Software builds 'virtual armories'

Emergency Asset Management System

When a crisis strikes, government officials sometimes scramble to find things they need, so a Chicago software company has developed a Web-based system that enables agencies to build a searchable, centralized database of resources that can be mobilized swiftly.

"To an emergency manager, it may be a coil of rope or a generator or a pump, anything that can be used to mitigate a disaster," said Bob Gerometta, chief executive officer of the Emergency Asset Management System (EAMS), a division of GBUCs LLC, a software company where he serves as chief operating officer. "The advantage is you make it easy enough to do everything beforehand...rather than waiting until the poop hits the fan."

Jim Graham, EAMS' chief operating officer, said emergency management departments have underutilized modern technology. But moving to an Internet-based system from a reliance on paper would promote coordination and communication among agencies — a finding supported by a National Emergency Management Association report, he said.

EAMS provides emergency managers and other first responders a way to view and track all assets and services. It includes such information as descriptions, model names and numbers, quantities, associated monetary value, shipping terms and options, and contact information, among other things.

In essence, "virtual armories" are created, said Gerometta, who also is a former commissioner of the New York City Department of Records and Information.

Donors who offer the use of assets in case of emergency fill in applicable fields and receive confirmations and periodic e-mails to ensure that the items are still available and information is up-to-date. "It's very much like eBay in the sense it's very easy to learn, it's very intuitive," Gerometta said.

Within a city or state government, permitted users would be able to manage, assign, trade and move emergency assets among themselves. They can even set up different emergency scenarios — for example, a bioterrorism attack or hazardous material spill — and the different assets needed for each one. To avoid any confusion, an asset used during an emergency is immediately taken off the list so the system's users will see only what is available.

A public EAMS system also can be linked to the government system. In that version, donors are invited only to register and list what they want to donate. They cannot search or conduct any other functions. Depending on the established criteria, the system also can deny their donation and point them to a service association, such as the Red Cross, or deny their donation with a thank you message.

Gerometta said he envisions agencies and different jurisdictions linking their systems together to create a larger network of databases of assets that can be shared across the country. He said the company donated the system to New York City after Sept. 11, 2001. He said the company is also close to announcing deals with several cities and states.

The cost of an initial EAMS license starts at $50,000 for 25 users and depends on customization, training and data upload programming among other things. An additional 25 users costs $5,000. A maintenance fee of 20 percent of the purchase price is billed quarterly.

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