The Noggin Blog

Why COVID-19 Makes Emergency Software Usability More Important Than Ever

Posted by The Brain on Oct 20, 2020 3:02:25 PM

The emergency threat has grown like never before. Natural disasters alone have increased ten-fold since the 1960s.

Add in an unprecedented pandemic, and these figures only up the ante on the need for not just any emergency management platform but the right emergency management platform. What capabilities matter in this age of disasters? 

MKT-479 - Emergency Newsletter Graphic - 21 October-01

Well, the risk of COVID-19 transmission specifically has forced many Emergency Operations Centres (EOCs) to go mostly or fully remote. Other EOCs have had to close down physical operations after employees began exhibiting symptoms.    

For the most part, these transitions haven’t been ideal. The so-marketed virtual EOCs organisations had procured served, at best, as places to collect data from the field. But they have lacked the necessary capabilities to make that information actionable, much less enable organisations to adjust processes and procedures to meet the needs of a major incident response. 

On the other end of the spectrum, there’s an even bigger issue. There, users complain that their full-featured emergency management platforms lack basic usability. They feel stiff, even painful.

Now, escalating threats make remote access to the information and tools needed for effective lifecycle incident management, as well as business-as-usual operations for emergency preparedness, and critical infrastructure resilience more important than ever. And user experience provides the key.

Why? Well, the overwhelming research argues that it’s not a specific feature set but great user experience that drives software adoption. Conversely, poor user experience lowers adoption. And where there is adoption, it’s often grudging or reluctant, meaning users look for less-efficient workarounds – not exactly what you want your users to be doing with their time.

What’s more, in the case of emergency response, there’s also a training component. New users are always cycling into emergency operations, especially in times of disaster. Many of those users have never been involved in emergency response before, but they will need to get up to speed on your emergency management platform.

Poor user experience in this likely scenario will only make the training lift that much harder, which takes away from time that could otherwise go to contributing to the response.

So, what improves user experience? In our experience, lots of things. Responsive design, for one, delivers an experience that responds intuitively to the screen size of the device being used. It goes beyond mobile optimisation, which merely reformats websites for mobile users, to reformatting and restructuring platforms for any device, regardless of screen size.

Besides that important factor, we think the biggest driver of improved user experience is frontend workflows that support key emergency response tasks. They keep staff focused on the response instead of the paperwork. Those workflows include:

  • Escalating emergency warning to incidents, and tracking those incidents through their entire lifecycle
  • Automatically alerting situationally-appropriate stakeholders through helpful message templates
  • Creating Incident Action Plans
  • Requesting and tracking resources, as well as assigning tasks
  • Capturing relevant information through forms tailored to specific roles
  • Mapping incidents, resources, assets, critical infrastructure, etc. to gain a bird’s-eye view of a situation
  • Assessing Community Lifelines to ensure stability of lifesaving public services


Finally, the rise of threats (in general) and the COVID-19 pandemic (in particular) have changed emergency operations forever. However, too many emergency management platforms have not been able to make the transition to a new age of mobile. Need more reasons to upgrade your platform? Check out our Emergency Management Software Buyer's Guide. 

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Topics: Emergency Management, Emergency Management Newsletter

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The Noggin software suite provides flexible information management solutions capable of managing all hazards across a wide range of industries, from the smallest complaint to a multi-national emergency. We help organizations handle all hazards, all media, all devices, all processes - in one suite of software products. Organizations across the world rely on Noggin to help them manage disruptive events more effectively and protect the bottom line for their communities and businesses.

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