Manitou's Disaster Mode Helps Central Stations Cope with Katrina

When Hurricane Katrina hit, central stations that used Disaster Mode, a module from Bold Technologies' Manitou automation software, found at least some calm during the storm. Using Disaster Mode, central station operators were free to handle other serious alarms without searching through hundreds of low priority, weather related signals.

Because central stations are flooded with calls during a disaster, Manitou's Disaster Mode identifies how alarms are handled. They may either be logged, suspended or their priority may be changed. An AC power fail would normally come across an operator's screen. In Disaster Mode it might be logged or directed to a specific workstation.

"Disaster Mode allows central stations to change the way that alarms in an affected area are received and processed during severe weather," explained Rod Coles, president of Bold Technologies. "For example, with Disaster Mode, central stations can reassign the priority for alarm events, have the system log certain signals, filter the signals from the storm affected area to a specific operator or group of operators, suspend certain activities and default alarms to a disaster mode action pattern."

The first time that Moe Athmann, president of Command Central in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, used Manitou's Disaster Mode was during Hurricane Katrina. He even set it remotely.

"When Katrina hit and power went out, we received over 1,200 signals an hour – mostly low battery or AC power failures," said Athmann. "I blocked all low priority signals in the cities and parishes in those zip codes affected by the storm and just logged them, which took the load off our operators. We immediately went down to about 400 signals per hour."

Dan Reynolds, vice president of customer operations for St. Louis-based Interface Systems, had used Disaster Mode a couple of times in the past for smaller, more local storms but never for one of this magnitude.

Knowing that the storm was coming and when it would hit certain areas, Interface used Bold's mapping interface to define disaster areas, comparing them with the satellite weather map. With over 7,000 customers in the affected area, Interface determined the priority for signals coming in to the central station as soon as Katrina hit.

"Disaster Mode was really pretty easy to use and did a great job of allowing us to keep up with alarm traffic in other parts of the country," said Reynolds. "We didn’t have a single complaint about slow response during for the entire day from non-affected areas.

All central stations really need this type of feature."

Disaster Mode uses a graphical interface and maps with areas designated by zip code. The feature is included with the basic Manitou system.

Coles added, "We're grateful that Bold was able to help during these devastating circumstances and relieve the overwhelming event activity that central stations are faced with during this type of crisis."