Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Post #2: social convergence in the EOC/ICP ...plans and ops

In the first post in this new series, I talked about how socially-convergent tools could be used by command staff and incident commanders. Today, I'll explore what the future might hold for the Operations and the Planning sections within an ICS/IMS structure.

But before, I get to this new chapter, I'd like to reiterate the power of mobile technologies in the hands of first responders, SAR/HUSAR teams and the such. It's not just about the use of social media in emergencies. Social convergence is much bigger than that!

From adding to a search dog's natural abilities, to receiving images coming from a bouncing ball full of cameras, creating 3-D maps on the go in destroyed buildings and making the work of rescuers easier, the power of mobile devices has barely been exploited:

It's clear to me that in the Operations Section, social convergence brings new, validated tools and procedures that can be used by a single resource ... up to the Section Chief.
From dynamic, real-time, GIS mapping showing up-to-date situation on the ground, to the use of drones to support efficient decision making, everything points to the integration of mobile technologies (phones, drones, satellites) to make response efforts more efficient. And all that can be held in your hand ... on a smartphone or tablet. 

Now, imagine combining the data from drones, crisis maps and crowdsourced information, in real-time, to give the response leader all he/she needs to deploy resources in the most strategic fashion possible. 

Want rapid damage assessment? What better than a cheap drone ... keep your staff out of the danger area. Here's what the aftermath of a recent tornado in Angus, Ontario looked like from a drone's eye view:

In the planning section, the obvious benefits of social convergence are in the creation of better maps. Maps that reflect reality as experienced by the people impacted by a disaster or emergency. We are squarely in an era of community-based situational awareness. An understanding of how an incident evolves based on the experiences on the ground and not simply analysis conducted in an EOC far away.

This might appear daunting for the Planning Section Chief or even the EOC manager/director to grasp. The fact is, there is help out there! More and more digital volunteers are stepping up to support emergency management agencies. Virtual Operations Support Teams (or VOSTs) are now active in many countries (including Canada). 

Furthermore, that work is constantly being validated by sound academic studies and projects that keep giving it growing legitimacy. The results are in: VOSTs and other digital volunteerism efforts (mainly crisis mapping) save lives and speed up response/recovery efforts when whole neighbourhoods are burning or when large storms affect an entire country.

As the Plans Section Chief, you can use socially-convergent tools. Your resources unit can combine check-in apps, mobile devices and mapping to lay out a clear picture of what's available at any time. Again, the power of mobile is only beginning to be discovered.

For the Situation Unit ... mapping as previously described is greatly enhanced by social convergence. But sharing sitreps is made so much easier by the prevalence of mobile devices (smartphones, phablets, tablets) often "ruggerized" for field use. With a bigger screen info can be consumed much more easily by responders because it's provided in a much more visual manner.

The Documentation Unit can use a variety of cloud-based apps (google docs, dropbox, others) and services, all accessible by mobile devices to do its job and support operations.

Even your Demob Unit can use mobile devices and services such as check-in apps, cloud-based spreadsheets to keep track and help it plan the post-op draw back. 

I'm only scratching the surface here .... in the next installment in this series, I'll look at socially-convergent tools for the Fin/Admin and Logistics section ...

1 comment:

  1. Excellent Post Patrice - I enthusiastically agree – while everyone in Canada over the age of about 15 probably has a wireless devices within reach 24/7, we are just at the 'dawn of an exciting wireless technology age' for public safety/security practitioners.

    The challenge of course will be the reliability of the connectivity that supports those tools when disaster strikes - and the good news (I believe) is around the corner with the opportunity about to 'drop in our lap' with respect to the 20 Mhz assignment of broadband LTE spectrum for exclusive use by a Public Safety Broadband Network (PSBN). We saw in Calgary Flood where cell infrastructure went down including 911 for some regions, and we saw in Boston Bombing how it was taken down intentionally by authorities to avoid malicious use (activate IEDs, gain SA helping bad guys etc). Whether its infrastructure failure, malicious use, or the most common "surge demand" (at the Red-Blacks opening CFL game at our new stadium last Saturday - it took me about an hour to post my selfie photo thanks to the 24000 other fans that were probably trying to do the same).

    PSBN 'if done right' will provide nationally accessible secure and disaster-resilient connectivity when Canadians face the worst of times whether it be a natural disaster or a terrorist event (or maybe a basic 911 scenario in a stadium where public cell traffic is not available to let paramedics beam back a cardiogram or live video feed as they rush a heart attack victim to ER). ‘Commercial cell’ carriers build to support “max # users during normal conditions” to satisfy their shareholders, and therefore expect failure when ‘abnormal’ demand occurs - PSBN has to be built to support “abnormal conditions”.

    In support of advancing PSBN for Canada, I am proud of the Canadian tech team the Center for Security Sciences is leading to lay out operational, security, interoperability requirements for the regions to consider when they start their own PSBN buildouts. The first of the series (Network Architecture) is available at http://tinyurl.com/ps65235.
    Finally what about "remote/rural Canada" where cell connectivity is marginal if at all? A solution we are focusing on are "deployable PSBN" systems. If you've not already heard of COWs, COLTs, and COBs (Cell-on-Wheels, -Light-Trucks, or -Backpacks"), we're seeing somewhat of an explosion of these emerging from industry over the past 18 months (Deployables shown at IWCE grew from a couple in 2012 to ~30 at IWCE 2013).
    This year’s CAUSE Resilience http://nisconsortium.org/?page_id=736) will involve DND and CRC Aerostat COW (small blimp on a trailer - coverage out to about 100km!), Simon Fraser University will have a COB, a Motorola COW from Alberta and possibly a COLT from DHS/General Dynamics, converging in remote Alberta/Sask/Montana tri-border region Nov 24-26 to show how rapidly deployed "PSBN Bubbles" could work together and with existing land mobile radios during a broad area brush fire threatening small communities.

    Sorry for the length of this comment - but your post was a great opener I couldn't resist! Some have compared PSBN to the building of the trans-Canada railroad… maybe not a bad analogy in the sense that like the railroad, a national interoperable wireless backbone that can enable Canadian agencies/NGOs (maybe VOSTs?) from across the country to work efficiently together to support a crisis has got to help those that believe in a ‘team Canada’.