Knowing that a threat is emerging is a critical element in response and recovery planning. If the threat has been well anticipated, the information about speed, location, target communities, and the population at risk become critical information. Knowing what is needed is only the beginning of the process. It becomes critical to know what human assets, supplies, and space are available where, in what timeframe, and how they will be provided become the data that will determine the effectiveness of the response.
This information is part of what is known as situational awareness. That is, understanding the circumstances of the operational environment, and assets at play require a sophisticated data collection and delivery system if decisions are to be swiftly and appropriately. For this reason, as part of preparedness month, we encourage a review of the situational awareness tools that are available, understood, and how they will be used. These are usually computerized information systems that are widespread in the community and have a defined usage plan. That means that people in relevant locations (e.g., hospitals, emergency rooms, supply chain providers, transportation systems, etc.) know and understand the importance of these tools and what types of information they will provide to the system. Now is the time to review the system and expectations with users and data sources for the system.
This information is not only important for emergency managers, but it is important for the community writ large. Many sectors will be involved in the response (including a variety of public and private sector entities). To assure that community response is well-orchestrated, there needs to be a common operating picture that allows cross-sector collaboration in effecting response and recovery activities. This requires reliable and factual information that is gathered and disseminated routinely and credibly.
Consider during preparedness month how situational awareness is provided in your community and how well a common operating picture is developed and utilized. As we have seen in recent events, disinformation and lack of reliable information lead to a fragmented and ineffective response.