Tim Masterson, Product Manager
Owing to the increase in natural calamities and catastrophes, the necessity for incident preparedness is driving the growth of the emergency management industry today. Against this backdrop, Buffalo Computer Graphics (BCG) has amassed over two decades of extensive experience in developing and deploying incident management software designed for Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs). The company has been supporting citizens and emergency management personnel to build, sustain, and improve a community’s capability to prepare for, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate all hazards. BCG not only fulfills a client’s emergency management needs but also offers tools for day-to-day operations, monitoring, planning, and recovery.“Our goal is to provide a single platform that clients can use across all phases of emergency management without switching between different systems,” says Tim Masterson, product manager at BCG.
DisasterLAN (DLAN), BCG’s unified, mobile-friendly platform, provides secure communication, multi-agency collaboration, and real-time situational awareness. The flexible and highly configurable system can suit a variety of public sector agencies, including state and federal government agencies. BCG analyzes the workflow of its clients, based on their current strengths, shortcomings, goals, and objectives and then configures the system to meet these needs. “We customize the platform to our client’s business use cases, rather than trying to shoehorn them to fit a particular piece of software,” says Chris Zak, senior program manager at BCG.
What’s more, BCG also addresses the growing issue in today’s emergency management sector—employee and volunteer turnover. Because of the sporadic nature of incidents, emergency managers frequently shift between positions and agencies and new volunteers need to be on boarded during major incidents. As a result, new staff lacks the required knowledge of institutional systems and processes to act rapidly during an emergency. DLAN fills the need for a simple to use tool for newcomers that bridges the knowledge gap and enables them to rapidly respond to disasters. DLAN’s intuitive user interface and step-by-step wizards make it easy to get working fast. With DLAN, emergency managers can quickly look up what’s been done during past emergencies to inform response plans. Providing new responders with a simple to use tool and access to historical plans and templates, BCG enables them to take up the responsibility of community resiliency as equally as experienced emergency managers.
Importantly, BCG makes the transition from day-to-day operations to emergency management seamless. With its call center ticket management system, users can input field data on a daily basis. In case of an emergency, they can use the same system. For instance, DLAN provides real-time bed tracking for hospitals, which can be used on a daily basis to monitor the status of patients and hospitals.
We work alongside our clients to understand their mission objectives and hurdles to treat every situation as a unique one
During an emergency such as a mass casualty incident, the monitoring becomes a critical tool for knowing which hospitals can handle more patients and which are in need of assistance.
Being a hub for all the prerequisites of an emergency, BCG offers its clients the ability to monitor various sources of information, ranging from intelligence to geography, enabling their workforce to carry out mobile reporting from the field. These mobile monitoring tools can help in risk assessments, pre-identifying facilities, or damage assessments during or after an incident. Additionally, BCG has a number of mapping and dashboard tools to help clients get a sense of overall situational awareness. Being GIS-centric, DLAN has a mapping tool that can fuse information from disparate information sources onto a common platform, enabling better and quicker decision-making during an emergency. The mobile application, on the other hand, can gather information from the field and send it to the emergency operations center (EOC) in real time or using store and forward tools in case of poor connectivity. BCG has dashboards that can dissect this information into simple overviews for executives, allowing better decisions to be made. The clients can also customize and build their own dashboards on the fly to fit an incident specific need.
DLAN has been used in a number of emergency situations, including Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Maria, and the Fort McMurray wildfires, to help communicate with the public about evacuation routes or assist in damage assessments. For example, when a large city needed to rapidly implement an emergency management system ahead of a major international sporting event, BCG immediately implemented and configured its system while integrating with the client’s existing data systems. With DLAN in place, the venues were able to accurately report their situational information on a daily basis. This involved a lot of different users, including law enforcement, public health, traffic management officials, sports organizers, vendors, and suppliers. Masterson notes, “We became the center of configuration to aggregate and share information for the successful completion of those events.”
BCG takes immense pride in its steady and continuous growth over the last 37 years. Recently BCG was named one of the 2019 Deloitte Technology Fast 500 and included in the 2019 Inc. 5000 List of America’s Fastest-Growing Private Companies. With the goal of expanding its emergency operations, BCG plans to enhance its dashboards, giving the ability to tie in with sensor networks to notify better. Being a licensed drone operator himself, Zak says, “We are working on getting orthomosaic imagery and remote sensing using drones to share real-time information faster.” The company plans to continue leveraging new technology advancements to give emergency managers access to the best information available for improved situational awareness and outcomes.