The goal of emergency planning is to build a robust emergency response capability before a disaster even happens. However, disasters have a way of going against plan. That’s when organisations have to scramble and build out incident plans. Of course, the incident planning process isn’t without its own challenges. One of the biggest is incident assessment.
Incident assessment a key element of incident planning
As the name suggests, incident planning is the planning associated with an actual or potential incident. It usually happens under emergency conditions. Which means it involves developing procedures for responding to actual or projected effects.
Unlike emergency planning, incident planning will take place when a disaster is imminent – often when the disaster has already occurred. Therein lies the bulk of the problem.
The disaster environment will often have degraded situational awareness. Those conditions aren’t particularly favourable to rational decision making, or the careful analysis and synthesis required during any of the phases of the incident planning process. The planning process itself consists of four phases, including:
- Situation analysis. The collecting and organised cataloguing of critical and accurate information about the incident.
- Incident assessment. The use of information collected to determine the needs generated by the disaster. Incident assessment often includes resources analysis, estimation of required capabilities, and development of incident objectives.
- Course of action development. The development of one or more course of actions (i.e., specific tasks, organisation models, etc.) followed by their analysis for identification of probable consequences, potential difficulties, or coordination problems.
- Incident plan development. Final submission of the results of the course-of-action analysis to the appropriate decision-maker for selection, approval, modification, or disapproval.
Incident assessment the most challenging phase of incident planning
Given the disaster conditions that precipitate incident planning, it’s fair to say no aspect of incident planning is easy. But it seems from the available research that a significant number of issues arise during the crucial incident assessment phase, with the majority of those problems having to do with the lack of balance between demand and resources. So, what’s going on during the incident assessment phase?
There are a couple of issues researchers are picking up with incident assessment. A big one is that incident managers are themselves underrating logistics needs – sometimes they are missing key needs entirely.
Why’s that? Well, it’s no surprise that appropriately evaluating resources – a key component of incident assessment – is quite difficult.
During incident assessment, incident managers seem to have a tendency to be too optimistic in their evaluation of resource mobilisation times and reinforcement requirements.
However, the rosier time estimations made during incident assessment too often run up against the reality of resource convergence (e.g., traffic congestion).
Similarly, incident managers tend to overestimate the capabilities of available resources. That leads to requesting fewer reinforcements to achieve objectives, which are themselves often poorly formulated, according to the research.
What can be done? Well, as noted, incident planning in general isn’t easy. Getting incident assessment right, in particular, is exceedingly challenging.
But there are ways to better account for resource mobilisation times and resource capabilities during the incident assessment phase of incident planning. Here, end-to-end emergency management software can help.
How? For starters, dedicated features to establish incident management teams, manage necessary assets and resources, including resource credentials, certifications, and other capabilities work to overcome key incident assessment challenges.
Looking to delve deeper on resource and capability management, in particular?
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