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EOC and notification System Deployed at University of Windsor Stood Up During Plastics Factory Fire

Smoke was described as “thick as pea soup and black as tar”. The massive industrial fire at Sprucewood Industries, in West Windsor, started Monday at approximately 3:00 p.m.

The University of Windsor activated their emergency plan by initiating a telephony alert to the affected zone on campus, including notifications to specific faculty and support teams. Within 5 minutes of direction to alert, 300 individuals were notified that the fire was controlled and contained, evacuation in the City of Windsor was not necessary, and the University was unaffected. Students and faculty were still advised to be cautious if travelling.

Simultaneously the University stood up their Virtual Emergency Operations Centre that hosts the systems for the City of Windsor and County of Essex. The City of Windsor and the Town of LaSalle cooperated to maintain regular situation reports and cohesive communications supporting the on-site efforts of their first responders.

University of Windsor and their partner FutureShield remained on standby to support the MIR3, webEOC and EmerGeo Fusionpoint systems deployed at the University.

“I have been involved in numerous emergency mock exercises in the Windsor Essex area, but when I get the call from the University to standby, the adrenalin starts pumping hard. The supporting technical systems we deployed must work as planned and practiced with no room for failure.” - Cynthia Weeden, CEO - FutureShield Inc.

“We just completed another training cycle on the systems previous to our yearly exercise: one new user in the City of Windsor EOC had just been trained that day. We aim for a virtual Emergency Operations Centre system that can be used with limited training and ready to stand up to any emergency situation. We are so pleased, that in a crisis, the University’s virtual EOC is able to support our community.” - Sgt. Chris Zelezney, UWindsor Campus Police Services

The virtual EOC hosted at the University of Windsor, shared by the City of Windsor and County of Essex, is an award winner, including the Canadian Association of Chiefs of Police/Microsoft Public Safety award for 2011.

The University of Windsor has the capacity to notify all members of the student body and their emergency contacts if necessary, as well as staff and faculty, during an emergency. This notification can happen by cell, landline, text message and email if students have agreed to provide the University with contact numbers beyond their UWindsor email address. The University has decided that ONLY people potentially affected by the emergency would be notified to contain information flow and avoid unnecessary panic. In this case, the affected group included only 300 individuals, but if a campus wide alert was issued the technology is available to go in a matter of minutes. The plastics fire real-life scenario is just another reason students may opt to sign up for the UWindsor Campus alert program.

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