Emergency Management: 5 Elements of Proactive Information Management!

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In the world of business, the heaviest users of information management applications are enjoying benefits such as increased knowledge sharing and more effective operations. These benefits have a measurable effect on their business. Emergency response organizations could be benefiting in the same way.

Emergency situations occur unpredictably and cause individuals and organizations to shift their focus and attention immediately to deal with the situation. When disasters become large scale, all the limitations resulting from a lack of integration and collaboration among all the involved organizations begin to be exposed and further compound the negative consequences of the event. Often in large-scale events the people who must work together have no history of doing so; they have not developed a trust or understanding of one another’s abilities, and the totality of resources they each bring to bear have never before been exercised.

As a result, the challenges for individual or group decision support systems in emergency situations are diverse and immense. Having a predetermined plan on what your information management requirements are, can aid in establishing structures and developing a normative environment with defined tasks regarding what should be done during a response.

Here are 5 key elements you must try to define to create this environment;

1. Define your information requirements.

A decision maker during a large scale event, needs an accurate representation of all information known by the organization at that exact point in time. To make effective and defensible decisions, a common operational picture is needed. It is necessary to identify the ‘key indicators’ that will help an emergency manager to plan, manage, and control their area of responsibility. This method is based on the need for managers to focus, at any point in time, on the most significant aspects of their responsibilities.

2. Determine how to gather information.

Managing your large or unexpected events using spreadsheets, whiteboards, email, and paper makes gathering together all information for your decision makers really difficult. The problem starts in the field. Incidents are of many types, scope and impact. The trick is capturing this data as early as possible, but then processing it into useful information, which is the next step.

3. Decide who will analyze that information.

More data means better situation assessment but can lead to information overload. Analyzing information involves examining it in ways that reveal the relationships, patterns, trends, etc. that can be found within it. It is important to choose someone who understands the benefit of information for your organization. The point, in terms of their evaluation, is to get an accurate assessment in order to better understand the organizations capabilities and in course better understand the overall situation.

4. Determine how that information will be shared.

The number of sign-off’s required to implement a decision is one of the major issues during a fast-moving event. Speed always counts in every organization, having the ability to share information can have a positive effect on productivity, and efficiency. There should be a predetermined source of information that responders can rely on being their definitive single source of truth.

5. Choose the technology that will help communicate and manage the information.

The options are endless, for many years spreadsheets have been used as an aid for compiling emergency response activities. However, the evolution of technology has allowed public and private sector organizations to capture, store, and analyze their data in a structured way, adding real value to compiled information.

It's important to remember, when you can't get your hands on the information you need, or when the information you have isn't appropriate, you can miss opportunities and your performance drops. As it happens, the information management ability organisations need to succeed is already within their grasp.

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