FORT WAYNE — More heads are better than a few doing Monday morning quarterbacking.

To help get more input in decision-making during a crisis, Allen County Commissioners on Aug. 9 approved spending $25,000 for software to create what’s being called a virtual emergency operations center that could later connect in schools and private businesses.

The Allen County Board of Commissioners approved a contract between the county’s Office of Homeland Security and Grey Wall Software of New Haven, Connecticut, to use the company’s Veoci software system to manage emergencies and run drills in preparation for emergencies.

Bernie Beier, Homeland Security director, told the commissioners that the Veoci system will give his office a platform to provide near real-time information and collaboration between local government departments and jurisdictions online during emergency events. Not only could the different areas communication with another, but Veoci will also provide the county “cloud space” to store plans, protocols and statistical information for emergencies.

“We’ve looked at (such systems) for years,” Beier told the commissioners. “... This one has a rock-solid reputation nationwide.”

Commissioner Nelson Peters asked for an example of what users would see and the system’s benefits.

Government has structure, but in emergencies “we go off-script, if you will,” Beier said. “... A leader’s job in emergencies is to make decisions whether you’re a county commissioner, a police chief, a fire chief, and we need information, good information quicker than we ever did before.”

An incident at Allen County Jail, for example, might involve the health department, and the fire and police departments for local traffic control. And rather than handling a situation in an up-the-chain manner, the software will allow county workers to respond more quickly.

“The more we think about how these events impact quickly, the greater the need is to share laterally information, not just up the chain to the bosses, but ... to empower the subordinates to make quicker decisions, so that they’re the right decisions the first time. ... That’s what makes us more efficient, better prepared, more resilient as a community.”

What happens, for example, if the jail burned down? Peters asked.

The system would allow the sheriff to get information 2 minutes into the incident instead of workers having to go into a room with computers, into a physical Emergency Operations Center (EOC), delaying the relay of information.

“It’s an EOC at my desk?” Peters said.

Yes, Beier said. Often after an emergency, he has heard from various people who weren’t involved and should have been. The system would solve that.

The first year of the contract will cost the county $25,000 for the software, its implementation, and training on how to use the system. Afterward, the county would pay an annual software subscription fee of $12,000, whether other jurisdictions or the county’s cities, towns, townships, other government authorities, private businesses, schools and recreation areas were added later, Beier said. A bigger contract would be made, but the county’s portion would remain the same, he said.

Users should start seeing informtion in their inboxes in 30-60 days, he said.

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