FastCommand is 'cloud' with silver lining in storm response

By Beth Stephenson, For The Oklahoman Modified: May 24, 2014 at 10:00 pm •  Published: May 24, 2014

“We have a special resource in the variety of languages spoken by our members,” Morice said.

Larsen agreed.

“We have 26 different languages identified in our database of local translators so far. That could be a huge asset in an emergency. We’re working to refine the data into dialects and ensure a sufficient level of fluency. FastCommand will help us get them to the people that need them in a timely manner.”

Graves pointed out another feature of the program.

“Sometimes, we need to quickly communicate with volunteers to tell them to stand down and wait for instructions. There will be plenty to do once the first responders have finished their work, and we don’t want to be in the way or complicate things,” he said.

“FastCommand will also help people who are anxious to help know when, where and what is needed.”

Making it work

Once all the church leaders from a region’s congregations have loaded their contact information into the FastCommand System, a few keystrokes will be able to send a large group an emergency text or email message.

Those responsible for gathering the volunteer work order at the church’s Multi Agency Response Centers will make arrangements to start that process.

Volunteers can assign themselves to fill work orders and inform others what tools are needed. As volunteers sign up and complete the work, a FEMA-ready record is created. The computer program also will eliminate the need for workers to gather to a command center. They’ll go directly to the work site identified on the FastCommand incident map.

FastCommand can coordinate relief efforts and record keeping for any type of natural disaster. Organizations using FastCommand also can create a non-emergency event such as a service project, to practice before a storm. It already has been used in response to floods, hurricanes and tornadoes in the U.S. and Canada.

In April, church public affairs workers for western Oklahoma sponsored a “Super Saturday” where they initiated FastCommand training for Mormon Helping Hands emergency response leaders.

“The Super Saturday Disaster Preparedness training will be an annual event,” Graves said. “We have an unpaid ministry, so positions are shuffled around from year to year. We’ll use Internet technology for interim training, and retrain the leaders on FastCommand annually.”

Beth Stephenson is the assistant Oklahoma City multi-stake public affairs director for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.