While spring means longer days and warmer, sunnier weather in places like Joplin, Mo., it also signals the start of tornado season, which traditionally runs from March through early July. On Monday, Joplin Schools won the 2014 Excellence Award from Tyler Technologies in recognition of the innovative way the district used the Versatrans routing and planning solution after a devastating tornado in May 2011.
Dave Pettit, Joplin’s director of transportation, accepted the award from Ted Thien, Tyler's senior vice president and general manager for Versatrans, during the company’s three-day users conference, 2014 Connect, in San Antonio, Texas. Mayor Julian Castro welcomed some 3,000 attendees Monday morning to the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center Monday to learn more about Tyler’s latest technology and how it might benefit their operation, whether at a school district, bus company, police department or court system.
Later, during a general session for Versatrans customers, Joplin Schools was recognized for utilzing transportation management suite to improve its routing after the May 22, 2011 twister, which measured a mile wide at its apex, leveled nearly 25 percent of Joplin and damaged the other 75 percent. Several Joplin Schools campuses sustained serious damage, including the high school, which had to be relocated to a temporary location starting in the 2011-2012 school year.
In the aftermath of this tornado, the district relied on Versatrans Routing and Planning (RP) software to handle challenges like finding displaced students, whose addresses no longer existed on routes where landmarks were missing or destroyed, and then transporting them to a quickly prepared new school location.
The district has been a Versatrans customer since 2004.
On hand to accept the award was David Pettit, Joplin's director of transportation who was in attendance to learn Tyler Telematics GPS. He recalled how officials used Versatrans to help identify students who were impacted and to reroute around the damaged area.
“We have also used it to help identify routes that have changed drastically with the shift in populations due to the storm,” he said.
With features such as the integrated Bing maps, the RP software allowed transportation officials to quickly process these new routes and respond to geographic changes as they occurred.
Tyler Technologies was also able to provide data recovery systems to Joplin Schools by using backup data and working closely with school administrators to restore as much information as possible, as soon as possible, so that it could be used to identify students and assist in the disaster recovery effort.
“I would never wish the destruction we had on anyone. But just knowing that Versatrans has the ability to be used as a tool to aid clients was very comforting,” Pettit explained. “We will continue to use Versatrans not only because they are a leader but also because they work compassionately with us and are there whenever we need them.”
A New Beginning
Joplin Schools has been rebuilding since disaster struck and is preparing to move the high school and two other schools to new facilities just in time for the 2014-2015 school year. As preparations continue, transportation officials continue to utilize Versatrans to forecast their future needs.
After the tornado, the district obtained additional school buses to respond to the routing needs of displaced students and the locations of temporary facilities — but now those buses are no longer necessary, according to Pettit.
“Now we are using Versatrans to help deflate the need for extra buses and route miles. We will be able to retire buses that we had leased since the storm because we are able to more effectively run our routes,” he said.
Although no technology could offer a perfect “solution” to the effects of the tornado, Pettit is grateful Versatrans proved to be so instrumental in the district’s response to the disaster. They did not need to implement any specific disaster recovery software because they were able to use the same program they had on hand for years in a whole new way.
“Versatrans has been a godsend in helping us keep up with the constant changes we’ve experienced and will continue to experience,” added Pettit.
Editor's note - Tyler Connect features more than 200 courses across 13 product lines, including Versatrans.