From the notebook of business editor Tim Rausch

FEMA picks Augusta company for crisis management system

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is replacing its outdated emergency management software with a system developed by an Augusta company.

 

Techs for ESi have already finished installing crisis management technology in FEMA headquarters and look to be busy installing WebEOC in the agency’s satellite offices, too.

 

So far this year, ESi has been landing big fish, such as the emergency management agencies in California, Michigan and Chicago. Winning the contract for FEMA, said chief executive Jim Fulton, is as big to the small Augusta company as the first contract that got the ball rolling.

 

ESi is short for Emergency Service Integrators, which was the name for the firm when it started in 1996 as a spinoff from Savannah River Site. The first big contract was the 911 system for the Kennedy Space Center.

 

“For many years we’ve been recognized as the global leader in what we do. And one by one, we’ve been picking off all these state’s (emergency management agencies),” Fulton said. “People would say that FEMA isn’t huge because you already have a leadership position, but it is huge because FEMA is the defacto standard for global emergency management.”

 

FEMA, however maligned for its handling of the Katrina hurricane, is still the largest and most sophisticated emergency management organization in the world.

 

“When they chose to standardize on our product, it just gives you that stamp of approval by the voice of authority,” Fulton said.

 

More than 700 emergency management agencies around the world use WebEOC to manage everything from day-to-day operations to major incidents, according to John O’Dell, ESi’s chief technical officer.

 

Because of the state and city penetration for WebEOC, Fulton said there was some confidence that ESi would win the competitive contract for FEMA because of the national compatibility.

 

The contract is only as lucrative as California, Fulton said, but what is important to the company is that “we’re the system people turn to when there is an event.” The amount of the contract was not reported.

 

WebEOC is a web-based system that lets groups like hospitals, fire departments and police communicate in real-time during a disaster, such as a hurricane or bombings like the one in London in 2005. ESi is also giving FEMA a new piece of software, ESiWebFUSION, that integrates it with the 40 states and 20 other federal agencies that use WebEOC.

 

The company, based out of its headquarters on Broad Street, has about 100 employees. The school, where they teach people to use the software, is in Atlanta.

 

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