VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – Virginia Beach has launched a mobile phone application Thursday that city officials said hopefully will never have to be used.
The app provides information for citywide or neighborhood evacuations during emergency weather events.
“During emergencies, real-time data is not only necessary, it’s absolutely critical,” said Matt Arvay, the city’s chief information officer. “That’s why it was essential that we bring online a tool that provides our Emergency Operations Center with electronic mapping that is layered with GIS (Geospatial Information Services) functionalities and live information feeds from multiple external sources.”
According to a press release, the city relied on paper maps at the Emergency Operations Center. During emergencies, officials would share printed maps and manually ‘red-line’ proposed changes. Identifying vulnerable populations was a separate fact-gathering effort and sharing information was described as difficult to share.
The city’s Communication and Information Technology Department now uses ArcGIS Online, a new interactive method of presenting maps. Combined with the city’s GIS, this new browser-based application provides the city’s emergency operations team the ability to view electronic maps, layered with capability to turn content on and off, zoom in and out, click on features to incorporate information and access live feeds from external and internal sources.
The tool allows the staff to see road closures, shelter status, demographic data and event updates. Staff can use this information to make critical decisions regarding public safety. Users can evaluate evacuation zones while evaluating potential changes and ‘what-if’ scenarios.
“Fortunately, we have never had to use the tool in a live situation, but we have successfully used it in many practice drills,” said Deputy Emergency Management Coordinator Erin Sutton. “Having the best tools for displaying and understanding evacuation data allows the emergency operations team to operate more efficiently, develop and maintain evacuation plans more effectively, and, therefore, provide a higher level of responsiveness to public safety.”
The city’s Master Technology Plan can be found here.