Building a Better Website
The Feather Board Command Centre has created a novel way to disseminate secure information
By David Manly
With the ever-increasing reach of the Internet, technology has become an important part of how any business or organization communicates with its customers, the industry and the general public. One of the best ways to do that is through a website – but how do you communicate in a secure and efficient way during a serious event, like a disease outbreak, and make sure that everyone receives the information they need?
The Feather Board Command Centre (FBCC), an organization has served as an informal information hub since 2003 for the four poultry marketing boards in Ontario – Chicken Farmers of Ontario, Egg Farmers of Ontario, Ontario Broiler Hatching Egg and Chick Commission, and Turkey Farmers of Ontario – now plays a leadership role in emergency disease management.
Dr. Tom Baker, a consultant and incident commander at FBCC, says that over the years, the FBCC has made progress in a variety of ways to help the poultry industry: geo-spatial coding of poultry farm locations, disease outbreak simulations, biosecurity practices and more.
As well, the Canadian Agricultural Adaptation Program provided financial assistance to make the collaboration with the marketing boards official and improve emergency management planning and rapid response/recovery capacity, including the development of an Emergency Management Plan.
Thanks to the funding, the FBCC was able to create a new and secure website to help co-ordinate emergency responses, convey communication and recovery initiatives as well as provide access to maps and other useful resources.
“FBCC aspires to have an emergency-free Ontario poultry industry through industry-led disease incident risk management,” said Baker.
“When notified of a disease incident, FBCC maps the involved area and advises all farmers in the affected zone to institute heightened biosecurity measures. Poultry industry associations and poultry veterinarians are also alerted of the need for heightened biosecurity and provided with a buffered zone map.”
The website will be used as a way to avoid constant e-mailing among staff, agencies, experts, etc. and centralize all the information, including manuals, test results and biosecurity resources.
Added Baker: “Previously, feather boards communicated with their members and stakeholders primarily through their own websites and newsletters. It was long recognized that timeliness, security, and consistency would be enhanced with an integrated secure (or ‘dark’) website. The new website went live in the spring of 2013 and was used successfully in the two-day FBCC Foreign Animal Disease (FAD) Simulation in collaboration with the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA), Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food (OMAF), Animal Health Laboratory (University of Guelph) and the Ontario Livestock and Poultry Council (OLPC).”
The goal of the new FBCC website, according to Baker, is to provide:
- efficient and secure internal information exchange with access based on the individual’s response role and information needs
- common timely messaging of disease incident status
- alignment of key messages with those of government
- access to critical information resources, such as the Emergency Response Plan, biosecurity resources, technical fact sheet, etc.
- documentation access
- efficient staff management according to the Incident Command System functional structure used by emergency responders
- entryway to government regulatory processes (for example, movement permit applications)
- timely and common messaging amongst the four feather boards to co-ordinate information sharing with all government, laboratory and industry stakeholders and partners.
- archival information to learn from past incidents
- forum to discuss policy and scientific issues
- access to the website via mobile devices
One of the most notable features of the new FBCC website is that the general public cannot access it in any way; it is securely protected and offers only limited access to individuals within
Baker says that one of the main reasons for this drastic change in access is due to the risk of misinterpreted information getting into the public domain. “In several international disease incidents, media curiosity has been a significant deterrent to effective information exchange amongst responders,” he said. “And in some cases, the biosecurity on site was threatened.”
There are three levels of access for the website:
Level 1 – those who manage content (update messages, assign staff, verify completed tasks, document), such as assigned Incident Command staff and Section Chiefs
Level 2 – staff with Incident Command co-ordination responsibilities
Level 3 – those who view only, in declining order of access:
- designated government liaison and communication staff
- FBCC Board members
- Advisory Group members (view and participate in Forum discussions)
- key stakeholder and partner associations
- individual key enterprises and producers
- guests and media (location map with zones, disease summary)
The FBCC site is also extremely versatile and could be developed into a news source.
“This website could be expanded into a livestock and poultry web portal that would allow other livestock and crop organizations faced with emergency response challenges to have secure access to its customized features.”
However, he is quick to point out that the FBCC site currently only meets the most basic initial emergency response needs, as it is only a skeleton framework for a potentially more comprehensive site. Visitors to the site, Baker adds, have been incredibly useful.
“Users of the site see many new possibilities for enhancements that can serve industry needs throughout the whole emergency management continuum from report of disease suspicion, through to response, movement controls and recovery,” he said.
The goal is to make the FBCC website a “one-stop” website for emergency disease management resources.