Article originally published in Security Brief Australia, original article available here.
Federal government officials have their hands full with concurrent crises: emerging subvariants, war in eastern Europe, the prospect of hostilities in the western Pacific, civil unrest, cyber-attacks, supply chain disruptions and staffing shortages, inflation, and natural disasters.
Indeed, many of these threats require all-of-government mobilisations, rapidly depleting federal resources needed to prepare for more frequent, intense, and complex emergencies. Responding to these threats will require quick decision-making from federal governments.
Some governments have gotten the message. In June 2021, for instance, the Australian Government revised its Crisis Management Framework (AGCMF), adopting an “all hazards” approach to managing crisis risk.
Words on paper are one thing, though. Events have a mind of their own, such as the 2022 floods along the east coast of Australia that caused widespread destruction and loss of life. Serious innovations will be needed to support the requisite interagency collaboration and data sharing needed to get ahead of such events.
What innovations, specifically? From the benefit of close work in private and public sectors, implementing integrated security, safety, and critical event management software and strategies, four emergency management trends have been identified that provide the greatest potential to enable collaborative emergency response.
Here are the emergency management trends that federal government stakeholders should know.
Trend 1. Mobile critical event management command
COVID has propelled a massive shift in the way people work, communicate, and collaborate – at different places and times and on different devices. Emergency management, like other fields, has been deeply impacted. For instance, many physical Emergency Operations Centres (EOCs) were rendered useless during the pandemic.
What took their place? Forward-thinking agencies invested in virtual, anywhere EOCs.
These virtual EOCs are mobile-first, i.e., optimised for mobile users with dashboards resizing for mobile devices, making all the same tools available on the go. They also facilitate mobile command, clarifying appropriate duties, education, training, license currency, and equipment for relevant roles.
Mobile critical event command also gives emergency managers a head start on activating their response plans when disaster strikes, with role responsibilities for Incident Command System positions, action plans, and the like.
Trend 2. Self-improving management systems
The systems that virtual EOCs run on matter, too.
Emergency Managers are increasingly looking for multi-use case solutions, finding it difficult to get business cases approved for single-use solutions, whether for communication, collaboration, or information capture.
Instead, self-improving management systems come equipped with workflows that support key emergency response tasks, keeping staff focused on the response instead of paperwork.
The workflows include:
- Escalating emergency warnings to incidents and tracking those incidents through their entire lifecycle
- Automatically alerting 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, and critical infrastructure
- Assessing community lifelines to ensure the stability of lifesaving public services
Trend 3. Subscribing to best practice
The solutions themselves allow for continuous improvement (bringing in more data sets and out-of-the-box processes) in line with the best practice frameworks, such as the PDCA management cycle.
However, these best practices change. Therefore, an important trend to watch is ongoing subscription to best practice, rather than one-off implementations, which get stale.
Besides giving agencies continuing value from access to updated best practices, this model operationalises best practices in digital form. That way, practitioners logging into virtual EOCs get a clear understanding of what’s going on, what they need to do in their role, and what tools they have in front of them to undertake the role immediately.
Subscribing to best practice also gives agencies a variety of EOC structures to stand up, whether gold-standard structures (e.g., ICS, AIIMS, or CIMS), business-as-usual departmental structures, or customised structures.
Trend 4. Low and no-code application platforms
Of course, agencies need to get access to those capabilities before the next disaster strikes.
That’s been a perennial frustration with deploying emergency management software, i.e., the lengthy implementation cycle it takes, which pull scarce resources from IT.
That could be changing with federal government stakeholders plugging into the trend towards low and no-code application platforms. These platforms go beyond traditional configuration, enabling agencies to build their own user interfaces.
Not just that, the platforms come equipped with tools (e.g., workflows, processes, and UI changes) that help agencies customise the solution to their organisational requirements and the risk patterns of the constituents they serve.
Indeed, drag-and-drop capabilities enable organisations to make mid-incident configurations, quickly creating new data models for any information desired and presenting that data in a friendly way for users. Workflow builders subsequently tie everything together, helping organisations plan out new business processes for what should happen when different triggers occur and using automation to accelerate the response.
Further, APIs and connectors integrate with third-party tools that organisations already use. Practitioners, as such, enjoy a frictionless experience through multiple touchpoints, lessening the training curve, especially for new users that cycle through public safety agencies during emergencies.
The benefit of this trend isn’t just response agility. Low-code development can also make software development up to 10 times faster.
Finally, COVID has hastened the demise of sacred totems, such as the physical EOC. And so, keeping constituents safe will now require federal government stakeholders to reinvigorate the critical event management technology they deploy.
Fortunately, emergency managers and critical event management practitioners have long been ahead of the curve when it comes to sizing up new opportunities.
But new technology trends, from mobile CEM, self-improving management systems, ongoing subscription to best practice, and low and no-code app development, are cycling into the field faster than ever.
With support from local entities, far-thinking practitioners are running with these innovations, building solutions to their precise specifications in record time. Everyone else should follow their lead, profiting from this ebb in COVID transmissions to prepare for the next emergency. The trends enable the entire critical event management team to follow the same plans, communicate on the same platform, and view the same operating picture during any major disaster.