The process of developing a campus incident management plan can be overwhelming for administrations. However, the increase in severe weather events highlight the urgency for swift, effective, and systematic, real-time response plans that can be utilized to protect campuses, students, and staff.
Real-time incident management is becoming more of an expected standard in today’s highly technical, social-streaming world. Current societal norms among college aged students dictate the necessity for immediate access to crucial and timely information, especially during an incident response.
A real-time incident management system allows for real-time transmission of incident details, including location, severity, impact, and status. Because of the instantaneous advantage, decisions and coordinated efforts can be tailored to a campus safety event as it evolves. A real-time incident management system can:
- Reduce exponential impact of incidents through timely response
- Increase effectiveness of response
- Track status of the incident and all aspects of the response, based on each organization/departments assignment(s) and operational levels
- Clarify necessary deployment of resources in order to prevent duplication of efforts
- Provide a means to aggregate data into a format that enables real-time analysis and decision making to ensure the most efficient and effective emergency response
- Provide an instantaneous method of emergency situational awareness
However, response actions must not fall victim to exaggerated miscalculations, rumors, and inaccuracies. The Incident Commander must ensure rapid responses and decisive actions are relevant and best suited for the site-specific scenario. Responders must understand applicable emergency procedures, status updates that need to be communicated, and time frame for documenting communications. An incident should be managed through clearly identified and communicated objectives. These objectives should include:
- Establishing specific incident objectives
- Developing strategies based on incident objectives
- Developing and issuing assignments, plans, procedures, and protocols.
- Establishing specific, measurable tactics or tasks for various incident management functional activities, and directing efforts to accomplish them in support of defined strategies.
- Documenting results to measure performance and facilitate corrective actions
Just as timely communication methodology is important, commonly understood terminology is essential. If an incident requires a multi-agency response, the incident should dictate simple and parallel language. Rapidly communicating through unfamiliar radio codes, agency specific codes, perplexing acronyms, unanticipated text messages, or specialized jargon will disconnect and confuse responders, and/or stakeholders, possibly prolonging a response.
In order for a real-time incident management system to be effective, specific situational preparedness communication initiatives should be implemented.
- Establish a central conference call phone line. This enables the campus incident management team to communicate collectively during a crisis.
- Develop contact lists. Ensure that the list includes contact information for key stakeholders, with multiple points of contacts, including work phone, cell phone, home phone, and e-mail. Update the list on a semi-annual basis.
- Acquire a mass notification system to communicate with students, staff, and parents. During a crisis, regularly update information through this system. System can consist of phone calls and/or text messages.
- Conduct semi-annual mass notification tests to ensure accurate contact information.
- Share plan with key staff, local law enforcement, and local emergency management agencies. A web-based incident management system should enable secured access.
- Develop Incident Management Chain of Command so that all decision-makers can begin communicating with one another as soon as a crisis begins.
- Always have amateur radio units in your Emergency Operations Center. Amateur radios may be outdated, but they are also the last type of communication to fail.
- After an incident, remember to debrief and identify lessons learned in the incident management plan.
- Revise and exercise the adjusted plan. Just because the crisis is over does not mean the incident management process has ended.
Maintaining accurate and up-to-date picture of resource utilization is a critical component of a real-time incident management system. Each incident management status update should identify the following in order to clearly communicate to those in the Incident Command System:
- Time of update (timestamp)
- Incident or event name
- Elapsed time of incident from initiation
- Name/position of responder making status updates
- Current phase and/or specific status update
- Tasks assigned, both internally and externally, and resources used or required
- Emergency Operations Center location and contact information