The digitisation of emergency and incident management tools, practices, and processes has delivered efficiency gains to the community at large. But individual digital deployments taken up by emergency service organisations, government agencies, private businesses, critical infrastructure owners and operators, educational institutions, non-profit organisations, and others have been uneven, often reflecting the limited feature-set of the emergency management software platforms they’ve procured. Now, the staggering increase in the number of emergencies organisations face today – weather-related disasters alone have quadrupled in the last decades – has dramatically upped the ante on the need for not just any digital capabilities but the right digital capabilities.
The pandemic has only exacerbated that stark reality. The risk of COVID-19 transmission has forced many Emergency Operations Centres (EOCs) to go mostly or fully remote, often for the first time. Other physical EOCs went virtual after employees began exhibiting symptoms of the virus.
For practitioners, these forced transitions have been anything but ideal. The so-marketed virtual EOCs their organisations had procured served, at best, as places to collect data from the field. Important, to be sure. However, the solutions themselves often lacked the necessary capabilities to make that information actionable, much less to adjust processes and procedures to meet the needs of a major incident response.
Of course, the public health crisis continues to make it risky to congregate in physical EOCs. And so, for the immediate future, virtual EOCs must give incident commanders the ability to manage all emergency information, communications, plans, and tasks in a single flexible platform rather than a suite of ineffective or incompatible tools.
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