County's Crisis Web site wins national award

Pierce County’s Crisis Communications Web site has been named best county computer media program in the U.S.
The Department of Emergency Management Web site was developed early in 2001 and proved its effectiveness during the 6.8 magnitude Nisqually earthquake Feb. 28.
The Department of Emergency Management program received a superior award in the National Association of County Information Officers 2002 Awards of Excellence competition.
Emergency Management Director Steve Bailey said Jody Woodcock, the department’s public education/media relations coordinator, is primarily responsible for the recognition.
She will join Bailey in accepting the award at the National Association of Counties annual convention at New Orleans in July.
“The citizens of Pierce County can take pride and comfort in the fact such an innovative program is available to them during earthquakes and other major emergency situations,” said Executive John W. Ladenburg. “I certainly take pride in what our employees have developed and how they are using it.”
Ladenburg said the Department of Emergency Management several years ago developed the Pierce Responder system that allows public safety officials responding to school shooting incidents and other emergencies to go online and pull up information about the school building, including maps and photos of hallways. That system also received national awards and is being used by jurisdictions across the nation.
The computer media category includes Internet/Intranet Web sites and interactive media. Runners up were Hamilton County, Ohio, and Broward County, Fla.
Pierce County won two additional awards. 1. Geographic Information Systems’ “Communicating Results” newsletter received an excellent award in the internal newsletter category. Other category winners are Fairfax County, Va., superior, and Orange County, Fla., meritorious. 2. The Department of Communications received a meritorious award in the photography category with “First Putting Lesson,” snapped by Dick Ferguson at the county’s Puyallup Fair Puttin’ Corral. Other winners in the category were Hennepin County, Minn., superior; Broward County, Fla., excellent; and Fairfax County, Va., meritorious.
The Crisis Communications site, developed in cooperation with Pierce County Geographic Information Systems Manager Linda Gerull and her staff, was the first of its kind in local government, according to Bailey.
“The site exceeded our expectations,” he said.
During the Nisqually earthquake, which was centered in Puget Sound between Tacoma and Olympia, telephone and cellular system overloads brought Seattle-Tacoma area communications to a virtual standstill.
The Internet and e-mail remained in service, and the new Crisis Communications Web site provided the only means for the news media and citizens to obtain earthquake information from Pierce County.
Parents of Pacific Lutheran University and University of Puget Sound students were among citizens from numerous states who accessed the site in the quake’s aftermath.
The site, which is activated only during emergencies, features published Web site and Web site builder components.
The published site contains detailed information about the current disaster, county background information and information for county employees such as when and where to report to work.
The pages are accessed in an easy-to-use, pull-down menu that keeps the interface uncluttered and simple.
The site builder is an application that enables staff to quickly create Web pages and publish to the Web site.
The builder is intuitive, allows quick entries and produces the site’s professional appearance.
King County was the only other Washington county to place in the competition, receiving an excellent award for “Vietnam Wall Experience” in the audio visual productions/videotapes category.