In the wake of the H1N1 outbreak, Toronto-based Tenet Computer Group Inc. has joined forces with George Brown College to test the latest version of its emergency communication software.

The company’s Pandemic Management Toolkit, which was launched earlier this month, is aimed at giving government and health organizations an effective way of managing communication across their emergency response teams. George Brown’s Toronto-based School of Emergency Management have entered into a partnership — partially funded by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council and the federal government — to test the software through real-lift simulations.

The technology is specifically being tested in the school’s Emergency Operations Centre, a simulation-based training centre where students can experience virtual terrorist attacks or disaster situations and draft emergency plans to deal with such scenarios.

“Our students will get direct exposure to the technology as they go through the simulation, testing and preparedness aspects,” said Robert Luke, director of applied research and innovation for George Brown College, referring to the use of the new technology as “innovation literacy.”

“They will gain advanced problem solving skills, creative thinking, business development, and the R&D lifecycle exposure that’s necessarily to create a highly innovative and effective workforce,” he added. This is even more important today with pandemic preparedness being such a hot topic during the H1N1 outbreak, Luke said.

Tenet’s toolkit features a group of nines modules that help organizations prepare for and recover from a major emergency. The software is completely built around a “people and labour pools” module, which helps integrate capacity management with emergency communication.

“Even if your organization already has an emergency plan, this tool will force them to answer a number of questions that they might not have prepared for,” said Carlos Paz-Soldan, president at Tenet.

At George Brown College, the school will be primarily testing the toolkit’s fan-out communication module, which allows software administrators the ability to send out emergency messages via e-mail, SMS, BlackBerry PIN, fax or telephone.

“This will allow organizations to select which people they want to communicate with and what kind of messages they will receive,” Paz-Soldan said. The software gives users the ability to send out these communications to specific organizational units or geographies, he added.

For example, in a hospital emergency situation, an administrator will be able to send out a request to their critical clinical staff and require a reply if needed.

Another aspect of the toolkit is the online emergency manual module, which allows organizations to store a Web-based version of their pandemic or crisis plans. This features also contains access control measures, so “people in different labour pools only see the sections they’re allowed to see,” according to Paz-Soldan.

Other modules cover redeployment measures, immunization tracking, and skills inventory.

“Tracking the skills of your employees is especially important in an emergency situation,” Paz-Soldan said. “And it’s not necessarily about the skills they would normally use in their organization.”

“Sure, they may be Microsoft-certified whatever, but the fact that they know CPR is valuable for your system to know,” he added.

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