Emergency Monitoring and Response in Hennepin County, Minn.

County government builds emergency response facility.
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Hennepin County's Emergency Operations Center (photo by Aaron Smith)

Located in Medina, Minn., and serving a population of more than a million residents, the Hennepin County Emergency Operations Center (EOC) monitors and responds to a range of potentially dangerous situations including extreme weather conditions, fires, hazardous materials spills and infectious disease outbreaks. The EOC oversees public and private disaster resources and acts as a hub from which city and county personnel can coordinate emergency response.

During a recent expansion and facilities upgrade, EOC officials turned to MSpace, an AV systems integrator, to design a new emergency monitoring and response system. The new system, which features RGB Spectrum’s MediaWall 4500 Display Processor and three QuadView HDx Multiviewers, provides a superior visual experience that enhances situational awareness and operator response.

“RGB Spectrum’s products are key components in the Hennepin EOC’s emergency management system” said Keith Gustafson, director of technology at MSpace. “Combining unsurpassed quality with responsive features and quick installation, the MediaWall processor and QuadView multiviewers provide the client with powerful display capabilities and real-time processing of video and graphic inputs. These display processors were the only ones on the market capable of accommodating all of the EOC’s requirements, especially HDCP-compliance, which made them the logical choice.”

Situational awareness activities are concentrated into three main areas of the facility. The newly-constructed EOC features a 60-inch x 384-inch (5ft x 32ft) projection video wall, and two rooms that make up the Situation Monitoring Station (SMS) provide personnel with a range of visuals to support emergency decision-making. The audio-visual system connects the three rooms, allowing video and graphics signals to be routed to any display device in the facility.

As the Training Room for Hennepin County’s Public Works Department, the EOC is used for a variety of purposes. In addition to emergency management and videoconferencing support, instructors use the facility to train Hennepin County staff on new technologies and equipment, and to teach certified emergency management and situational awareness training courses for city and county personnel. In addition, the room is used as the venue for quarterly city and county meetings.

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Hennepin County's EOC Situation Monitoring Station (photo by Aaron Smith)

To provide visual aids during meetings and presentations, a switcher is used to route 16 input signals to the MediaWall processor for windowing and display across the training room’s 1x4 screen projection video wall. For videoconference support, signals are also routed through the QuadView multiviewer to enable transmission of a composite of four sources to participants at the far end of the videoconferencing session.

Two QuadView multiviewers installed in the situation monitoring rooms are used to configure up to four signals for display on 90-inch monitors. Used primarily to facilitate decision-making during crisis situations, emergency personnel can display relevant sources on the main monitor for detailed review, analysis and action. EOC personnel use a third-party touch-screen controller to choose preset window layout configurations and change the selected sources.

VIDEO MANAGEMENT SYSTEM

Available inputs include multiple desktop and laptop PCs, a Blu-ray player, an Apple TV, a video conferencing system and a video management system that processes video feeds from county-wide traffic cameras and security systems. In addition, PCs running Hennepin County’s specialized crisis management software, WebEOC, monitor extreme weather warning systems and weather maps, as well as non-weather emergency situations. Any of these inputs can be routed to display devices located in the main EOC facility or in either of the situation monitoring rooms.

Prior to the upgrade, operators could view only one source on a single monitor. In comparison, the SMS rooms now provide emergency management personnel with a comprehensive view of crisis situations in real-time. In addition, the newly added training room provides an effective instructional and meeting environment for city and county personnel.

Hennepin County EOC system administrators have been very happy with the reliability and capabilities of the system. Dan Anderson, senior coordinator of data collaboration and communication for Hennepin County Emergency Management, observed that the flexibility, quick response, and excellent quality of the source distribution and display processing were key benefits of using RGB Spectrum’s products.

“In this line of business, it’s crucial that partners understand our demands and expectations” Anderson said. “For an Emergency Operations Center to function efficiently, personnel need to be able to access a range of visuals in real-time and at the highest resolutions. MSpace and RGB Spectrum provided – and continue to provide – exceptional partnership and service with a display system that has exceeded our expectations.”

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