Scan In, Scan Out

emergency response

One challenge of emergency response scenarios can be keeping track of those responders, administrators, and volunteers who are attending to the incident. Who is on-site? Is the haz-mat team that was here an hour ago still engaged in a hot zone as the clean-up phase begins elsewhere?

Using simple tech to scan the IDs of personnel arriving at the scene is a great way to stay aware of everyone involved. Another way to manage the on-site team is to issue color-coded badges to each person who responds to the incident before they start their tasks. Emergency managers everywhere might take a lesson from their counterparts in Nebraska, who have developed a color-badge system as part of their planning for future weather catastrophes. And they’re wise to plan: Nebraska is a storm-prone state, chalking up over 2,600 tornadoes between 1953 and 2013, with the month of June alone accounting for about 1 in 3 of those storms, according to Imagine trying to manage a disaster scene as large as a tornado might cause without good coordination of everybody in the response team.

Badges of a certain color might indicate the job classification and work zone that pertains to the person with that badge. A unique ID code on the badge corresponds to the badge-holder’s name and other vital information about that person. So, not only does a quick scan of the badge or card log in the responder or manager, it denotes where that person is permitted to go. Gatekeepers at certain points can quickly spot a badge of a color that is not allowed in their zone and redirect them to the area where they are needed.

And keeping tabs on the people on-site can be done with existing identification cards, too, including the one ID most any responder is likely to have – their driver’s license. Companies like Infinite Peripherals and eSeek make magnetic stripe scanners, some that work as an add-on to mobile phones. That means an Incident Commander or his or her adjutant can rely on their handiest piece of technology to scan in the arriving personnel. They can then give them the color-coded badge that allows them into the proper zone. If that responder needs to be located, the database will show that they are on-site, and the zone where they should be working.

Scanning out helps solve the problems that can come from teams exiting a disaster scene without notifying the command center. Many times, radio traffic and the demands of the emergency management team clutter up communication in the final phases of an incident. Personnel that are ready to leave try to check out with the Incident Commander, but they cannot locate that person or have trouble reaching them by radio. If there is a central card-scanning point connected to a local network, exiting teams can scan out there as they are released by their department head. The database can notify the Incident Commander that some responders are now moving off-site, and that means they are accounted for, without a merry-go-round of radio calls and ‘look-and-see’.

Finding the right technology is part of preparing for emergencies. Another part is training and drills, and Findlay All Hazards trains thousands of people to respond to a range of incidents and crises each year. How can we help you be better prepared?

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