The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) must function both as a critical government agency as well as one of the nation’s largest healthcare organizations. Thus, the VA has to be constantly ready to respond to a any crisis while maintaining a high level of service during the event. Clear communication is one of the biggest requirements to effectively manage a crisis situation, and it can also be one of the weakest links.
To ensure they can communicate effectively, the VA has signed a $20 million, multi-year contract to continue and expand its use of AtHoc, a BlackBerry subsidiary and the pioneer and recognized leader in networked crisis communication. AtHoc reseller Four Points Technology will implement the contract, and enable VA to communicate with, account for and protect its 600,000 VA personnel, as well as contractors and visitors during crises. The system includes alerting across telephones, text, pagers, fax, desktops, smartphones, as well as integration with other VA systems such as digital media systems.
VA has been actively using the AtHoc system for the past four years, including during National Level Exercises, day-to-day operational VA events as well as significant real-world events such as Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and the Washington D.C. Navy Yard shooting in 2013. In each of these events, the AtHoc solution enabled VA to communicate with employees and deliver up-to-the minute information about VA operational status.
The AtHoc networked crisis communications platform will support the VA Notification System (VANS) and VA Personnel Accountability System (VA-PAS). VA-PAS is used by VA for all types of crisis event management as well as day-to-day operations. VA uses it to streamline operational response activities and protect VA staff and contractors with a secure, state-of-the-art system designed to provide real-time status of all users and provide immediate reports on the status of all employees. The system captures all responses and automates the processes for real-time corrective action for those in need, as well as monitoring status of those able to work during a crisis.
The nation’s military veterans are counting on the VA – and the thousands of people who work for the agency – to help and protect them and their health, so the VA must be able to immediately communicate with its personnel or the people at risk in the event of a crisis.
Recognizing the significance of the $20 million contract award, John Chen, Executive Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, BlackBerry, said, “We are proud to continue to provide this critical life safety system to the VA, and look forward to continuing our work together to build an innovative and secure enterprise crisis communication network.”