D.C. area will get disaster victim tracking system

Wanted: Systems to track disaster victims

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Shock to the system

By May, officials expect to have in place the beginnings of a regional system for tracking disaster victims in the Washington, D.C., area.

V. Nona Ogunsula, the project manager for the Prince George’s County Health Department, told a conference audience in Washington, D.C., that systems integrators had been invited to submit bids this month for a development contract.

She said development of the system is being financed with an urban area security grant from the Department of Homeland Security.

“We were initially focused on mass casualty incidents” in planning for the system, Ogunsula said, but now the 25-member planning team is expecting the system to support biosurveillance and family reunification after a disaster.

Today, the cities and counties in the Washington area are using paper forms to track victims, but Ogunsula said the inadequacy of that approach was evident recently when Prince George’s County received more than 400 evacuees from the hurricane-stricken areas of the Gulf Coast.

It became necessary to coordinate both medical and social services for the new arrivals, she said. That revealed the need for a flexible system that can track multiple aspects of the emergency response, Ogunsula said.

The regional system will track supplies, human resources and victims. Emergency managers “don’t want to have three or four systems that they have to use” during an incident, Ogunsula said.

The system will be Web-based and accessible through a variety of devices, such as cell phones, wireless laptops and local-area networks. Patient records and other documents can be attached to each victim’s record in the database. The data and communications will also be stored on central and local servers.

Four emergency medical services in the region, four hospitals, the public health department and others will participate in a pilot system next spring, Ogunsula said.

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