Physical EOCs (Emergency Operations Centers) have proliferated in recent years. And it’s easy to see why. Physical EOCs help teams, individual organizations, and multiple agencies working in concert mobilize people and equipment for incident responses lasting the entirety of an emergency.
But despite their clear benefit, physical EOCs aren’t a cure-all for effective lifecycle management – even in public health emergencies like the coronavirus crisis. What’s going on, here?
Well, it turns out that physical EOCs aren’t always effectively used during trainings and exercises, nor is the use of standardized incident command systems always critically evaluated within the EOC, according to researchers. Researchers also claim that physical EOCs are ill-equipped to facilitate anywhere, anytime access to key resources, such as exercise and debriefing guides produced by national emergency organizations – a key prerequisite for success in an emergency response scenario.
These pitfalls don’t mean dispensing with physical EOCs altogether – far from it – instead supplementing integrated emergency management practices with a virtual emergency operations center.
Indeed, conditions on the ground, like the marked increase in weather-related disasters, surge of relatively newer threats like terror and cyber incidents, and reemergence of old threats like pandemics, demand it. More than anything, it’s this shifting context that’s forcing a major reevaluation of how to achieve traditional EOC goals, such as establishing a common operating picture (COP), facilitating long-term operations, improving continuity, providing ready access to all available information, simplifying information analysis and verification, and promoting resource identification and assignment.
Why are virtual EOCs the answer? Taking full advantage of digital technologies (mobile, cloud-based platforms, video, incident management dashboards, geographic information systems, etc.), virtual EOCs – in concert with traditional offerings – can meet traditional EOC objectives, to create modern emergency management solutions that facilitate data-driven responses to major incidents.
Virtual EOCs can do at scale because they’ve been purposefully set up to enable anywhere, anytime access to all available incident management tools and information; often, only a username and password are needed. What’s more, a virtual EOC gives practitioners the ability to share critical resources, continuity data, and important reports on a unified platform that senior leadership can log in to, as well. This digitization of information management, in particular, helps teams establish a common operating picture.
Other EOC objectives are achievable via virtual EOCs by teams with strong situational awareness of the incident in question. Case in point: for-profit and non-for-profit organizations who’ve given virtual EOC access to city emergency management staff find that it accelerates multiagency collaboration – relevant people come to the table sooner without a geographical barrier to entry – and keeps everyone with access to the virtual EOC on the same page throughout the response.
And the list of virtual EOC benefits is even longer. The only remaining question is: what technical capabilities does your agency need to enable efficient virtual operations? Download our guide to standing up your virtual EOC to find out.