Right now, government and public safety officials in coastal regions of the country are preparing for the most dangerous time of the year: the height of hurricane season. Although the annual season officially begins in June and continues until November, the frequency of these natural disasters usually reaches its annual peak in September.
Despite what experts consider a “slow start” to the 2022 season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) still expects a above normal cyclone activity This year. This means that authorities must implement robust intervention strategies to ensure the safety of all citizens in their jurisdictions. An essential part of this preparation is creating and maintaining effective real-time communication between all parties involved.
In an emergency, the distribution of information can easily become chaotic. To avoid confusion and indecision, managers should organize all information and resources to allow affected parties immediate access to critical information. As public safety officials and personnel prepare for the arrival of storms this fall, they must prioritize communication strategies while developing, finalizing and executing their emergency response plans.
Use effective means of communication
A crucial part of disaster preparedness is ensuring that all staff have access to instinctive tools to enable effective collaboration. Currently, more first responders use mobile phones in service than the old, inescapable communication method of Land Mobile Radio (LMR) systems. Knowing this, collaboration and dispatch mobile apps can facilitate relevant messaging and comprehensive coordination between participating agencies by establishing a coordinated place to share and receive information instantly, instead of relying on inefficient traditional means of communication. .
Leaders and managers also need to stay alert to security issues while identifying which platforms are best for their agencies and the way they work together. It is important to note that many messaging apps intended for the public do not comply with applicable laws and regulations; However, there are various secure and compliant messaging platforms available that meet the needs of their agencies and enable intuitive communication.
Create and maintain links between agencies
Interoperability is essential for public safety agencies today, enabling productive collaboration between agencies for crisis responses and management tactics. In a recent Verizon study, 93% of first responders said coordination between agencies was vital in responding to public safety crises and 80% said ongoing collaboration between teams was necessary. Unfortunately, without the proper communication tools in place, response personnel often lack the ability to easily connect with other agencies to relay critical information.
Throughout hurricane season, prioritizing and leveraging interoperability can have a significant impact on strategy execution and, more importantly, human security. Preparing for and responding to a crisis, such as a tropical storm, is a team effort. From the training phase through the middle of the storm, having consistent, real-time updates across all agencies is crucial.
Establish an organized flow of information
Agency leaders can better leverage communication platforms to organize staff into discussion groups based on responsibilities. Police, fire, and EMS teams can be placed in one group with their captains and team leaders in another, or even intertwined. Including government officials and municipal leaders in focus groups also helps ensure they are aware of the strategies and their execution as needed. As situations arise and develop, leaders should modify chat groups and channels to include any new parties entering response efforts.
Any failure to communicate and cooperate during a hurricane, or any crisis for that matter, can increase the risk of further damage and, more importantly, loss of life. Effective preparedness and proactive decision-making enable a smooth flow of clear information and essential resources to relevant response personnel and citizens via social media, news networks or smartphone alerts.
With the right tools in place, government officials and public safety officials can help keep first responders and citizens safe. As we approach the peak of another intense season, implementing effective communication strategies is paramount in these efforts.
Jeff Halstead has dedicated nearly 30 years of law enforcement service with the Phoenix Police Department and the Fort Worth, Texas Police Department. As Fort Worth Police Chief, he navigated numerous domestic and global crisis incidents. After his retirement in 2015, he founded Evertel, a secure and compliant mobile collaboration platform for first responders and government entities, to address the communication disparities he witnessed firsthand. Email Halstead at [email protected].
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