Out of this world

It’s often said that anything that can go wrong will go wrong. It’s not the most positive way to look at life, but when safety is at stake on an oil platform, it’s hard to argue against being prepared for the worst. Hopefully nothing will ever go disasterosly wrong, but if it did, how would the situation be handled? Dominic Dodd of audioconferening specialists MultiLink thinks his company has the solution: a system used by everyone from office staff to gas workers to NASA...

  • E-Mail
By  Dominic Dodd Published  December 11, 2000

Emergency scenarios|~||~||~|If a crisis or an emergency situation occurs, immediate action is critical. Petrochemical companies must have the communication channels and operational procedures in place to trigger recovery measures without delay. The multiple parties needed to resolve the crisis have to be able to communicate instantaneously, regardless of place or time.

Modern audioconferencing technology is a vital element of the communications infrastructure that facilitates this immediate, automated access to the various groups of people involved in recovery measures – whether they are on the same site, spread across different sites around the country, at home or on the road.

In a typical scenario – it could be a fuel or chemical spill, or a fire – the first person who spots the danger picks up an emergency telephone or dials an emergency number, and is automatically connected to the crisis management team – this might include the site manager, the head of the fire brigade, the head engineer and others.

The emergency number dialled routes the call to a piece of telecommunications equipment called a “bridge”. Within the bridge resides a pre-programmed dial-list that contains the various numbers of all the crisis management team. Once the bridge receives the call, it dials out simultaneously to all people on the list to establish a conference call between them.

The bridge can store more than just a single contact list. Different telephone numbers can be associated with different kinds of emergencies – such as fires, explosions, a pipeline leak or personnel accidents – to connect the different people and groups that need to communicate in each instance.

The bridge identifies the number that is dialled by way of a Dial Digits Inbound (DDI) facility, or, where emergency phones are used, is able to identify the phone by its Call Line Identifier (CLI).

The DDI or CLI is associated with a particular dial-list on the bridge, which will then be used to dial all the list members and set up the conference call.

||**||Crisis management|~||~||~|During the crisis management conference, the site manager will need to inform his superiors of the incident, the head of the fire brigade will want to get frequent updates from the emergency site, and the head of engineering will be giving instructions to his team continuously. At the same time, the core crisis team needs to stay in touch to co-ordinate activities at a higher level.

Audioconferencing technology allows them to remain connected to the main conference, while initiating sub-conferences with other pre-configured conference groups. They can alternate between the sub-conference and the main conference, or even move from one sub-conference to another to speak to different action teams.

It is this type of communications facility that is used between the mission controllers at NASA when a space shuttle is launched, with each controller talking to their own “back offices” to get updates and information while on the main conference call.

On a practical level, conferences can be initiated manually by way of tone dialling, or using a web-interface that controls the bridge. For instance, web-based emergency terminals could be located throughout a petrochemical plant displaying a simple user interface to allow employees to alert the crisis management team in an emergency.

Moreover, it does not make a difference where the people are, or whether they are on a fixed or a mobile phone. The bridge can be configured to “search” for a person at different numbers or even leave voicemail messages.

In this way, the crisis management team can assemble and communicate at the touch of a button to prevent a crisis escalating and possibly even save lives.||**||

Add a Comment

Your display name This field is mandatory

Your e-mail address This field is mandatory (Your e-mail address won't be published)

Security code