On the Job After Hurricane Katrina

About this Issue….

Welcome to AECWeekly! Jon Hansen, of Autodesk and former Assistant Rescue Fire Chief for Oklahoma City, and well versed in the ways of emergency response and recovery, was on his way to Pensacola where the task force was going to Gulf Shore Mississippi first to meet with the Florida task force there and on to meet another task force in the New Orleans area. Read what he has to say about Autodesk's contribution to the response and recovery effort, as well as what two AEC firms are doing to help provide emergency housing for those displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

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Industry News
On the Job After Hurricane Katrina
By Susan Smith

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This week I spoke to Jon Hansen of Autodesk and former Assistant Rescue Fire Chief for Oklahoma City, best known for being the “voice” of Oklahoma City during the Murrah Building bombing, whom I profiled last year in a GISWeekly story on the Florida hurricane season. Hansen, well versed in the ways of emergency response and recovery, was on his way to Pensacola where the task force was going to Gulf Shore Mississippi first to meet with the Florida task force there and on to meet another task force in the New Orleans area.

How is Autodesk planning to help out in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina? I asked.
“One of the things I think, is they just need information. For the first rescue attempts with the urban search and rescue teams in New Orleans, responders went into the neighborhoods without any maps, just to get into the houses quickly. Now what they're doing, with the help of maps is, they're going back in and systematically marking those locations of hazardous materials, or where they have found a victim they'll mark that area so a team can come in and recover the body.

“In our Crisis Command Software program, we've got a system that combines a GIS system with a CAD system so we've got the mapping component and the building component. Now our developers have put together a search and rescue portion of that where they go through these areas they can use their markings and have a specific way that we mark that's recognizable throughout the country, so we all know what these markings mean. We've taken those simple sets and put them into a program where they can take a tablet PC and mark those areas and either do one of two things : either transmit them back electronically or put them on a drive and download them, then put them on the server when they get back to the command post. It's a better way to log and keep records.”

What changes have been made to Autodesk software to adapt to the various emergency response efforts you've been involved with?

“We prepare by learning,” said Hansen sagely. “We take the Oklahoma City incident, 9/11, Florida hurricanes last year, and we try to make the system better and more user friendly. That electronic toolbox that we send out to men and women on the front lines is something created with the intent of taking care of all your needs - mapping, building and design needs. Concerns have to be dealt with, such as, knowing what's in a structure and what the structural loads are and what is outside the building, i.e. - what's the infrastructure doing, which way are the sewers running, if we've got contaminated floodwater trapped in a sewer where is that going to end up, etc. If we have some hazardous material in that system, where is that eventually going to end up?”

“We try to pull it all into one system so we don't have to get out of a program and re-enter a program to try to do that. my stake in this is to help create that system, where you have GIS and CAD, and utilities, your critical infrastructure, all of that combined into a system that is user friendly for the emergency responders.”

“Every time we work one of these disasters in our country, we take a good look at what Autodesk has done with the emergency response offering, and ask how can we improve this, what can we add to it to make their life and job easier. We've added a search component to aid search responders, and to keep a record of the search - we've added some areas where we can help people with shelter management where they can log people in and electronically and keep track of people as they move from shelter to shelter. We've got a system where we can help them identify ME and mortuary folks, distinguishing marks on victims, etc. We can keep track of that information to help in the ID process of victims.

Over the next months, we'll bring in other tools like Buzzsaw. We've got that very secure big information storage bucket that we've made available for storage of critical data where users can pull the data out as they need it. We'll be thinking of civil engineering products and about rebuilding and recovery and getting citizens back home.”

At seven days post landfall, what are your first areas of response?

“Still today I think one of the biggest challenges we face is body recovery, getting those victims identified and back to their loved ones so they can close that chapter out. We're working on that, and making those neighborhoods as safe as we can by identifying hazardous materials, etc. If there's anyone to rescued then we will be focusing on that first, but the focus as it shifts to recovery will be those victims and recovery to their families, and getting families safely back into their neighborhoods to start the rebuilding process.”

How is the Autodesk “task force” distributed?

“We've got Autodesk family working throughout the country. Almost every Autodesk facility has been working on this emergency. We're not forgetting our everyday customers, but one of our priority shifts is Katrina. They've got a couple of shifts that are working full time on nothing else but Katrina issues and everybody else at the company is making contact with customers, families, different government agencies so that we can assist at any level, be it on the street (as today ) but also back in the planning areas in planning the future as to how we are going to get the Gulf Coast back on its feet. Carol Bartz has made every resource available to the recovery effort.”

Last year Autodesk helped set up a MapGuide website out of the Florida Emergency Operations Center. Will that be done in the Louisiana area?

“Unfortunately for New Orleans, the mayor was working out of a building with no power. Some of the Emergency Operations folks and the governor have been working for days without power. As soon as those systems come back online, we stand ready to duplicate what we did in Florida and assist them in establishing a good information system that can get information out to the citizens. That's one of the biggest challenges we have right now is getting those systems available to people.”

How will Autodesk products work with the existing systems that disparate agencies from different levels of government or private industry may have?

“We seamlessly blend into any level of government or private industry that's trying to help as well.

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