State, local site responses were fast

NYC, hospitals team up<@VM>Wireless aids Pentagon<@VM>GIS, Web aid rescues

More than 54 New York City area hospitals accepted casualties from the Sept. 11 terrorist attack on the World Trade Center, but there was no way for family and friends to find out where an injured person was admitted. So city officials and Stream 57, a company owned by the Greater New York Hospital Association, collaborated on a patient locator Web site.

The page, linked to the city's Web page at www.nyc.gov, allowed users to find people treated for injuries sustained in the attack.

Users were able to search by a person's first or last name to find out where he or she was being treated.

'We always are intimately involved in the city's emergency management needs, so it just seemed logical to help the city provide accurate information,' said Brian Conway, assistant director of public affairs for the association.

The site was to be for internal use only, but staff in Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's office decided the page would be more useful if it were open to the public, Conway said. The association worked out a deal with Intel Online Services Inc. of Chantilly, Va., to provide Web hosting for at least 90 days.

System up in 12 hours

'We have created a lot of different databases, so we took our fundamental knowledge and applied it to this situation,' said Ben Chodor, Stream 57's chief technology officer. 'The whole goal was to give the public somewhere to call as a starting place.'

Chodor said his team dropped all its work and got the site up and running 12 hours after the attack.

The site had received more than 1.2 million page views and listed more than 5,000 patients as of 7 a.m. Sept. 17.

The Web site pulls data from the city's hospitals into a Microsoft SQL Server 6.0 database running on Intel Pentium III Compaq servers.The need for technology by rescue workers and federal, state and county personnel at the Pentagon disaster site prompted Technology Services Office personnel in Arlington County, Va., to build a wireless network from scratch last week.

Volunteers from AT&T Corp., Avaya Inc. of Basking Ridge, N.J., and Signal Corp. of Fairfax, Va., helped the county set up a wireless LAN and Internet system to give rescue workers access to e-mail, networked printers and federal, state and local databases to aid in the rescue efforts. The system went live Sept. 18.

'We were in a situation where we had to find a solution to get access to the Internet where we didn't have any,' said Jack Belcher, Arlington County CIO. 'We leveraged our partners and made it happen.'

Supplies appear like magic

Avaya provided equipment to build the network, and AT&T chipped in a second set of wireless antennas and assorted equipment so the system would have two transmitters.

'We were worried that we would have to bounce the signal off another site, but AT&T gave us the additional equipment we needed,' Belcher said.

The system uses the IEEE 802.11b standard to connect wireless computers and handheld devices to antennas that transmit a signal to Arlington's server, which returns an IP address to connect to the Web.

Belcher said the hardest aspect of setting up the system was making sure there were clear lines of sight to the antennas that didn't conflict with the Pentagon's signals. Department staffers used binoculars to find the lines of sight and weather balloons to test the signals.

'This is very important for logistics in terms of bringing in food, equipment and other supplies,' Belcher said. 'We basically had to set up a second emergency operations center.'Web and geographic information systems were key components of efforts by the New York State Technology Office and New York City IT officials to disseminate information and coordinate resources during rescue operations following the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center.

The city's Web site, at www.nyc.gov, was shut down and an emergency page put up shortly after the attack.

The city added disaster-related links and information to the page.

The site included links to the Metropolitan Transportation Authority for subway and bus schedules as well as phone numbers for blood and asset donations, medical personnel guidance and public-school closures.

The regular site returned Sept. 13 with updated links and information.

Meanwhile, State Technology Office computer specialists used GIS to give other state officials information on the location of every state office in Manhattan.

The computerized map information also was used to coordinate delivery of emergency generators by the Transportation Department from state offices around the city to the disaster site, said Tom Duffy, a spokesman for the State Technology Office.

Systems find volunteers

State officials mobilized a call center in the tax department to respond to public inquiries. They also used databases to track volunteers and to provide information to blood donors and those seeking to provide money or supplies to disaster victims.

Gov. George E. Pataki used the state Web site to post emergency contact numbers, hotlines, information about blood donation sites and the state's response plan.

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