The Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security is responsible for coordinating preparedness and response efforts of over 300 emergency managers from municipalities, counties, tribal nations, and other organizations. It relies on Juvare’s WebEOC emergency management platform to weave those managers into one team to protect the four million residents of the disaster-prone Sooner State.
Located in the South Central region of the United States, Oklahoma is a beautiful state with large oil and gas reserves, a colorful pioneer history, a rich Native American heritage, and a passion for college football. It is also one of the most disaster-prone states in the U.S., ranking third in a recent MoneyWise analysis of states most likely to be affected by natural disasters.
The high frequency and severity of disasters in the state make the work of the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security (ODEMHS) uniquely challenging.
Oklahoma lies in the heart of Tornado Alley, and tornadoes often strike with little warning as they travel unpredictably across jurisdictions from well-resourced cities to vast tribal or rural areas. Outside of urban population centers, emergency management officials cover large swaths of land frequently working out of a pickup truck, creating gaps in disaster awareness, communication, and response. The state is also prone to flooding, wildfires, severe thunderstorms, and hailstorms.
ODEMHS operates the State Emergency Operations Center from the capital, Oklahoma City, to oversee the governmental response to disasters and emergencies. Working with over 300 local emergency managers, ODEMHS helps Oklahoma residents and businesses prepare for and recover from these events by identifying threats, maintaining situational awareness, and mobilizing resources statewide.
Fortunately, ODEMHS found a reliable, capable partner in Juvare’s WebEOC to help handle its unusually daunting slate of responsibilities. “WebEOC has been a great software for us,” says Zakary Legarda, a Situational Awareness Analyst and WebEOC administrator with ODEMHS.
The state uses WebEOC to achieve situational awareness during disasters, coordinate the distribution of resources, access statistics on impacted communities, integrate the efforts of nonprofit organizations, document actions, and more.
By setting up local emergency managers with access to WebEOC and introducing them to the WebEOC mobile app, ODEMHS has turned the sprawling network of OKEM professionals into a connected team that works together to protect the people and assets of Oklahoma. “The approach we have has been working great for us,” says Legarda. “We process requests and update situational awareness through WebEOC and rely on our partners to share information when we have complex incidents.”
ODEMHS has been using WebEOC for several years, but Legarda says the platform was successfully expanded in terms of capabilities and adoption with the latest version of WebEOC “The new version is visually appealing and more intuitive,” says Legarda. “It feels easy to use. It really enhances that end-user experience.”
The state’s success with WebEOC has come down to a few key factors, according to Legarda. These include the renovation of the platform’s display Boards, the implementation of WebEOC Premium Boards, the department’s ongoing training and outreach efforts, and the ability to “Oklahomify” the platform, customizing it to meet the state’s needs.
WebEOC also provides ODEMHS with powerful resource management capabilities. Jurisdictions load their deployable inventory into the platform, everything from fire task forces to chainsaw crews to swift-water rescue teams, which enables local emergency managers across the state to identify and request available resources to prepare for, respond to, and recover from disasters more effectively with each other’s assistance.
To maximize its resource management capacity, ODEMHS uses WebEOC’s Requests, Inventory, and Deployments (RID) Premium Board. “This Board has been game-changing for us,” says Legarda. “Being able to put multiple layers on the map and do real-time analysis of the data has given the best awareness.”
Among the many benefits ODEMHS derives from WebEOC, the most popular is enhanced situational awareness. “We use WebEOC to create a common operating picture,” says Legarda. “That was our biggest goal.”
By incorporating data from many sources—such as the National Weather Service and the Oklahoma network of local emergency managers—ODEMHS can integrate that information to ensure an effective response. WebEOC’s maps and dashboards, including some of this information, provide a real-time picture of threats, impacts, and response activities across Oklahoma for active WebEOC users.
“We’re able to get a broad overview and also get into the nitty-gritty,” says Legarda. “We are able to capture all levels of our stakeholders in WebEOC.” The platform enables local agencies to see when their neighbors are likely to need help and allows ODEMHS to identify when situations exceed the capacity of local emergency managers so they can mobilize assistance.
Two benefits ODEMHS has realized with WebEOC are improved situational awareness and resource management. Other benefits include:
As a battle-tested organization, ODEMHS knows that excelling at disaster response requires a commitment to continuous improvement. Moving forward, ODEMHS anticipates increasing its use of WebEOC in the preparedness and recovery phases and continuing its ongoing education and outreach to local emergency managers deepening the already broad acceptance of WebEOC among this critical group. The department also hopes to leverage the platform to improve self-sufficiency across the state’s different regions.
ODEMHS already enjoys great success in using WebEOC to weave the state’s 300 local emergency managers into one team to protect the people of Oklahoma. “We’re on a great path with WebEOC,” says Legarda. “We look forward to using it in the future and seeing where it’s going next year.”
In February of 2023, Oklahoma faced an EF2 Tornado. EF2 Tornadoes are tornadoes that cause severe damage and move at a speed of 158 to 206 miles per hour. ODEMHS activated the State EOC, including WebEOC, and effectively collaborated with agencies across Oklahoma to communicate important information efficiently, maintain situational awareness, and quickly respond to requests from partner state and local agencies and entities. “We pride ourselves on being responsive to public needs to ensure safety and recovery,” said Legarda. “Having the right people, process, and technology helps us do work we are proud of.”
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