After Hurricane Katrina, Dean Ross, the national emergency manager for Indian Health Service (IHS), says he decided he needed to "change the flavor" of the organization's emergency management. And with the of potential an avian influenza outbreak, IHS, an agency within the Department of Health and Human Services, set out to find an appropriate emergency management services (EMS) response system.
What he discovered was the Pandemic Management and Notification Service from Send Word Now (SWN Communications Inc.), New York.
Based on the company's Smart Notification Service, the Pandemic product centralizes the communication flow between multiple locations, keeping key first responders connected to help create a clear and common operating picture. It allows users to say things like, "Hey, we've got 14 patients over here at XYZ high school," Ross says. "It lets decision-makers make well informed decisions."
The Pandemic Management and Notification Service's two-way voice and text messaging system includes mapping and current weather condition information. In addition to power outages, forest fires and mumps outbreaks, IHS has used the system for large events such as the six-day North American Indigenous Games where more than 425 people required care.
Ross investigated four vendors before selecting Send Word Now to help protect IHS' 1.8 million tribal members for its more than 85 EMS programs and 340 hospitals and clinics. And though he says the company had the best price, the selection was not about the initial price.
"When you look at the cost of emergency management — to use a system that allows us to get ahead of an issue, make good decisions, the cost savings is built in." Plus, as he points out, "If I make a good decision, I probably mitigated the cost of the entire system for one year."
To those considering purchasing a similar system, Ross recommends calculating the scale needed as to how many users there will be and ascertaining cost effectiveness and sustainability. "Don't go out and say, 'This is cool.' Make sure that your business functions match the tool."