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Posted 4/3/2018

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By Jess Levenson
USACE, New England

On Monday, January 11, the federal government’s annual spending bill had not yet passed. Millions of federal employees were furloughed and didn’t know if they would work the next day, the day after, or during the weeks ahead.

Crises complicate the lives of federal workers and the Americans who depend  on them. Fortunately, the New England District’s AtHoc emergency notification system provides the information team members need to respond appropriately during crises.

AtHoc is a private company owned by Blackberry, and is a leader in providing modern emergency mass notification and crisis communication systems to worldwide organizations such as the U.S. Air Force, U.S. Army, U.S. Navy, U.S. Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

“In times of uncertainty, AtHoc is an invaluable tool to keep the workforce informed,” said Deputy District Commander Maj. Sonny Avichal.

On Monday night at 10:03 p.m., phones buzzed in the homes of furloughed NAE employees. They had received an important AtHoc message.

In any emergency, exchanging critical information is the first priority. AtHoc accomplishes this by alerting all signed-up stakeholders, anywhere, and on any device. Members can then provide real-time status updates to the command to achieve personnel safety and situational awareness.

“AtHoc offers a quick and easy way of broadcasting and receiving information during emergency situations,” explained Dave Schafer, NAE Emergency Management Officer.

District employees read the AtHoc memo: “All, a Continuing Resolution was signed tonight. Furlough has ended. Please report to work as normal tomorrow morning. v/r, MAJ Sonny Avichal, DDE.”

AtHoc’s messaging and distribution capabilities allow the command to immediately disseminate accurate news, for all types of emergencies. AtHoc was used during Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster; during an active shooter situation at Navy Yard, Washington, D.C.; and during furlough and severe weather events in New England.

“AtHoc saves time, energy, and lives,” said Schafer. “NAE employees don’t need to be logged into a Corps system, they don’t need a VPN connection, and they don’t need a Corps cell phone to receive updates.”

District personnel who submit contact information such as a personal email address or personal mobile number to AtHoc’s distribution list will receive breaking news on their devices.

Those who don’t sign up will not receive updates and will not be able to contribute to the command’s reporting initiatives. “AtHoc is only as useful as people’s willingness to put in information,” Schafer said.

Albert Collins, Operations Officer at USACE HQ and the USACE POC for AtHoc, believes AtHoc has many safeguards to protect personal information.

“Users must log on to their assigned government issued computer or laptop with their CAC card and personal pin to access their user profile and update personal information,” he explained.

“Unit Administrators require CAC authentication as well. Authorized government smart device users must verify their status through email accounts and secure hub.

Lastly, AtHoc instructors who may be given access to USACE’s system by authorized USACE employees for training and customer support requirements must access the system with a temporary guest login and password provided by the hosting unit.”

New England District employees are encouraged to sign up for AtHoc alerts. To do so, click the purple globe icon at the bottom of your taskbar and select “Self-Service”. Log-in with your CAC and click “My Profile” at the top of the page. Click “Edit”, fill in your contact information, and click “Save.”