United Visual About Us
Contact Us
Support
Whats Hot
Site Map
    
  
New facility helps Amoco prevent crises

United helps design crisis management center at Amoco headquarters

We live in a dangerous world. Hurricanes, floods, terrorist attacks or accidents affect every business eventually, but few make the effort to deal with such crises that Amoco Corporation does.

Crisis management has been a priority at the firm for many years, and Amoco has developed a number of high level teams to coordinate major incidents. Yet despite the firm’s sophistication in dealing with emergencies, its crisis management facilities have been less than optimal, with teams meeting in a variety of rooms designed for other purposes. Today, however, the teams can come together in a new facility designed specifically for emergencies, installed by Amoco at its downtown Chicago headquarters. The new Crisis Management Center, stocked with cutting-edge communications, computer and video equipment, is designed to facilitate the fastest information gathering and most effective decision making possible.

Crisis management teams

Amoco coordinates its crisis management through two executive response groups drawn from throughout the corporation. The Management Emergency Response Team (MERT) is responsible f or overall support of any emergency response being mounted in the field. For instance, when Hurricane Felix slammed into the Carolinas last year, the MERT came together to monitor possible damage to Amoco’s petroleum and chemical facilities and to act quickly to minimize the damage that might occur. The MERT includes permanent members from all of the major business groups of Amoco’s Petroleum Products Sector and its Chemicals Sector, but, in an emergency, draws a team leader and additional members from the affected business group. In a crisis, of course, the MERT also pulls in support from whatever Amoco or supplier locations the team deems necessary.

The Crisis Management Team (CMT), consisting of Amoco corporate executives, is responsible for consideration of and response to overall corporate issues and consequences of any incident. Amoco also maintains an Incident Screening Committee (ISC) to decide on the level of response to an incident and bring the needed teams together, and a crisis management support staff, consisting of technicians and engineers, always available to the ISC, MERT and CMT teams.

The crisis management facility

Amoco’s Crisis Management Center, opened in January, 1996, consists of two large conference rooms, a lounge and reception area (equipped with strategically placed monitor screens displaying incident status information), five offices available for team use, a kitchen, copy/fax center, technicians' center, storage area, plus offices for Amoco’s crisis management support staff.

The conference rooms are identical, except that the one used by the CMT is outfitted with a boardroom-style conference table and the one used by the MERT with 6 movable, laminated tables, so the room can be set up conference style, classroom style or in a U-configuration. Each includes a control area (at the back of the room) with desktop PCs, remote controls and VCRs, plus a coffee/buffet area and conferencing equipment built into the front and side walls. The conferencing equipment includes a Sony ceiling-mounted video/data projector, two 33-inch data monitors, a dual-screen PictureTel videoconferencing system, two electronic whiteboards, and an audioconferencing system.

 

  Other stories
like this:

 
 
 •  
 •  
 •  
 • 
 • 
 •  
 •  
 • 
 •  
 •  
 • 
 •
 
 
 •
 
 

Communications flow smoothly through any combination of these systems and Amoco’s worldwide computer network. Team members can tie into the crisis location or other Amoco (or non-Amoco) facilities via video, audio or computer networks. A satellite feed, tied into the ATN (Amoco Television Network), enables teams to send video messages to hundreds of Amoco facilities throughout the world. The center’s computers, easily accessible to team members in the conference rooms or private offices, are networked to Amoco’s worldwide WAN and allow access to specialized software and data in virtually any of the company’s business sectors. The center’s communications system is meant to service as a hub for the eight Amoco functional groups that may become involved in a given emergency–and such coordination is central to the facility’s mission.

Each conference room includes two permanently installed PCs plus hookups for projection from team members’ laptops. Two whiteboards facilitate brainstorming, and such sessions can involve participants tied in from any distance. One of the boards links into the PCs in the room, so anything written on its surface can appear instantly on the PC screens. The other includes a copy feature which prints the handwritten results instantly on 8 1/2 x 11" paper for local distribution or faxing. Each room also includes cable TV inputs, so crisis teams can tune into CNN or the Weather Channel, making it easy to track public media reports on the emergency.

Also a meeting center

Fortunately, of course, such crises don’t occur very often, and even with several major exercises per year and training by the various support groups, the facility would sit almost unused if it were reserved only for emergency activity. So Amoco has made the facility and support staff available to the various divisions resident in its Chicago headquarters, and a variety of meetings are to be held there, including training sessions, staff meetings, customer presentations, and management and engineering staff videoconferences.

Amoco management is extremely pleased with the facility and its AV support systems. Chris Janssen, who coordinates day to day operations of the center, is particularly happy with the speed at which the teams can now go to work. "The Crisis Management Team," says Janssen, "was using facilities on our executive floor, and they had to set everything up in the event of an incident. They had to pull in tables, drag PCs from anywhere they could find them, and plug in phones all along the walls...Now, of course, everything is together and always ready, and we have all the audio-visual and communications equipment that we need."

Ron Ose, who was heavily involved in the planning and purchasing of the facility, adds that ease of use was a major criterion. "The fact is that the people who come in there are not AV specialists. Many of them have never seen the room before. Yet they’ll walk in and they’re going to be part of a crisis. We needed something that would be self-explanatory, and we’ve achieved that."