The conundrum of unforeseen incidents and emergencies: There’s no SOP for all situations

In public safety, timely and effective response often requires multiple organizations to work together to ensure the best outcomes. Coordination between law enforcement, fire and emergency medical services is critical to daily work, but it’s even more essential when events go beyond the scope of a “normal” day. These are the kinds of days every public safety agency needs to prepare for.

Oklahoma City is synonymous with one of these harrowing days. A rented Ryder truck parked in front of the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building on April 19, 1995, set into motion one of the deadliest terrorist attacks in U.S. history. According to the FBI, “Within moments, the surrounding area looked like a war zone. A third of the building had been reduced to rubble, with many floors flattened like pancakes. Dozens of cars were incinerated and more than 300 nearby buildings were damaged or destroyed. The human toll was still more devastating: 168 souls lost, including 19 children, with several hundred more injured.”

In situations such as this — when multiple agencies, including city, state and federal entities, as well as volunteers, are thrown together in a matter of moments — planning and collaboration are put to the most extreme test. And a quick response is even more critical in these situations when circumstances occur and change rapidly and lives are in danger.

Disaster experience

Georgia State University’s William L . Waugh Jr. and Gregory Streib wrote, “The disaster experience can speed recovery and make communities more resilient when disaster strikes again. Disaster operations, particularly large operations, frequently involve a great many organizational and individual participants.”

Response to the Oklahoma City bombing, they said, “involved hundreds of public, nonprofit and private organizations, as well as spontaneous volunteers. The bombing was a federal crime involving a federal facility that resulted in the deaths of federal officers, and legal jurisdiction clearly resided with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other federal agencies. However, the search and rescue operation was managed by the Oklahoma City Fire Department, and the outer security perimeter was managed by Oklahoma City and Oklahoma State law enforcement officers. The rescue operation included federalized Urban Search and Rescue teams from local agencies across the nation. Firefighters from more than 75 Oklahoma communities and more than 35 departments from Texas, Kansas, Arkansas and other states participated. In all, FEMA deployed more than 1,000 of its own employees and hundreds from other federal agencies. The American Red Cross provided food and shelter for emergency personnel and support for victims and their families. Private firms ranging from building supply companies to funeral homes to restaurants supported the responders. The scale of the operation required resources from all levels of government and a wide variety of nongovernmental organizations.”

Incredible flow of information

Most 911 centers won’t experience an event as extreme as the Oklahoma City bombing, but some will; the challenges of climate change, the tragedies of school and workplace violence, and the increasing frequency of severe weather are extreme events more and more centers face each year. When and if they do, it is critical they have the resources to manage the information overload that is to follow. Collaboration technology gives them the chance to do that more successfully.

When the unimaginable happens, it’s not only helpful to have collaborative technology in place— like HxGN Connect, Hexagon’s new cloud-native, SaaS collaborative workspace — but also the types of data available that you need to access. In this sense, the collaborative conversations that need to happen to make the tool work are just as impactful. It’s not just connecting technology; it’s connecting conversations, outcomes, goals and perspectives within the community impacted by the emergency.

Proactive, not reactive

Let’s take, for example, a severe flash flooding event. The National Weather Service and emergency management professionals might have some idea ahead of time that a flash flood is a possibility. Heavy rain or storm outlooks and warnings might be issued, but flash flood predictions and warnings have a much shorter lead time.

When flooding begins, officials know about its progression because of water sensor devices in communities with a history of flooding. Other indications of flooding come from social media feeds, activation of a utility’s flood control system or traffic cameras producing a view of running water rushing over a highway.

Where collaboration technology like HxGN Connect brings exponential value is in the ability to integrate the flow of information from different sources and facilitate the important discussions dynamically. This technology helps public safety agencies be proactive and better manage the flow of information into the centers, departments or other organizations responsible for managing those disasters. For example, in the case of a major emergency you might need to invite another organization to the workspace that’s never even heard of HxGN Connect. With the simple click of a mouse, you can grant temporary access so that everyone is on the same page.

Consider these questions

  • Most agencies have business intelligence/data analytics tools that are great for after-the-fact analysis…but what do you do when things happen in the here and now?
  • How to you communicate with other internal departments today?
  • How do you communicate/collaborate with outside organizations today?
  • What information are you missing today that would have an impact in responding to and resolving incidents and emergencies?

Collaboration technology like HxGN Connect provides actionable, shared awareness — everyone has the same view of the situation in one space with the same view — so the next time your community faces a major incident, you have in-depth knowledge of what is happening, based on your pre-determined parameters. Imagine having data from utility providers, transportation systems, neighboring public safety agencies, the weather service and more, without the delays caused by disparate systems. With HxGN Connect, you can responsibly share data and coordinate action in a secure environment, allowing your agency to more quickly aid those in need.

Learn more

Are you ready to reimagine collaboration? Contact us to find out more about HxGN Connect.

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