Anticipate, collaborate, mitigate: Information age threat management

Global Vice President, Frost & Sullivan

Modern incident and emergency management is powered by data analysis and collaboration tools. Combined with strong government systems and citizen participation, incident and emergency management can limit threats’ effects on public safety. best emergency managers in the world

I travel a lot for work. A couple weeks ago, I landed in Tokyo just in time for an 8.5 magnitude earthquake. At 8:24 p.m. local time, I didn’t feel anything; riding in a cab, I merely thought the driver a bit aggressive in how he changed lanes on the highway. But I did notice that the normally busy city was eerily quiet and that the hotel elevators weren’t working when I arrived. The bell captain told me that there had been a big earthquake but assured me that everything would be all right. As she did, it struck me how calm she was, and I noticed how everyone else in that hotel was simply going about their business. It was a good example of being well prepared.

Japan is arguably the world leader in threat readiness and emergency management. The islands are geologically active, host a large urbanized population and were devastated in a major world war. That’s a great many threats to public safety, and Japan has survived in spite of them.

To maintain order and safety in the face of such threats, Japan’s government has adopted a two-faceted strategy. One facet is implementation of the Disaster Response Basic Law. Among other things, the law mandates that local government emergency managers share information with their local and national government peers. The second facet is monitoring and analysis of Japan’s vast store of data, gathered 24/7 from hundreds of sensors, smartphones and cameras. This combination of data analysis and collaboration helps authorities and citizens plan for the worst, preparing themselves so that when the worst happens, they can handle it.

(Analytics + collaboration) × planning = threat intelligence and mitigation

We can learn a lot from places such as Japan. Today, threats to public safety range from water main breaks and crime to terrorism and natural disasters. Managing public safety across the threat spectrum requires modern approaches that give managers and responders accurate, shared situational awareness based on real-time insights. In the information age, we have the tools to enable these approaches.

Solutions such as IBM's Intelligent Operations Center (IOC) for Emergency Management integrate real-time data from a wide variety of sources, including sensors, weather and citizens’ smartphones. Powerful analytics applied to the data help authorities understand, locate and predict threat occurrences. Collaboration tools enable agencies to work together across jurisdictional and departmental boundaries and help them connect with the public. These capabilities enable effective, cooperative planning so that when something happens, threats can be better managed and their effects mitigated. This isn’t just wishful thinking; empirical evidence tells us it works.

Consider incident management before an emergency

Imagine if these capabilities were combined with a legislative and cultural background of emergency preparedness. Government and citizens would know what to do in a crisis situation, and all the moving parts involved could work together smoothly. Imagine greater calm and confidence among first responders and citizens, and consider how such a mindset could lead to better outcomes in emergencies.

Here’s the thing, though—why wait until there’s an emergency to use these capabilities? They can be used to manage and mitigate even day-to-day incidents, such as power outages. That way, in a real crisis, they can be scaled up quickly and naturally to respond. Because first responders and citizens would have already become familiar with these capabilities on a daily basis, there would be no need to get special systems up and running in emergency situations.

I’d rather not be in the wrong place at the wrong time when a major threat occurs. But if I were, I would be comforted knowing that emergency personnel knew how to handle an earthquake in Vancouver as well as they did a water main break just down the street.

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