Anyone who has been in the vicinity of an EOC can tell you that communications are likely to fail at some point during an emergency response. Whether communications infrastructure is damaged as a result of the event itself, or a crisis erupts on social media, the adaptability of the ICS structure is more than capable to respond.
According to a 2017 dissertation published by James E. Burroughs of Walden University, there are a number of common factors that lead to the failure of communications in emergency environments. In conducting his study, Burroughs surveyed a number of first responders. Despite their geographic distribution, the respondents shared similar concerns.
Concerns surrounding interoperability of communications technologies have been well documented in AAR reporting, however the lessons remain ‘documented’ only – not learned. Participants in Burroughs’ study outlined policy barriers, the lack of inter-agency training and budgetary constraints as the most significant impediments to full interoperability during emergency response.
In 2011, Public Safety Canada completed the Communications Interoperability Strategy for Canada (CISC). The Senior Officials Responsible for Emergency Management (SOREM) group, with representation from every province and territory, was responsible for overseeing development and implementation of the CISC, but participation by each jurisdiction remained voluntary.
The Interoperability Continuum published in the CISC outlined five elements required for an effective strategy that encompass the recommendations made by Burroughs.
We know how to fix the problem of subpar interoperability. So – what are the barriers to implementation of technologies that have been demonstrated to save lives and enhance mutual aid?
The cynical part of me thinks it comes down to a simple political calculus; another part of me thinks its the inevitable result of a field that hasn’t (yet) had the ‘ear’ of officials charged with implementing comprehensive solutions informed by those with real-world experience. What do you think?