Common Gaps in Information Format and Flow during a Disaster
Getting information format and flow right during a disaster is never easy. In fact, the collecting, collating, recording, and sharing of information might be one of the starker challenges to successful disaster response. At least, that’s what the recently released UK Resilience Digest determined. What are the common gaps in information format and flow during a disaster?
The UK Resilience Lessons Digest
Well, as part of its commitment to strengthening whole-of-society resilience, the Emergency College issued its second Resilience Lessons Digest. The Digest explores key lessons arising from more than a decade of emergency exercises, including two post-exercise reports (PXRs) dealing specifically with the Manchester Arena and Grenfell Tower Inquiries.
All told, 456 lessons were abstracted across the 16 reports the Digest examined. And the theme that most commonly emerged from the lessons? Yes, you guessed it – common gaps in information format and flow during a disaster.
Challenges with information format and flow
So, what are the main issues associated with collecting, collating, recording, and sharing information?
For starters, the underlying systems used to provide a common view of an incident and improve situational awareness during a response were found to be wanting.
Another challenge turned out to be the quality of the information itself.
Indeed, the Digest identified issues with the very information quality, format, and flow used to develop and maintain a Common Operating Picture (COP).
How could that be?
Well, part of the problem turned out to be varying templates used for Situation Reports (SitReps). SitRep forms varied greatly across organizations and agencies depending on internal response requirements.
However, standardization of SitReps wasn’t necessarily a cure-all. Standardized SitReps templates existed, in some cases, but they weren’t applied. In others, they were applied, but they were populated with inaccurate or poor-quality data.
Further information management challenges
Further issues came in the form of ineffective version control. Which led to misaligned templates and inconsistent information gathering.
Differences in presentation also resulted in frustration and information duplication; as noted: “Even when information formatting was pre-agreed and applied, a lack of clarity was reported regarding the amount of information senders should include, and an incomplete understanding of receivers’ onward requirements meant that compilation was hindered.”
Finally, the timely flow of information both within and between agencies, responder organizations, and departments was also hard to achieve.
How to improve information format and flow
So, why does it all matter? Information format and flow are key to forming a sound COP and maintaining situational awareness. In the analysis of emergency after-action reports, both of these tend either to be deficient or missing altogether.
As a result, organizations, agencies, and departments will have to get their acts together. How can they?
Recommendations arising from the above include:
- Agendas to be strategically aligned, standardized, and pre-agreed to minimize disruption to future flows of information
- Clarification on data collection methods for compiling SitReps
- Templates to ensure more consistent, co-ordinated, and meaningful information presentation
Digitizing information management will also help improve the quality of information format and flow. Which digital emergency management software capabilities can help? Download our Emergency Management Software Buyer’s Guide to find out.