A new playbook for emergencies in Sarnia

Sarnia Police Insp. Norm Hansen shows how the new app on his Playbook can help during an emergency situation by mapping out problem areas.

Sarnia Police Insp. Norm Hansen shows how the new app on his Playbook can help during an emergency situation by mapping out problem areas.

There is a new playbook for emergencies in Sarnia-Lambton – literally.

The some Sarnia Police, Fire and Emergency Medical Services personnel and their Michigan counter-parts are taking part in a new project to use RIM’s Playbook to help communicate better during emergencies.

Sarnia Police Insp. Norm Hansen says the department began working on a federally-funded program lead by the Canadian Police Research Centre in 2011 when he was asked to speak to a conference about communications after the snowstorm which stranded hundreds of people on local highways. Hansen says Sarnia is well-known for its emergency planning but he had to admit that during Snowmaggedon, cars were checked three and four times because local emergency workers couldn’t talk to each other and share information.

As part of the federal initiative, city police officers, firefighters and EMS workers are getting Playbooks with a new app on it called MASAS. Hansen says every emergency worker can log into the app and report what they see during an emergency – everything from closed roads to criminal activity during protests.

Hansen says EMS units are all equipped with Playbooks now, the fire department has several and city police are beginning to roll out in the new cruisers in the next few months.

The inspector says if the test project works, all emergency workers across the country could use a similar app and the public may even get a chance to use it. “In the Netherlands…the public has access to the system to a certain level,” says Hansen. “There is no end to what you can do with it…I think in Canada it will start with emergency workers first, but I think it will go public here, too.”

And while Hansen sees the potential in the new technology, he admits not everyone is keen on it. “The dinosaurs (older officers) don’t buy into it as easily,” he says adding it has been a big leap in technology. “We went right from no data in our cruisers… to this which is leading edge which is fair superior.”

And Hansen says some people love the new technology. “All the younger officers under 30 – no problem.”

– Heather Wright

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