The Noggin Blog

How to Manage Interoperability in the Age of COVID-19

Posted by The Brain on Jun 19, 2020 8:40:22 AM

Mere days into the hurricane season, the Atlantic basin is already experiencing its third named storm. Meanwhile, China, faced with flooding in its south and east, is upping flood defense emergency response to level III. Western Australia, for its part, is less than a month removed from a “once-in-a-decade storm,” so dubbed by the state’s acting commissioner of Fire and Emergency Services.

And so, in a field where forecasting is difficult, it’s a safe bet that Emergency Services will have to confront natural disasters in the midst of an ongoing pandemic, with subsequent waves of the latter expected.

Fortunately, the framework required to get through simultaneous large-scale disaster response scenarios has remained the same: interoperability. But so too have the challenges to effective interagency operations. Luckily ISO 22320 provides the means to overcome those challenges in the age of COVID-19. 

Let’s start at the beginning. Delays in getting assistance and rescue underway, lack of clarity in command and control structures, and variable decision making have long represented the starkest challenges to effective large-scale agency response – only compounded in the case of multiple disasters happening at once.

Why? Well, individual agencies develop independently of each other, creating heterogeneity in their practices that get exacerbated during a response. Add to that: inadequate information and knowledge flow between participants, springing either from a lack of trust, confusion on the ground, or competition between agencies.

By in large, better inter-agency planning can improve response outcomes. But those improvements depend on a broadly agreed framework for inter-agency cooperation, missing in the community until the development of the ISO 22320 standard.

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, including global health crises.

How does ISO 22320 work, exactly? The standard focuses centrally on achieving efficient coordination and cooperation between multiple actors involved in large-scale disaster management, tackling one of the major pain points in interagency response in the process. 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:

  • 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 – a must-have for agencies preparing to confront the double whammy of pandemic and natural disaster. To learn more about what the standard has to offer your organization, download our comprehensive guide to ISO 22320.

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Topics: Emergency Management, Interoperability, Emergency Management Newsletter

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