Friday, May 20 2022

Time is the greatest enemy of emergency management. Users can no longer wait for the next disaster before accessing the latest best practices, writes JAmes Boddam-Whetham.

James Boddam Whitham

Australia is facing a battery of major crises – the COVID BA.2 sub-variant, deteriorating relationships with major trading partners, cyberattacks on key assets, supply chain disruptions and supply shortages. personnel, as well as regular flooding and bushfires.

The economic toll has been immense. The Federal Government is providing $6 billion over the next four years for NSW and Queensland to recover from the latest floods.

A paradigm shift towards proactive management of critical events

Indeed, calls to label the latest floods a 1 in 100 or (even) 1 in 500 year event are ringing increasingly hollow to the public. Because not only are emergency events becoming more frequent, intense and complex, but they are also occurring consecutively and simultaneously.

A paradigm shift is needed to manage this new normal, anticipate critical events earlier, and achieve national resilience.

Such a shift to proactive management of critical events has already been envisioned by some in the public sector.

The updated Australian Government Crisis Management Framework (AGCMF) is an attempt to manage risk holistically using an ‘all-hazards’ approach that includes mitigation, planning and assistance to states and territories ( where applicable) in the management of emergencies resulting from a combination of human-induced events.

The main focus of this framework is short-term crisis preparedness, immediate crisis response and early recovery arrangements in the event of a crisis. But as the editors themselves admit, AGCMF will require investment in certain tools and mechanisms to become workable in crisis prevention, preparedness, response and recovery.

Digital Software Trends in Emergency Management

Some of these tools and mechanisms can be expected to come from the digital technology space. Which software trends, precisely? Those most likely to transform public sector emergency management for the better include:

Mobile-first EOCs

Not just in Australia, but around the world, emergency management has been deeply affected by the pandemic. Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs), the physical nerve center of emergency response, have had to close due to COVID outbreaks, for example, the state EOC in Maine.

Too often, officials have been caught off guard with no viable workaround. However, other public sector agencies had already invested in mobile-first EOCs – a trend that is expected to accelerate.

Not just any virtual EOC, mobile-first EOCs are specifically optimized for mobile users. Their operating platforms allow resizing of dashboards and other elements for mobile devices.

Since many of the same tools are available to users on the move, these EOCs also facilitate mobile command, saving incident commanders from being huddled together in physical facilities to clarify tasks, education, training , license currency and appropriate equipment. roles.

As a result, Mobile Command First will continue to give public sector emergency managers a significant head start in activating their crisis response plans, with role responsibilities for system positions incident command, action plans, etc.

Automated workflows for key tasks

However, mobile-first functionality is not the end. The management systems on which these mobile-first EOCs operate must also better support key emergency response tasks.

To this end, the trend towards complete, self-updating (or self-improving) management systems and away from single-use solutions, whether for communication, collaboration or information capture, is initiated. to keep public sector personnel focused throughout the life cycle. of an incident.

This is because tasks that would previously have been done by hand can now be fully automated, reducing the risk of human error.

How? These self-improving management systems are equipped with automated workflows that turn warnings into incidents, then track and manage those incidents throughout their lifecycle, automatically alerting stakeholders, creating action plans in the event of an incident and assisting in requesting and tracking resources and assigning Tasks.

Automated workflows also allow for the careful capture and collation of relevant information through forms tailored to specific response roles.

Subscribe to updated best practices

The automated workflows themselves are based on current best practices, either from national standards, such as ICS, AIIMS or CIMS, or from international standards, such as ISO 22320 and ISO 22316.

However, as field conditions change, this best practice is updated. The tendency to subscribe to updated best practices rather than single implementations of the latest best practices explains the increasing pace of best practice reviews.

Revisions are operationalized on the backend and delivered seamlessly to public sector agency users. Adhering to best practices also gives these agencies a variety of EOC structures to put in place quickly, whether based on national/international standards, status quo structures or makeshift structures.

No-code development

As mentioned at the beginning of this article, time is the great enemy of emergency management.

Unfortunately, deploying emergency management systems has always taken time, and a lot of time.

To this end, public sector organizations should adapt to the trend towards no-code development, whereby entities can create their own interfaces for users or get best practices out of the box, which often makes development software up to 10 times faster.

The drag-and-drop capabilities characteristic of these no-code platforms then help agencies customize management systems to their unique requirements and risk models. Specifically, the features allow entities to perform the following actions:

  • Perform mid-incident configurations
  • Quickly create new data models for any type of information you want
  • Present this data in a user-friendly way
  • Plan new business processes for what should happen when different triggers occur

Agencies also don’t need to get all of their functionality from a single management system. The beauty of no-code platforms here is the APIs and connectors that integrate with pre-existing third-party tools.

It also helps agencies grow quickly. Experienced practitioners enjoy a frictionless experience through multiple touchpoints; and new users benefit from a lower training curve.

As we have seen, emergency managers are often early adopters of the latest digital software technologies.

However, the deteriorating crisis environment is forcing even the most digitally advanced entities to embrace digital technology trends even faster.

Everyone else needs to pick up the pace as well. As the floods recede, public sector entities need to take advantage of the latest software trends to make their teams collaborate better, respond faster, and recover faster from the myriad resilience challenges currently facing the country.

* James Boddam-Whetham is the CEO of Australian security, safety, crisis and emergency management and business continuity provider Noggin.

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