The Noggin Blog

An Introduction to ISO 22320

Posted by The Brain on Nov 5, 2019 10:44:21 AM


For some time now, the research points up clear challenges in interagency response to large-scale emergencies, citing delays in getting assistance and rescue underway, delays in decision making, and lack of clarity in command and control structures, etc. The key question is why, what factors explain the situation on the ground.

It turns out the factors are myriad. One explanation proffered is that individual agencies develop independently of each other, creating heterogeneity in their practices that get exacerbated during a response. Another reason: inadequate information and knowledge flow between participants, springing either from a lack of trust, confusion on the ground, or competition between agencies.

Pretty young nurse pressing modern medical type of buttons

Fortunately for emergency managers, these are not insoluble problems. In fact, the incident management community, spurred on by these findings, has moved aggressively in recent times to correct many of the issues; foremost among them: the glaring absence of an industry-wide command and control structure for facilitating collaboration and interoperability. Here, the incident management community’s efforts culminated in the development of the ISO 22320 standard.

What’s ISO 22320 all about? An international, emergency management and societal security standard, ISO 22320 offers common-sense prescriptions for implementing best-practice emergency management systems and measures. Generic in nature, the standard aims to help organizations of any shape or size, in any sector, respond effectively to all categories of major incident or emergency.

How does it work, exactly? The standard focuses centrally on achieving efficient coordination and cooperation between multiple actors involved in large-scale disaster management, targeting one of the major pain points in interagency response. Its explicit goal is to boost various types of interoperability, while enhancing response capabilities and minimizing impact.

Specifically, ISO 22320 lays out a loose framework for establishing the basics of command and control within a single incident response organization. The aspects the standard touches include structures and procedures, decision support, traceability, information management, and, of course, interoperability.

It’s important to note, though, that the standard itself is not intended as a standalone solution. Instead, ISO 22320 is meant to be implemented as part of a larger incident preparedness and operational continuity management program, with a broad scope applicable to any of the following activities:

  • Incident prevention and preparedness to ensure disaster resilience
  • Guidance and direction in incident response
  • Planning for command and control systems
  • Multi-organizational coordination and cooperation
  • Information and communication systems for emergency management
  • Public affairs 

And that’s not all. ISO 22320 is quickly becoming the default standard for interoperable operations. To learn more about what the standard has to offer, download our comprehensive guide to ISO 22320.

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Topics: Emergency Management, Emergency Task Management, Emergency Response

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