U.S. postal inspection service assures mail security during national party conventions and hurricane gustav

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Courtesy of IHS

For more than 200 years, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) has served as the federal law enforcement, security and crime prevention arm of the United States Postal Service. With over 213 billion pieces flowing through the system annually, the USPIS has continually protected the U.S. Postal Service, secured the nation's mail system and ensured the public trust in the mail. In 2008, however, the USPIS faced several challenges that were extraordinary even by its high standards.

First, the USPIS was responsible for assuring the security of the United States mail for the two largest events of the 2008 U.S. Presidential campaign – the Democratic National Convention (DNC) in Denver and the Republican National Convention (RNC) in Minneapolis-St. Paul. Then suddenly, during the RNC, the USPIS had to simultaneously manage mail inspection operations for the nationwide response to Hurricane Gustav in the Gulf Coast.

To meet these critical challenges, the USPIS needed to quickly and effectively facilitate the tracking and accountability of its personnel and resources. It also needed to be able to inventory and capture all of its activities throughout the duration of both political conventions and the national disaster mobilization.

Fortunately, the USPIS was able to accomplish all of those goals and more because it had recently implemented a powerful new crisis information management system – Essential Emergency™ from ESS – at its Emergency Operations Center in Washington, DC, and in mobile units available for deployment nationwide.

With thousands of attendees gathered from across America to hear candidates Barrack Obama, John McCain, Joe Biden, Sarah Palin and other VIPS speak, the DNC and RNC dominated the news and generated vast quantities of mail. In order to inspect and expedite all of that mail, the USPIS had to track and manage hundreds of its own communications, actions and staff deployments with precision and utmost security.

USPIS planners used Essential Emergency software to determine which members of its team would be deployed in each location. Over 60 postal inspectors, emergency managers and homeland security coordinators participated in special training prior to the events. The USPIS planned for three separate personnel shifts, mapping each position for each shift for the entire week of both political conventions.

In the course of the two conventions, Essential Emergency enabled USPIS to track nearly 1700 communications while also coping successfully with multiple emergencies ranging from Senator John McCain's Denver campaign office receiving a letter containing the threat of an unidentified white powder to response operations for a major natural disaster happening over 1100 miles away in the Gulf Coast… Hurricane Gustav.

'Many of USPIS' personnel and resources at the Republican Convention had to be mobilized to the Gulf Coast region. ESS' software proved to be a vital tool in the management of the USPIS' response to a natural disaster such as Hurricane Gustav, while continuing the important work being conducted at the convention,' said Eric Lasky, Recovery Specialist with the Office of National Preparedness - a unit within the USPIS Homeland Security Group.

Essential Emergency software is designed by ESS to support all phases of comprehensive emergency incident management – mitigation, preparedness, response and recovery -- enabling public and private organizations to:

  • Streamline emergency planning and response for efficient mobilization.
  • Comply with requirements of the National Incident Management System (NIMS) and
    Incident Command System (ICS).
  • Reduce costs associated with planning and executing exercises.
  • Track and store task completion data against SOPs, including concurrent, functional and hazard-specific tasks.
  • Efficiently manage and deploy all kinds of resources, including personnel
  • Track training records, certifications, and health/safety information to ensure that only qualified team members are assigned
  • Empower managers to view and analyze immediate threats to areas surrounding an incident scene.
  • Support briefings to chain of command and/or media as appropriate
  • Implement as a hosted, on-demand subscription) or onsite solution.

USPIS installed Essential Emergency software at the USPIS Homeland Security Group's Emergency Operations Center in Washington DC and in mobile units can be dispatched as needed to events for on-scene, real-time direction of USPIS crisis operations.

During the DNC and RNC, the USPIS used Essential Emergency to preplan and review daily operations as well as capture and report on all of its communications. USPIS planners used the system, for example, to decide which members of its team would be deployed to various locations at each convention based on their secured list of VIPs arrivals and commitments.

The USPIS took particular advantage of Essential Emergency's robust Incident Log and a new custom-created feature of the software called the 'Watch List' ticker. The Watch List allows USPIS users to scroll through the last 5, 10 or set number pages in the logs to quickly get up to speed on what has been happening and communicated to any team member. They can see the most recent 100 communications or set up their own separate views – sorting communications by topic, personnel, location, priority, status, group or any other field available.

Throughout the party conventions and hurricane response operations, Essential Emergency provided USPIS with a '360-degree view' of its communications and operations – presenting pre-planning, real-time and post incident views simultaneously. The software's pre-planning mode allowed USPIS planners to specify personnel positions without 'deploying' them so they could match team member's experience, knowledge, seniority, or skill sets to the assignments ahead. USPIS mapped every position for each shift of both conventions. Its planners could view team members and other resources for each shift, the entire day or the entire event if needed.

During 2008, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service used ESS software to play a proactive, highly effective role in supporting the Democratic and Republican Party conventions as well as the Hurricane Gustav mobilization. Now the USPIS stands ready to use this same powerful system again whenever it may be needed to support daily operations or major events.

The Challenge

  • Assure the security of the U.S. mail during DNC, RNC and multiple emergencies
  • Facilitate planning, tracking, accountability of USPIS staff
  • Capture, categorize and inventory USPIS activities throughout major events
  • Streamline and improve USPIS communications

The Solution

Essential Suite® including

  • Essential Emergency™

The Results

  • '360-degree view' of USPIS communications – including nearly 1700 for the DNC/RNC – in one centralized system
  • Implemented and customized system, trained 60+ inspectors and emergency/security managers within 7 weeks
  • Nationwide coverage through EOC and mobile units – rapid dual deployment of teams to RNC and Hurricane Gustav

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