Big Board: Teleconferencing Over Maps for Shared Situational Awareness
Collaborative technologies for information sharing are an invaluable resource for emergency managers to respond to and manage highly dynamic events such as natural disasters and other emergencies. However, many standard collaboration tools can be limited either because they provide passive presentation and dissemination of information, or because they are targeted towards highly specific usage scenarios that require considerable training to use the tools. We present a real-time gather and share system called “Big Board” which facilitates collaboration over maps. The Big Board is an open-source, web based, real time visual collaborative environment that runs on all modern web browsers and uses open-source web standards developed by the Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) and WorldWideWeb Consortium (W3C). An evaluation of Big Board was conducted by school representatives in North Carolina for use in situational understanding for school closure decisions during winter weather events. The decision to close schools has major societal impacts and is one that is usually made based on how well a teenage driver could handle wintry precipitation on a road. Collecting information on the conditions of roads is especially critical, however gathering and sharing of this information within a county can be difficult. Participants in the study found the Big Board intuitive and useful for sharing real time information, such as road conditions and temperatures, leading up to and during a winter storm scenario. We have adapted the Big Board to manage risks and hazards during other types of emergencies such as tropical storm conditions.