Stonehaven Flood Support Centre


On November 1st 2009, the Stonehaven area had an exceptional amount of rain. Contriving factors caused the River Carron to flood, devastating around 100 homes and 25 businesses in the process. Four months down the line, this is our story recounting what we did to help.

Carron Terrace   Town Square flooded   Basrclay Street

Emergency operations centre requirements

When asked by local agencies to help set up the flood centre, we felt honoured to be given such responsibility.

Office space for the incident management team and a separate briefing room had been pre-identified and made available for use by the Maritime Rescue Institute (MRI).

Staff at the centre had to :

  1. log incidents
  2. allocate and coordinate resources
  3. communicate with all agencies involved in the recovery effort
  4. generally help direct the recovery response

We discussed what technology could be put in place to assist, created a plan of action, then got to work.



Aberdeenshire council agreed to pay phone system costs, but thereafter we were working to a £0 budget, so we opted to use best-of-breed open source (freely available) software wherever there was a nice gap.


Keeping it simple

As many of our customers know, we love to keep thinks simple (the less moving parts a machine has, the smaller it's chance of breaking down). We felt keeping things simple was especially important for tired and stressed team members. We really didn't want the computers, phone system or people breaking down.


Equipment and services agreed

Resourceful Computer Help is a computer services company, so many of our customers are surprised to find we're not obsessed with blazingly fast computer speeds, the number of Gigabytes capacity a hard-drive has etc etc. Instead, we focus on usability and making it easy for our customers to do whatever they want to do. This reflected well in our choice of equipment and services for the flood centre.

** Phone system **



Centre system must have local number and adequate handsets/ incoming/ outgoing lines to handle incident information flow.

A Voice Over IP (VOIP) phone service was setup to keep equipment costs to a minimum.

Phone line for warehouse.

Order placed via BT public sector sales, then fast-tracked.


** Computers and printing**



PCs to all work the same way

We loaned PCs running Windows XP

Centralised printing

We loaned a network printer


** Software **

The software we chose to run on the Flood computers was going to make or break us. We wanted people to be able to use the PCs with ease.

Fortunately, we realise technology can be confusing for folk, especially if they've not grown up with it (people who have grown up with computers tend to have invested a fair bit of time getting used to how today's computers work).

We therefore opted to keep things simple, installing easy to use programs across the board.



Incident information logging

Open source Office suite

Synchronisation of Flood Centre files between laptops and tower PCs regardless of location.

MRI loaned Microsoft Groove

Calendaring of volunteer rota and individuals flood support appointments

Microsoft Groove

Internet browser

Open source Mozilla Firefox

Email program and server

Open source Mozilla Thunderbird, configured for use with email addresses.

Remote assistance

Remote support software for PCs and Macs



After a bit of network cabling & configuration of the online services, PC software and phone handsets, we'd a nice little setup with negligible running costs. It was quick to set up too, which was good, as we were providing our services on a voluntary basis.


Maximising the available resources

We were lucky in that we were allowed to piggyback onto MRI's existing broadband connection using the virtual LAN capabilities of their router. This helped us in two ways :

  1. This kept the MRI & Flood Centre networks separate which was very important from a security standpoint.
  2. We were able to get things running quickly. Had we ordered a new phone line & broadband service, we were looking at a minimum of 6 days before the centre was running.


Data backup and support systems

As per any other business or organisation, providing a data backup facility was essential. People using the computers were going to be unfamiliar with the setup, plus stress and tiredness could force mistakes, so this was an area we were quick to cover.

We installed our remote software on each Flood computer so we could see the computer screens in the Flood Centre office, allowing us to answer questions and queries quickly and easily as if we were in the office.

A breakdown of the setup was also provided to the Flood Centre coordinator, along with typed instructions explaining how to use the phones and programs on the computers. This amounted to just as few pages (if screeds of instructions are needed, we believe this tends to indicate something's wrong).

Barclay Street   Window   High Street

Present day

So that, in a nutshell, that is how we setup Stonehaven's Flood Support Centre.

The phone and computer network has run reliably over the months, resulting in only 3 phone calls from the office asking for help (that's less than 1 call per month).

We were really glad we were able to help the Stonehaven community, even though it was only in a very small way. If other communities are ever unfortunate enough to find themselves in a disaster recovery situation, we hope this article might prove useful when setting up their emergency operations centre.