Tragedies in recent history, including the attacks on the World Trade Center, the Boston Marathon Bombing, and the Sandy Hook Shooting, have heightened concerns over public safety issues in the United States. They have also revealed fundamental inadequacies in the exchange of information among first responders, hampering their attempts to protect human life. This has sparked several major initiatives, including collaborations among public and private entities such as FEMA, FBI, NIST, and NFPA. There are two main focuses: 1) pre-incident planning, and 2) technologies for situational awareness during emergencies. In both cases, authorities have explicitly identified the need for floor plans of the facilities under consideration. There is no way to develop contingency plans without knowing the layout of the interior spaces, and there is no way to track the response to a crisis without having a graphical display of the location of police, fire fighters, paramedics, and/or citizens, with respect to the physical structures. Yet little progress has been made toward achieving a consensus on how to make floor plans available, mainly because of the vast number of stakeholders. Of course, the floor plans are already in the public domain — if the structure was built in the United States, the prints are on file at the local building inspector's office, and many people have seen those prints, including all of the people who were involved in the construction of the facility, not to mention employees & visitors who have seen the interior after move-in. So lots of people know the interior layout of the building. The problem is that first responders need fast access with a simple interface, and nobody can agree on how to do that. So still we have nothing more than radios for communication, and no floor plans with which to visualize the nature of the situations, in advance, or in progress.
Floor Maps is the simplest possible solution — it displays floor plans on Google Maps. As such, they are accessible from any web-enabled device (including desktop computers, laptops, tablets, and smart phones), without having to install any software, and without anyone having to be trained in how to navigate the maps. The maps provide the surrounding context for free, often including street views, which can be useful in sizing up the situations. Then Floor Maps adds the 2D floor plans. Once zoomed all of the way in, such that the individual rooms are distinguishable, users can highlight rooms where there are problems (e.g., fires, active shooters, injured citizens, etc.). This information is then instantly accessible to all of the responding agencies (even if they're not monitoring the same radio frequencies), such that at the very least, everybody knows the interior layout of the facilities, and where the problems are. In an ongoing situation, the live updating of the display can supply important information to people in harm's way. For example, rooms can be designated as "all clear", and anybody who has been granted access to the system will see all of the areas that have been cleared, and those that have not, in real time.
Since public funding has been tight, we looked for commercial applications of this technology, such that people would implement Floor Maps for the economic benefit, and then get better emergency response for free. The most immediate opportunity was to use Floor Maps as the spatial interface to asset management systems. So now, Floor Maps does double-duty, as a graphical reporting tool in non-emergency situations, as well as providing information exchange during crises. Simply put, it can be used to locate serviceable equipment and assets that need to be inventoried, and highlight areas of interest (such as spaces with open work orders, or that don't require preventive maintenance because they are scheduled for renovation), as well as showing emergency-related equipment (such as fire extinguishers, shut-off valves, etc.) and spaces in crisis when put into emergency management mode.
To make Floor Maps more accessible, we decided not to use a proprietary data format. Since the information comes out of CAD drawings as spreadsheets, and since that's the format required for the pre-population of asset management systems, complete compatibility was achieved by coding Floor Maps to read/write spreadsheets. All that is required to make information accessible, and editable, is to upload a spreadsheet that has a column for the space ID. When somebody clicks on a space, Floor Maps reads all of the spreadsheets that have been uploaded, and displays the information found in any rows with the matching space ID.
Our customers are saying that this makes the information so accessible that they can easily implement Floor Maps before construction begins, and let sub-contractors use it to enter/update FF&E data as they go. They always have to provide the make, model, serial number, and warranty terms for anything they install. This is typically delivered on paper, and then manually entered into the asset management system. But that can take a long time — sometimes longer than the warranty terms, and frequently longer than the preventive maintenance period. If the building owner adds a Floor Maps implementation to the construction contract, the builders get an easier way of providing boiler plate information, and the FM personnel inherit a live database that is already populated with all of the information that they need to begin maintaining the facility.
Floor Maps is just as easy to use after the fact. When doing an inventory of existing assets, it's easier, and less error-prone, to add them to a floor plan, rather than working entirely in database rows.
So emergency management and facilities management (EM/FM) are not two totally different things — they have a lot in common, and they are actually mutually-enhancing. If there is a commercial reason for maintaining accurate facilities information, first responders will have a much easier time limiting the damage to those facilities in the event of a crisis.
Here is an example:
Please contact us to arrange a demonstration.