Few events in life resonate with such impact that every person on the planet can remember where they were the moment it happened. Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2001 — otherwise known as “9/11” — was just such an event.
On 9/11, four planes were commandeered by terrorists funded through al-Qaida and masterminded by Osama Bin Laden. One plane headed for Washington, D.C., never reached its destination, instead of crashing en route when passengers and crew overtook the hijackers. There were no survivors.
However, the other three planes — one to the Pentagon and two to the World Trade Center — reached their destinations. By the end of the day, there had been 2,996 lives lost, more than 6,000 injured, and over $10 billion in property damages, not to mention those who endured and even died from ongoing health complications years later. It was a particularly deadly day for civil servants with 343 firefighters and 72 police officers sacrificing themselves to reach possible survivors.
WHEN SECONDS MATTER
When the planes hit their targets that day, the mission became a race against time. Emergency personnel needed intimate knowledge of the damaged structures so they could provide support to the people trapped by the ensuing chaos. Seconds mattered. Nothing would have stopped the tragedy once it began to unfold; but if there had been more time, the number of dead might not have reached the level it did.
One reason many public servants didn’t have the ability to reach possible survivors faster was the utter destruction and chaos they were entering. However, another part of that was the technological limitations of the time. In those days, the Internet existed but the infrastructure was not yet in place to communicate advanced data in near real-time and through convenient hardware access. Plans for buildings like the World Trade Center were stored not in a “cloud” easily accessible from a portable device, but in actual print, usually within the fire stations themselves. Emergency responders had to retrieve these prints, set up a command center to house them at for reviewing and use them as a guide while entering into a war zone.
When reconstruction began on the World Trade Center, the Owen Group — our sister company — was awarded part of the contract. It was during this time e-PlanSoft™ came to be. During the initial buildout, the Owen Group had a forklift stop by the office and the jobsite carrying a pallet of blueprints that we had to make sense of. The same set of blueprints a first responder team would also have been given upon the disaster. Naturally, we thought there had to be a better way to store and check plans with all the technology available to us and thus began the creation of a bright idea.
THE IMPORTANCE OF ELECTRONIC REVIEW IN EMERGENCY SITUATIONS
Emergencies do not usually happen on the scale of a 9/11, at least not often. But when they do happen, seconds can still make the difference between life and death, partial property damages and utter destruction. And access to building and facility plans should not be a “privilege” based on funding or any other advantage that one community has over another. It should also not be a set of paper plans that are given to first responders when technology allows us to house the plans in the cloud and have access to them in real-time.
Imagine a potentially catastrophic situation in your community. Something that requires the cooperation of fire, EMTs, and police. Something where your teams are risking life and limb to save lives in a hazardous environment. You need the following tools to address such a situation:
- Coordinated access: Everyone should be on the same page regarding the situation they’re entering. That means real-time access on any device while at the scene so disaster teams can communicate with each other to asses the best solution. Personnel can report if a passageway is blocked off or hazardous right on the plans so all teams are aware.
- Layout knowledge: Everyone should know what kind of environment they’re entering into, from both its native state and one potentially compromised by natural disaster or coordinated attack. The Twin Towers on that fateful day of September 11, did not resemble the one on September 10, so personnel had to make allowances for that. But the learning curve would have lessened with ready access to the buildings’ final blueprints.
- Real-time communication on a single platform: A supported digital infrastructure that allows real-time or near real-time visibility can quicken the pace and response of emergency workers. The ability to make comments and interact can also provide valuable, single-platform communication that warns others about unforeseen risks.
- Data support for future integration: Electronic review plans give agencies the ability to understand the data in hindsight as well as foresight. This information can be taken back to each of the respective departments to ensure an even more coordinated response in the event of another large-scale emergency situation.
These needs are just a few of the needs that we took into consideration and led us to create our legacy software ePC and expanded even more by creating e-PlanREVIEW®. Every municipality or agency believes it could benefit from having faster, cross-channel access to critical layouts that might help you respond better in emergency situations.