How Mobility, Analytics, Cloud and Social Media are Changing the Game in Emergency Management
Learn which technologies are helping emergency management leaders and responders improve collaboration, data sharing and, ultimately, safety.
In this Q&A, Dr. Gary Nestler, Global Solution Leader for Emergency Management at IBM, shares his thoughts on which technologies are helping emergency management leaders and responders improve collaboration, data sharing and, ultimately, safety.
What are the most game-changing technologies for emergency management decision-makers and officials?
Dr. Gary Nestler: One word: mobility. Improving situational awareness helps emergency management officials be smarter about the decisions they make and the actions they take, and mobility is the enabler. Mobility gives officials the ability to deliver real-time data to responders in the field so they can effectively plan for, respond to or recover from an emergency. Mobility puts the information needed at a responder’s fingertips. It also makes actions more traceable, so it’s easy to look back at what happened for needed data or to make improvements for the future.
The other technology making emergency management smarter is data analytics. A lot of the transformation happening in this space is being driven by the availability of an incredible amount of open source data. For instance, at any given time in a large city, there could be multiple fires, a bank robbery and several car accidents. All of these disparate pieces of information come in at a rapid rate and from varying sources such as Facebook and Twitter. Data analytics allows government personnel to boil that information down to the critical pieces so they can make the most informed decisions about where to allocate sometimes limited resources.
At the end of the day, it’s about how fast you can get the information to responders in the field so they can share information and make real-time decisions that save lives and protect property.
What are some strategies emergency management agencies can develop to make the preparedness, response, recovery and mitigation process smarter?
Dr. Gary Nestler: One major hurdle is that they have to forget the way they’ve done business in the past, because it may no longer be efficient. They should also be open to collaboration – true collaboration – to break down the information silos that have been created over the years. It takes time, but the strategy that’s needed most is how to share information better, faster, more efficiently and more securely. How do you make it easily consumable for the decision-makers who need it most? Emergency management agencies are not the same as they were in the past – there are many other stakeholders involved, including law enforcement agencies, elected officials, and public and private utilities, so we need to learn to work together.
Emergency management agencies are also starting to look for tried and proven solutions, not just products. They are partnering more strategically with vendors to find cost-effective solutions that continue to bring more efficiency. It is then important to share these lessons learned and build best practices to contribute to the community of emergency management. If a region is affected by a similar disaster as another, they should be able to align their thinking and not duplicate efforts.
How are cloud and social media breaking down silos and ultimately transforming emergency management?
Dr. Gary Nestler: Cloud is gaining in popularity in emergency management because it enables agencies to spend less on their IT infrastructure and more on critical resources. Just like how a brand-new car’s value will depreciate significantly once you drive it off the lot, the same goes for infrastructure. Once you install or update your IT infrastructure, it is almost automatically old and outdated. The IT team is then faced with timely maintenance and update challenges, and potential problems with uptime and availability. Cloud is really helpful in this area because of its on-demand, real-time, scalable nature.
Social media has changed the world and the way in which we communicate with each other. In the emergency management space, it offers additional pieces of information for responders or leaders to use in the decision-making process. It’s also important because in certain emergency situations, it is easier for people in need to send out a call for help via social media rather than a phone. Again, it comes back to collaboration and social media helps emergency management agencies work better together and with the public. That is what is really bringing transformation to the emergency management space.