“There is only one thing more difficult than planning for an emergency and that would be to explain why you did not.” – Dr. Bonnie Henry, Deputy Provincial Health Office, British Columbia
Dr. Henry has a good point. Planning for an incident or event is incredibly important. Although planning for every scenario involves a significant investment of time, it will always be worth it when an actual issue occurs. Seconds and minutes count in crisis situations. And it is much easier to make decisions when you have a developed and well-thought plan in place.
Luckily many governments and organizations have prepared comprehensive plans for many different situations and these plans are often built around their organizational framework. For example, the Incident Command System (ICS) provides a clear organizational structure and chain-of-command to help manage events and incidents.
Although the above organizational structure provides an excellent chain-of-command framework for incidents and events planning, there are still many challenges that these types of structures face. These issues often arise when there is:
- A lack of accurate incident intelligence – data instead of information/intelligence
- A failure to communicate with all of the right people in the appropriate time
- An inadequate planning and preparation like scenarios, level of detail, simulations, and training
- A lack of information capture and further use for organizational learning
The reality is that most organizations have an outdated emergency response plan in place, which often involves Excel spreadsheets or SharePoint checklists with paper print-outs when approvals are needed. Many incident and event plans will have some sort of technology in place such as radio or email, but these plans often use disparate data sources and lack an intelligent mass notification strategy, especially when it involves people or organizations outside of the one who did all of the planning.
During these events it is also common that there is no centralized view of the incident or event at hand. Employees would be required to use manual systems like paper memos and call trees, which makes making real-time decisions very difficult. Timing and access to information is critical.
So, how do we make this process better? This is where technology can step in to help you become better prepared, help you respond faster, and become more flexible when dealing with incident issues. Technology can act as a force multiplier when it comes to incident and event management because it enforces structured approaches like ICS as well as breathes cyber-life into a process that is currently bogged down by paperwork and communication issues.
During an incident or event, technology can be used for such things as:
- Integrating information sources and systems
- Taking advantage of mobile, web, and cloud capabilities
- Making use of dynamic maps
- Accessing the most current Incident Action Plans and Standard Operating Procedures with all relevant and supporting documents
- Creating a Common Operating Picture that everyone can access
The use of technology can be integrated into so many different industries for the use of incident and event management like government agencies, utilities, communications, transportation, public safety, insurance, health care, education, and many other industries.
Introducing an incident and event management solution to help during different phases such as preparation, response, recovery, and prevention — is a step in the right direction. The solution can act as a single operating picture and information distributor which will allow organizations to work in a much quicker and organized manner when there is often the urge to feel chaos. If you have a solid foundation of planning in place, the assistance of technology reduces a lot of chaos and lost time.
If you are involved in emergency management and you would like to learn more about integrating technology into your planning and response processes, register for one of our Canadian Emergency Management Roadshows. These events are free and open to emergency operations center staff members, emergency managers, crisis management planners, or any personnel responsible for emergency management program planning, development or implementation. We hope you decide to join us.