When you hear of the term “emergency communications network,” your mind may immediately go toward the thought that it’s a sort of telecommunications system used to provide mass notifications to relevant stakeholders during an emergency, be they authorities, emergency medical services, or the general public.
While this is true, an emergency communications network can also signify the collection of emergency responders, managers, and all the tools and information they have at their disposal through which they can make informed decisions and mitigate the emergency.
Such a network can be hard to keep organized to make sure that everyone has access to all the information they need in order to perform their role within the emergency management process to the best of their ability.
Five principles that can assist with the management of an emergency communications network are:
- Multi-channel communication
- Real-time data collection
- Templated communication processes
- Organized asset management
- Robust common operating picture
1. Multi-channel communication
A primary component of any emergency communications network is, of course, communication. Proper emergency management depends on getting information out to relevant stakeholders as soon as it becomes available to ensure the safety of citizens as well as to ensure that any emergency measures are taken in as timely a fashion as possible.
In an emergency, time is always of the essence.
To increase the likelihood of emergency notifications being received by recipients as quickly as possible, it is beneficial to leverage as many channels of communication as possible. Sending a blast notification to a recipient as an email, phone call, SMS message, and at times even a fax can go a long way to making sure that everyone is well aware of any important information almost as soon as it is sent.
However, emergency managers need a way to send these notifications that is not time-consuming or too repetitive. An automated emergency management solution can help with this endeavor by allowing emergency managers to create their messages for multiple communication channels in one interface and send them out automatically to all recipients at the click of a button. Such as platform may also have the capability to record information regarding who received the notification and who have not yet opened it. This can help with determining whether a follow-up notification needs to be sent to make sure that the information reaches its intended recipients.
2. Real-time data collection
Before the members of the emergency communications network can communicate with each other, there needs to be something to communicate. How is the data shared within the network collected?
Data collection is an integral part of the emergency management process and the more information that can be gathered throughout the course of the incident the better the overall situational awareness and ability to make the important decisions as soon as possible.
Emergency managers need a quick and simple method for gathering information from the responders on the ground and be able to ensure that it is both accurate and up to date. By using a tool that allows for two-way communication between the sender and receiver, emergency managers are able to collect real-time information regarding the status of an emergency and efficiently relay it to whomsoever needs to know it.
3. Templated communication processes
Another important principle when it comes to creating and maintaining efficiency and organization within an emergency communications network is having a communication plan prepared and ready to go at the onset of an incident.
This is where templated communications come in.
With an automation platform, emergency managers can easily set up pre-created step-by-step communication plans for any type of emergency and launch them instantly whenever the need arises. Create generalized notification messages for all stakeholders who need to be alerted, and simply add the relevant details pertaining to the specific incident before sending them out.
Templates are handy for creating plans for emergencies that occur on a semi-regular basis, such as motor vehicle accidents or structure fires. They not only save vital time for emergency management authorities, but it also takes the guesswork out of what exactly needs to be communicated at each stage of the mitigation process. It ensures the entire network receives all the information it needs in order to be fully prepared for every eventuality.
An automation platform can even further increase the effectiveness of these communications by providing the capability to launch the steps of the templated communication plan automatically, without any human intervention. If the template contains only basic communication information and does not need to directly reference particulars of an active incident, emergency managers may be able to set the notifications in motion with one click and have every message deploy at a pre-designated time offset from the launching of the template.
4. Organized asset management
Proper and organized asset management is critical to ensuring that an emergency is efficiently and safely dealt with. Everyone in the emergency communications network must be aware of the assets they are responsible for and their current status.
An automation platform can help to store, manage, and track all these assets in one central location so that everyone who has access to these assets can see when changes are made at a glance and not have to rely on third-party knowledge or notification. Customized asset templates can be created to input and store any different type of asset the members of an emergency communications network may need to manage, no matter the complexity of information that needs to be known about it. They are able to store information regarding emergency vehicles, emergency supplies, evacuation shelters, and even personnel if need be.
By having the ability to store all asset information in a central location, this helps emergency managers ensure they have access to everything they need to mitigate the incident and they don’t have to waste time searching for specific records stored in other systems or as paper copies.
5. Robust common operating picture
The final principle for creating an effective emergency communications network is the one that ties everything else together.
A common operating picture, or a common view, allows all emergency stakeholders managing an incident to gain access to the same, live-updating data from multiple locations and be able to use this information in their own decision-making processes within their respective organizations.
Information sharing within the communications network needs to be fluid and efficient during an emergency and a common operating picture can help make the sharing process effortless. A common operating picture essentially brings communication and asset management together onto a single dashboard so that emergency can immediately whenever a change occurs.
On their respective dashboards, emergency managers can easily choose which assets and communications they need to monitor and keep track of during a particular incident so they only view what they need to see and nothing else. Access can also be limited to individual organizations through permission levels granted to users depending on their roles to ensure that sensitive information is not shared any further than it needs to be.
Interested in learning more?
Communication and information sharing are two key elements of effective emergency management. By establishing an emergency communications network prior to the onset of an emergency, emergency managers can ensure that efficient communication can occur and that information is being shared as soon as the newest data becomes available.
SimplyCast’s all-in-one automation platform provides emergency managers with the tools they need to follow each of these five principles for creating a communications network, from multi-channel communication to asset management to a common operating picture. To learn more about how you are able to leverage the SimplyCast tools for emergency management, visit our Incident Management page, or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.