The Emergency Planning world is an interesting one. It’s probably fair to say that traditionally, Emergency Planners were retired police or fire officers that wanted to carry on after their 30 years. However in recent years Emergency Planning courses have popped up at universities across the country and people are studying specifically to become Emergency Planning Officers as a preferred career choice – I’m one of the latter.
Whilst us newbie’s can gain a lot from the experience of the traditionalists there are often some generational differences when it comes to using ‘tech’
Being young and hip I’d like to think I’m pretty up to speed with ‘technology’ and naturally I want to try and incorporate this into my job. In a previous role I’d taken a load of ideas to the boss on how we could use technology in our emergency control room, only to be told “We don’t need any of that James Bond stuff, paper and pen is fool-proof” (From this point on I should have adopted the nickname ‘Q’ – opportunity missed!)
Fast forward a few years and the EP world is evolving, we now have a whole heap of cool gadgets in our emergency centre (a retrofitted nuclear bunker!) ranging from, Smartboards, touchscreen TV’s, shared electronic logs, signal boosters and wifi.
The potential to share live information across multiple locations or live stream video from responders body cams back to control rooms has completely changed the game. This new level of situational awareness in control rooms means that commanders can make better co-ordinated and informed decisions much quicker than before. (1-0 Newbies!)
However, as we have to be the eternal pessimists and always plan for the worst we realised that we may not be resilient should we have a power failure, even 007 can’t see in the dark, and so the pen and paper is sticking around too (The traditionalist pulled one back, 1-1).
Hopefully the level of tech will continue to increase and help us respond more efficiently when emergencies happen but as a wise man once told me ‘pen and paper is fool-proof’ – he wasn’t wrong.
It’s important to have a resilient back-up plan; pens, paper, printed out log sheets and flip charts. This goes for individuals too; I’m ashamed to admit that on far too many occasions I’ve experienced fits of blind panic having lost my iPhone for minutes at a time, wondering if my life would ever be the same again, to then find it down the side of the sofa. It’s a harsh realisation that I rely massively on my phone to get information and bizarrely, contact people. Whilst smart phones are better than sliced bread they’re just an expensive paper weight when that battery goes, so why not keep a paper copy of emergency contact numbers in a home emergency plan and if you want to be really prepared, keep a copy in a Grab Bag with a spare charger other essential items.
So, what’s the final score when it comes to tech and emergency response?
By Tom Knibbs, Senior CSW Resilience Officer