largest-scale disaster we had ever dealt with.”

During that catastrophic summer, Moore noted that communications between different stakeholders such as first responders and provincial authorities was ineffective.

Together, with FDM Software, they envisioned an emergency management component that could be part of a broader Canada-wide system and used by departments needing access to real-time information in the event of a large-scale emergency.

MASAS was then formed to allow emergency managers and responders across the country to share situational information on natural disasters, serious accidents, crime, and acts of terrorism.

The content is displayed with simple map icons such as a house with flames to represent structure fires and waves represent flooding; It can also be used to forecast weather, road closures or natural hazard alerts like earthquakes.

In 2013, the Kelowna Fire Department and FDM Software were awarded funding under the Canadian Safety and Security Program.

The FDM MASAS interface enables dispatchers to automatically receive information from the MASAS network about specific emergency situations. The component also allows the publishing of emergency events from the FDM Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) system directly to the MASAS network for the benefit of other agencies.

“Our challenge before the FDM-MASAS system was implemented was the time it took to relay real-time information to other first responders and stakeholders in an emergency,” says Moore.

“It typically took 15 to 90 minutes to activate the Regional Emergency Operations Centre and to understand the magnitude of an incident. Now all we do is turn on the lights and fire up MASAS. Everyone now knows what everyone else is doing. It’s making a tremendous difference in our planning, response and recovery for planned and emergency incidents of all sizes.”

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