A study entitled The Connected World: Greasing the Wheels of the Internet Economy examined how Internet accessibility and usage corresponds with economic growth. The report measured “access to” and “engagement with” the Internet across four components; Infrastructure, Industry, Individual, and Information. According to Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) who commissioned the study, “those with the lowest “e-friction” tend to score well across all four components: they have strong infrastructures, and supportive business and regulatory environments.”
The study reveals compelling insight for companies looking to embrace technological advancements. However, upgrading technology must have a specific purpose. Incorporating additional technology into operations for the sake of upgrading can be costly, time consuming, and counterproductive. Implementations of new technology should allow for a more streamlined operation.
Within the past few years, technology has allowed an increasing number of companies to automate emergency preparedness and response processes. With budgets restraints and increasing workloads, easing response plan maintenance issues, improving communication methods, and minimizing preparedness disparities is critical in the emergency management realm. Advanced technology for emergency preparedness and response has included everything from gas-leak sensors and drones, to social media integration and adoption of sophisticated emergency management software. The ability to automate a myriad of emergency response activities, including expediting communications with local first responders, safety officials, and those affected by an incident enables companies to potentially minimize the impacts of an emergency on individuals, facilities, and the community.
An incident response relies heavily on effectively communicating accurate information in order to implement the appropriate action(s). The Internet enables the prospect of instantaneous communication to/among facility managers, critical decision makers, emergency response teams, stakeholders, vendors and contractors, and the public. Communicating through unfamiliar company radio codes, agency specific codes, perplexing acronyms, or specialized jargon will disconnect and confuse employees, responders, communities, and/or stakeholders, possibly prolonging a response and the initiation of necessary actions. Advancing communication technologies, with proper applicable training and protocols, can streamline information circulation.
As web-based technologies become more accessible and mobile, different options for housing industrial regulated response plans have evolved as well. Expediting tasks with reduced resources has become the mantra of many organizations. Transitioning to a web-based cloud system to maintain your emergency response plans can enhance communication, accessibility, portability, and redundancy. In order to minimizes “e-friction” and allow entities to prosper, the ICANN study emphasized the importance of an implementation of effective regulatory procedures, or policy, such as redundancy, back up efforts, and security measures. In the event Internet connectivity is terminated or inaccessible, emergency managers must have alternative means to access plans. Redundant data-centers, scheduled downloads, and security measures must be a part of any emergency management program based on an intranet or cloud.
Additionally, Internet availability enables additional emergency communications through social media. From communicating facility closures in the event of bad weather or evacuation orders as a result of a hazardous spill, greater Internet accessibility allows for companies to streamline emergency communications to a wider audience with minimal administrative effort. According to PEW Research Center's Social Media Update 2013, 73% of online individuals utilize social media. While individuals tend to join social media because of a perceived need to stay connected to a broader scope of friends and family, it is also becoming a new source for timely circumstantial information.
Internet accessibility and engagement offers companies the opportunity to utilize social media in critical ways that aid in emergency response. With proper protocols in place, social media emergency management allows for the following:
- Speed: Direct communication between informants and those who need information enables responders to react faster, minimizing the duration of the emergency.
- Relevance: Disseminate the right message to the right audience
- Accuracy: Ensure information is correct, confirmed by company sources, and backed up by facts or direct observation. Multiple informants can confirm accuracy or inaccuracies.