In the past, emergency management agencies and other organizations might have become accustomed to bleak forecasts of powerful hurricane seasons – like the one they received this year. They’ve never, however, had to prepare for an “above-normal” storm season while simultaneously fighting a “once-in-a-generation pathogen.” How can they beef up critical infrastructure resilience to respond to multiple events at once?
Well, some agencies are confronting this scenario already. Hurricane season might be right around the corner for the Atlantic basin. But since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, and severe storms haven’t let up around the world.
Nor should this come as a surprise. Before COVID-19, agencies were already citing the rapid increase in emergencies and natural disasters as a key emergency management challenge.
Emergency management technology could give agencies some advantages in the age of multiple threats. But the truism remains: not all technology is created equal.
Indeed, some solutions require more, dedicated IT expertise (to implement) than agencies have resources to provide – now more than ever. The IT function is notoriously overburdened in emergency response organizations, and some system implementations and configurations are inordinately cumbersome and time-consuming – simply not feasible in an age of dispersed staff.
What can help agencies and organizations effectively manage multiple emergencies, through the entire lifecycle of preparation, response, and recovery, as well as business-as-usual operations for emergency preparedness and critical infrastructure resilience? These three capabilities come to mind:
Situational awareness. Many emergency management solutions don’t gather sufficient intelligence, thereby limiting the level of situational awareness teams can achieve. What to look for, instead? Find software that provides situational awareness for each event as well as steady state operations. Search for a solution that transmits intelligence from diverse sources and methods, including field personnel, data and GIS feeds, email, and SMS.
That intelligence will facilitate informed decision making, which advanced emergency management software can improve, as well. Best-practice solutions will provide comprehensive dashboards for multiple events and operations, as well as integrated, map-based functionality for visualizing the locations of incidents, risks, people, and assets, wherever they are.
Resource and capability management. Resources and capabilities go hand in hand. But too often, emergency management software siloes those two components, if the technology treats capability and resource management at all. Instead, agencies need software that enables advance capability and resource planning, reinforced by delegation, communication, decision making, and (even) inter-agency coordination. Key is an integrated solution that can manage emergency assets and resources, including credentials and certifications. That technology should be able to manage resource requests (best-practice resource request workflows, in particular, can be quite helpful) as well as expenses and mutual aid requests. To further ease the burden on incident managers and dispatchers responding to multiple scenarios, the solution should also be able to dispatch teams, already established with required capabilities and on-call resources, and mobilize (and demobilize) resources, as well as collaborate with, command and coordinate teams and resources.
Efficient response. Nothing improves multiple incident coordination more than system flexibility. So, agencies need to be able to manage all information, communications, plans, and tasks within a single, flexible platform. Specific features to improve communication and facilitate collaboration include alerts, dashboards, and collaboration spaces for teams, as well as notifications and updates via email, SMS, voice, or in app.
Agencies would also stand to gain in their incident response efforts from internalizing lessons learned from the field – not even just their prior experiences but collective best practices from the industry at large. Find a solution that comes pre-configured with best-practice incident templates, forms, dashboards, and plans, covering incidents like public health crises, hurricane and other severe weather events, emergency shelter in place, emergency evacuation, emergency lockdown, and more.
And that’s not the half of it. In this age of Covid-19, agencies and organizations will need to be prepared to deal with multiple life and property-destroying scenarios at once. Technology should be part of that preparedness toolkit. But not just any system. For more tips on which capabilities matter, download our buyer’s guide to emergency management software.