Top Four Challenges to Virtual Emergency Operations
With COVID the use case for virtual emergency operations became clear. Safety concerns aside, though, virtual emergency operations can provide superior communications and coordination benefits over physical emergency operations centers (EOCs). You won’t recoup those benefits, however, without first understanding the top four challenges to virtual emergency operations.
What are they? Read on to learn more.
Challenges to virtual emergency operations
For one, virtual operations require stable access to an electrical power source and internet to support operations. That can be tricky in the emergency context.
Long-term physical isolation can also impact employee morale. Productivity might suffer, as well, with a lack of face-to-face interaction with partners limiting one’s ability to pick up on social and subtle body language cues.
Biggest software challenges to virtual emergency operations
Of course, those concerns can all be overcome by supplementing virtual emergency operations with a brick-and-mortar option, which is often considered the industry best practice.
More to the point, though, public safety agencies who went virtual often found their virtual platforms options to be ineffective for such a large-scale, complex disaster.
Meeting the needs of remote users, in particular, wasn’t easy. What’s worse, many of the technology challenges to EOCs operating in the virtual environment persist.
The full list of emergency management software challenges to virtual emergency operations include:
1. A deficiency in responsive design
In the past, software platforms only needed to deliver a mobile-friendly experience for field users. However, that’s no longer sufficient.
Many platforms designed with desktop users in mind don’t effectively cater to mobile users.
And the less user-friendly the virtual Emergency Operations Center (vEOC) platform, the more resources an organization expends on training and administrative tasks to bring mobile users up to speed.
2. Poor usability
Responsive design is just one facet of the usability hurdle that EOCs face in virtual settings. Many practitioners complain that their platforms lack basic usability, as well. In fact, they often describe them as cumbersome and uncomfortable.
What’s wrong with that? Well, research indicates that it’s not specific features but a stellar user experience that drives software adoption.
Conversely, a subpar user experience hinders adoption. That then leads to grudging utilization and users resorting to more laborious workarounds, resulting in the emergence of Shadow IT.
Additionally, new users with no prior emergency response experience cycle into the fold during incidents. An unsatisfactory user experience for them will compound your training lift.
3. Security and accessibility concerns
Poor usability and the subsequent emergence of Shadow IT are problems in and of themselves. But they also introduce security risks for agencies and organizations.
Remember, both state and non-state actors actively seek access to the information stored in these platforms and may not hesitate to disrupt operations through malicious actions.
Implementing workarounds might be counterproductive, too. Too many permissions’ restrictions can exacerbate usability issues and hinder information sharing.
As mentioned, vEOCs also exhibit a greater reliance on public infrastructure, heightening accessibility risks.
Even severe weather events have the potential to disrupt local infrastructure for extended periods, undermining remote operations unless reliable backups are in place.
4. Limited configurability
The final software challenge to virtual emergency operations is the protracted implementation cycle that too often comes when deploying emergency management software.
What are we talking about? Well, it's not uncommon for implementations cycles to extend for over a year before users can deploy the system in a virtual environment.
That taxes precious IT resources.
What’s more, it’s been reported that some software platform developers adopt a "take it or leave it" approach regarding customization. That deprives customers of the ability to tailor the platform to their unique needs.
Of course, vEOCs remain the superior option. So, the question now turns to, how to surmount the challenges to make virtual emergency operations work for your agency or organization? To find out, download our guide to Integrating Best Practice into Virtual Emergency Operations.