Guide to Understanding the Benefits of a Virtual Emergency Operations Center

Best Practice Guide

The inherent constraints of the physical emergency operations center

The Emergency Operations Center (EOC) has become a staple in emergency management and public safety, and it’s easy to see why. A physical (or, increasingly, mobile) hub where Emergency and Incident Management teams coordinate information and resources during low- frequency, high-risk incidents, the EOC supports incident management activities, up to and including on-scene operations.

The very utility of the approach explains why physical EOCs, in particular, fixed, brick-and-mortar facilities, have proliferated in recent years, not just among government organizations and traditional disaster relief agencies, but in for-profit businesses, as well. After all, physical EOCs help teams, individual organizations, and multiple agencies working in concert mobilize people and equipment for incident responses lasting the entirety of an emergency.

Despite their clear benefit, though, physical EOCs aren’t a cure-all, especially when it comes to effective lifecycle management. The limitations with a solely physical EOC set up are borne out in the case evidence. It turns out that physical EOCs aren’t always effectively used during trainings and exercises, nor is the use of standardized incident command systems always critically evaluated within the EOC. It’s also not uncommon that organizations don’t have anywhere, anytime access to key resources, such as exercise and debriefing guides produced by national emergency organizations, a key prerequisite for success in an emergency response scenario.

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