During an incident, emergency managers need to deploy materials, supplies, technologies, and people to the emergency site as quickly and efficiently as possible. Unfortunately, getting resources to the right place at the right time is only half the battle.
The secret lies in capability management. Over time, the concept has migrated over from organizational management. Essentially, though, the thinking goes that resources are static – they’re there, or there not. Capabilities, on the other hand, are more fluid. Indeed, skills, orientations, attitudes, motivations, and historical behaviors can transform otherwise static resources into high-level strategic competencies, helping organizations achieve the following:
- Highlight training and credentialing gaps
- Reaffirm processes
- Alert teams to cost overruns
- Suggest areas for improvement
How does this play out in the incident and emergency context? Well, in an actual response, managers can’t just dispatch anybody. They have to identify the best people for the job, e.g. someone with the right certification and training.
Yet here, we start to see some of the inherent document management challenges with a capability framework. One of the thorniest: emergency managers have to keep track (at any one time) of the certifications, competencies, and trainings of dispatchers.
Why so challenging? Well, managers already have to observe and catalogue the capabilities of fulltime staff and long-term volunteers whom they know well. Now, as has been chronicled, a new base of shorter-term volunteers, often with limited capabilities for the task at hand, is becoming the norm in volunteer-reliant disaster agencies.
Further exacerbating this capability management challenge for emergency managers is the fact that capability-related priorities shift during the incident management lifecycle. At the mitigation stage, a key challenge might be lack of awareness or stakeholder buy-in. But by the response stage, the issue is more likely to be difficulties in coordination as well as inefficient communication and information flows. It’s unsurprising, then, that in the case of rapid response, effective capability management principles get thrown to the wayside.
So, what can help solve these challenges and help ensure resources with the right capabilities for the job get deployed to the disaster site? Integrated emergency management technology with a capability-specific feature set can help. For instance, the solution should ensure that capabilities are marshaled with the goal of achieving increased coordination and efficient information exchange. Some specific features to consider:
- Integrates information from diverse sources. Since a lot of detailed credentialing and capabilities information already exists in HR and people management systems, you need to find a solution that plays well with those enterprise tools. That way managers get access to relevant information, improving their ability to make sound deployment decisions.
- Enables inter-agency coordination. The same holds for external systems in the event of multi-agency response to large-scale emergencies. Your system needs to work well with those of your partner agencies; otherwise, the response effort fragments and work gets duplicated.
- Detailed and up to date. Don’t settle for static (personnel) contact directories, or even slightly more advanced systems that enable you to supplement directories with basic credentialing and capabilities information. If you’re looking to maximize time, effort, and productivity through capability management, your system needs to be able to carry in-depth, up-to-date data on how much training your resources have received, whether credentials have expired, and who has specialized capabilities.
To cap, resources, especially volunteer resources, are only valuable to the extent that they’re adequately trained and efficiently deployed within preset emergency management protocols. But managing those capabilities takes time, effort, and advanced emergency management technology. So, to learn more on how you can transform your resources into strategic assets, download our guide to capability management in volunteer disaster and emergency response.