Emergency Preparedness Training with New Technology

By Joseph J. Pangaro, CEO, IPVideo Corporation

Emergencies can happen at any moment. Emergencies come in many forms, I break them down into two camps; The human caused emergency and the natural origin emergency. The human caused emergency can be anything from an Active Shooter, Cyber Security Hack, Civil Unrest, Lone Wolf Terrorist, or a spike in crime. Natural origin emergencies can be hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, or tornadoes.

When an emergency erupts in a community it can change the lives of both the people who live there and the people who govern there very quickly. How a community responds to an emergency can have lingering effects that can last weeks, months, years, or even longer. While we cannot always stop these events from happening, we can prepare as best as possible to react to them when they do happen.

Disaster Preparedness

Disaster preparedness is not just a buzz word – it is a call to action. Unfortunately, over 60% of our businesses have no plans for responding to emergencies and our municipalities are not much better. In fact, it is hard to find any organization that has a plan for recovery after an event. While we all know we should prepare for disaster we can all get sidetracked with seemingly more pressing concerns.

If we could guarantee that going forward there wouldbe peace and calm and clear weather across the nation, then getting ourselves, our agencies, our employees, and our citizens prepared could be relegated to the last thing on the to-do list…

The Reality

But reality tells us that is not that case. The next horrifying mass shooting, explosion, deadly tornado outbreak, catastrophic flood, or crippling cyber-attack is only months, weeks, or days away. We will be challenged again sooner rather than later.

Preparing means having quality, realistic emergency plans in place and then training your staff to respond using your plans.This is where technology can help us.

For most OEM, police, and other first responders, one staple of training is the old-fashioned pencil and paper “Tabletop” exercise. These are tried a true ways to help your team engage and interact in a safe environment to discuss how they could respond to any kind of emergency. And while this is a good practice it is lacking in some key elements of good training, that being stress and realism. There is a new way to update the tabletop using technology, which is the electronic tabletop training software that will revolutionize emergency preparedness training.

Electronic Tabletop training is software based. The organization that wants the training can upload its current emergency operation plans into the software. The software uses AI to analyze the plans and provides a host of analytics that can predict how an organization expects to respond to an emergency based on their plans.

In the predictive phase the software looks at what each team member is supposed to do when an emergency happens. The analysis moves along a timeline following the emergency plan. When it’s done it provides a heat map showing which membersof the team were overwhelmed with expected tasks and therefore could not be successful. Another data point is the communication between team members. It shows who is expected to be leading the decision making during the event and it shows key words to show what was considered important in the plan.

Once the analysis is complete a training exercise can be created to the unique needs of the organization.The scenario is uploaded to the software and all of the team members sign in on a computer to begin.

The scenario begins when a pre-recorded phone call, video clip, email or text message describing the beginning of the event is sent to each team member. Each piece of information is called an “inject” and they move the training along in real time. As the injects are received each team member must react to the information immediately just like in a real event. This create real training stress and realism.

As an example, if it is an active shooter scenario, the team might get a phone call from a person outside the building saying a man with gun just fired shots and entered the structure. At that point, the team has to rely on the emergency plans and their person skills to handle the growing emergency and take action. Each new inject can add difficulty to the scenario and push the team members to their limits.

When the scenario is finished the AIanalyzes each person’s actions during the event and displays them graphically in the various areas of response such as the heat map, the communication map, and the word salad. This data allows the team to see who and when someone was overwhelmed and could not perform their duties. This info may show a need to delegate some functions to other people. The communication graphic shows who communicated the most and to who, this can show that while the CEO was expected to lead the response it was actually the head of logistics that made the calls. This can mean the emergency ops plan may need to change or roles reassigned.

The data the software generates then showsand organization how they thought they would respond to an emergency and how they actually responded, this is very valuable information that can save lives. In addition to the data recovered showing expected and real response actions by your team, the fact that the exercise is in real time and the team members must make decisions on the spot as the event unfolds adds stress and realism which has great value to the training as well.

Technology is ever changing, and it can be a very valuable tool to help us do better and be better, this electronic tabletop training software is one of many new tools we can use to make a safer and smarter world.

The lessons of the past and message for today is clear, we cannot have healthy, thriving communities, effective economies, growing tourism, opportunity for all of our people or the smart cities of tomorrow if we don’t have a safe and secure neighborhood or workplace first. The time to prepare is now.

Emergency preparation and safety and security groups are growing to meet the needs of our towns and cities. The knowledge base of expertise related to preparedness has never been greater and the practitioners of best practices are no longer hard to find for those who want to find them.

As a last thought, while OEM, police, fire, and other emergency responders need to prepare and train, every other organization, such as schools, businesses, religious facilities, malls, and warehouses needs to prepare and train as well. Technology can help.

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