Common Operating Picture Project Offers 4 Main Components
Michael Goldsmith, deputy city manager for the city of Norfolk, says that while five communities are piloting the project, all of the districts in the Hampton Roads region will adopt these concepts and technologies in the next couple of years. He says the COP Project promises to make it possible for the 17 communities and the Eastern Shore in the Hampton Roads region to develop a regional approach for responding to weather events, floods and emergencies.
“We also want to develop a more effective way to plan where we will build housing, municipal buildings and military facilities in the future,” Goldsmith explains.
There are four main components to the COP for Hampton Roads: A GIS overlay, standard communications protocols (including voice, IP and satellite), a set of standards for drones, and a common framework for data exchange.
Goldsmith says the group has made the most progress on the GIS overlay and a set of standards for drones. In fact, the pilot group recently ran a test of the GIS overlay that focused on which emergency operations centers were open, whether schools were open or closed and whether the community declared an emergency.
“What’s important to understand is that in emergency situations, we could spend up to an hour just discussing on the phone these three items,” says Robert Geis, deputy city manager for the city of Chesapeake. “Moving forward, we’ll have basic information such as if emergency centers are open or closed, the status of the schools and whether an emergency has been declared. When we start with that information up front, we can then move directly to what the city needs and which locations need to be serviced.”
Erin Sutton, emergency manager for Virginia Beach, Va., says the city has been using a helicopter and drones to evaluate flood damage as far back as 2016, following Hurricane Matthew, as well as for a tornado in 2017. Sutton, who serves as chair of a regional drone working group, says the group meets quarterly to develop standards that will guide how drones interact with the region’s 19 military installations and two airports.
“We share best practices and work with the Federal Aviation Administration locally as well as with the military air traffic controllers,” she says.
Cloud-Based System Evaluates Water Level Data
Through the Virginia Institute of Marine Science at William & Mary college, the Hampton Roads region initiated StormSense, a system that evaluates water level data in the region.
Managed by Derek Loftis, an assistant research scientist at VIMS, the system runs over three cloud services: one that tracks sensor data across more than 60 sensors in the region, a second that takes the sensor data and creates maps and a cloud that issues reports on the data and shares it across the region’s communities.
Loftis says for now, primarily Virginia Beach and Newport News use StormSense, but plans are in the works for StormSense to integrate with the IT systems of all the other Hampton Roads communities.
Goldsmith says if it’s not StormSense, then the various communities will use something similar — a product that can evaluate water level data, map it and issue reports that communities can share across the region.
“The overall goal is to build a system that can push data to the Virginia Department of Emergency Management,” Goldsmith says. “And all of this data will run over the National Incident Management System run by the Department of Homeland Security.”