Even in the age of COVID-19, getting resources to the right place at the right time is still only half the battle. Relief organisations and agencies still confront barriers, ensuring that those resources are productive once on site. What’s one of the most difficult, and how to overcome it?
It all comes down to capability management, with capabilities defined as the ability to perform a particular task. Capabilities differ from resources. They tend to refer to competencies, skills, orientations, attitudes, motivations, even historical behaviours.
How, then, do they “interact with” resources during an incident response? Well, capabilities are what transform otherwise “static” resources into strategic competencies.
Just think of it this way: in a response, dispatchers and managers can’t just send out anyone. They need to dispatch the best person (people or teams) for the mission. That could be a responder with diving credentials or CPR training.
Of course, managing capabilities (alongside resources) creates its own set of complexities. Managers will have to keep track (at any one time) of the certifications, competencies, and trainings of their responders. And that can be difficult.
Why, exactly? First, there’s the numbers. Full-time staff and long-term volunteers, whose capabilities must be tracked and catalogued, aren’t the only responders, especially nowadays when a newer base of shorter-term volunteers is entering the ranks. The latter is often coming with more limited capabilities, as well.
Then, there’s the fact that capabilities themselves change. Certifications, for instance, expire.
Further exacerbating all of these issues is the reality that priorities also shift during a response. Where in the mitigation stage, a likely capability-challenge might be lack of awareness or stakeholder buy-in, by the response stage, the issue will be difficulties in coordination and inefficient communication and information management. We’ve seen from the case evidence that effective capability management can be a casualty of large-scale response.
How to avoid that happening? We suggest investing in end-to-end emergency management technology with a strong capability and information management feature set. That way you can be sure that documented capabilities are deployed with the goal of achieving increased coordination and efficient information exchange. Some of the features to consider include:
- Integrates information from diverse sources. Since a lot of detailed credentialing and capabilities information already exists in HR and people management systems, find a solution that integrates 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 integrate with your partner agencies’ systems; 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. Maximising time, effort, and productivity through capability management calls for up-to-date data on how much training your resources have received, whether credentials have expired, and who has specialised capabilities.
So, what’s the rub? Resources, especially volunteer resources, need to be adequately trained and efficiently deployed within pre-set emergency management protocols. But managing those protocols (or capabilities) takes time, effort, and advanced emergency management technology. To keep learning how to better transform your resources into strategic assets, download our guide to capability management in volunteer disaster and emergency response.