Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
1. What is E-Plan?
A: E-Plan is a proven system that provides first responders and other emergency preparedness personnel with on-site hazardous chemical information for facilities around the U.S. E-Plan is a web-based system that is very secure, easy to use, extremely fast and highly available.
The E-Plan home page is located at https://erplan.net.
E-Plan’s database contains fixed facility hazardous chemical information with an individual chemical search capability that can be used in transportation accidents. This database is the largest repository of its kind in the United States. It delivers the HAZMAT information anywhere that wired or wireless internet access is available. E-Plan’s database has GIS and Google mapping capabilities, providing detailed information when every second counts.
Best of all, this service is free of charge to first responders and state and federal users.
2. Why and how was E-Plan developed?
A: Realizing the need to minimize the number of first responder fatalities due to lack of hazardous chemical information at accident sites, E-Plan was designed and developed prior to September 11, 2001 through a cooperative agreement between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas).
Developers received input from local, state and federal agencies in EPA’s Region 6 and E-Plan was designed by and for first responders. E-Plan has also been shown to have great utility in planning for numerous law enforcement and government agencies, including local fire departments, FBI, EPA, DHS, FEMA, CDC and OSHA.
3. How and where does E-Plan operate?
A: First Responders across the United States can receive critical hazardous chemical information anywhere they can connect to the internet.
E-Plan operations run 24 hours a day, 7 days a week with 99.99% availability. It currently has hazardous chemical information for almost 400,000 facilities and over 24,000 unique chemicals. Accessing facility “Tier II” data is a critical first step in safe and successful emergency response.
4. Why First Responders should become a part of E-Plan?
A: Because E-Plan is a highly secure, web-based information system that enables first responders to retrieve information critically needed in the initial stages of hazardous material emergencies.
One of the most important factors in a successful response to a hazmat accident is the speed with which the First Responder can obtain hazardous materials information quickly, completely, accurately, and in an easily understood format. Armed with E-Plan information, First Responders can plan the most effective response to the incident, and
a) Protect themselves, and not add themselves to the casualty list
b) Rescue the victims involved in the incident
c) Protect the people living and working in the areas around the incident
d) Minimize property damage
In given situations, the E-Plan system can make the difference between life and death for firefighters and first responders. As a result, it has been enthusiastically embraced by firefighters and hazmat response teams wherever it has been introduced. Without E-Plan, this information is currently available only in paper form and retrieving this information from a file storage room during an emergency is a lengthy process if even possible at all. Instant access to the critical hazmat information provided by E-Plan makes it an invaluable ally for First Responders.
5. What is the E-Plan Authorizing Authority hierachy for a State?
A: Once a State has determined that they want to use E-Plan as their Tier II reporting system, they should first identify a KEY PERSON in their state to assume responsibility for reviewing, approving and managing all “Authorizing Authority” applications for that state. The KEY PERSON will contact E-Plan to create accounts for their state and local authorizers/users (see chart below).
6. Are there any training programs associated with E-Plan?
A: First Responder can learn about E-Plan by
a) attending on-site training provided by E-Plan trainers (Contact Us) or
b) utilizing the E-Plan Online Training Program at https://erplan.net/news/Training.htm
7. Is there any fee associated with the E-Plan training programs?
A: No. E-Plan training is free to all First Responders.
8. Should First Responders have proficient computer knowledge in using E-Plan?
A: E-Plan is easy to use, flexible and requires a minimal amount of computer knowledge; First Responders can learn in a matter of minutes how to use the system.
9. Is there an E-Plan demo site?
A: Yes. Click here to open the Hazmat Demo Site Instructions.
10. What is the E-Plan system security overview?
A: E-Plan, a highly-secure web-based hazardous material (hazmat) information delivery system, provides first responders and others (i.e. federal, state and local emergency managers) rapid access to the data they need during hazmat incidents or terrorist attacks. Since the E-Plan System stores and dispenses sensitive information concerning hazardous materials, providing security for the data is an absolute requirement. All authorized E-Plan users involved with E-Plan are carefully screened and their E-Plan user accounts are approved and permitted by the appropriate E-Plan authorizing authorities. E-Plan System physical security is fully enforced via strict key control and housing the web servers in secure rooms within UT Dallas.
The E-Plan System’s main servers are housed in a highly secured, access restricted server room with emergency generator backup power supply. The servers are located at two locations, one primary site and one secondary site to achieve disaster tolerance. The E-Plan System is configured for redundancy by taking a mirror snapshot of the production systems from the primary location and copying them over to the secondary systems at regular intervals. Due to the confidential nature of the data being mirrored, all network traffic is encrypted via virtual private network (VPN) connections between the sites using firewalls. The network between the remote sites (primary and secondary) is a private network thus minimizing the possibility of a hack.
Fault Tolerance System
Fault tolerance of the E-Plan System is achieved in two ways.
- Each server consists of fault tolerant components, which include dual power supplies, RAID 5 configuration hard drives (i.e., if one hard drive fails, the other two hard drives continue the server in operable state) and hot swappable components. The power supplies to the server are fed from redundant UPS for power fault tolerance.
- For every production server, there is an identical copy of the server in the same room. In case of a full production server failure, the fault tolerant system can be brought online within 5 minutes of primary server failure.
Disaster Tolerance System
To achieve disaster tolerance, an identical copy of the primary site server on the UT Dallas campus exists at an off-campus location (secondary system). The two sites are connected over network for synchronizing data and configuration. The secondary system maintains an identical data copy of the primary system, which is updated on a daily basis to make it consistent with the primary system. In case of a disaster where the primary server resources are inoperable or unreachable, the secondary site will provide the functions of the primary site.
Confidentiality and Integrity
Extreme care is taken to ensure data confidentiality by strictly enforcing usage rules. Data integrity is ensured via several levels of checking mechanisms. Data integrity and confidentiality will be maintained throughout the life of the system.
Availability and Reliability
Historically, the E-Plan System has operated 24/7/365 with over 99.99% availability since beginning operation (December 2000). The system is designed to continually operate at 99.99% uptime or greater.
System Monitoring programs automatically monitor the health of the E-Plan System, sending text messaging (i.e. SMS) and email notification to system administrators if the system is not operating effectively including national system accessibility for need to know emergency response users.
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