Crisis information firm offers to help Augusta

Augusta's approach to emergency management could be about to change, with help from ESi, which has offered to produce a report on the city's plans and preparedness at no cost.


ESi -- which makes web-based crisis information management technology and sponsored the Ironman triathlon -- performs similar analyses of agencies around the globe. Founded by former heads of emergency operations at Savannah River Site, its recent clients include the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, military installations and EMAs in metro Atlanta counties of Fulton, Cobb, Dekalb and Cherokee, co-founder Jim Fulton said.

ESi will interview personnel, review all training and planning documents and other operational details, spend 60-80 hours analyzing the information and produce a 150- to 200-page report, Fulton said.

Outside military installations and NASA, ESi rarely finds an agency without room for improvement, he said.

"I don't think it's because they don't care; I think it's because they simply cannot afford to staff the maintenance requirements," Fulton said.

With Pam Tucker's Columbia County EMA a likely exception, he said few agencies know how to adequately "harness the resources of the media," and ESi is able to make recommendations about that, he said.

ESi has enabled agencies to immediately downlink into an EOC aerial media footage of disasters, a useful tool.

Fulton recalled the 2005 gas explosion in Graniteville that killed nine people as an example of a disaster that could recur, taking more lives and causing financial ruin in a more populated area such as Augusta.

"Augusta-Richmond County is a highly complex community that has the potential for any number of very serious situations -- a railroad going through densely populated areas, interstate highways, a river, chemical plants, manufacturing facilities and nuclear power and Savannah River Site," in addition to Fort Gordon, he said.

"When you have all those things within your 25-mile emergency planning zone, you have the potential for just about any worst-case scenario that you can imagine," Fulton said.

Slightly safer but as vulnerable to nearly every type of natural disaster is Columbia County. Without any specific information about the EMA, Fulton said Tucker has likely been the catalyst that has elevated Columbia County Emergency Management to one of the state's leading agencies.

Resources make difference in local emergency response