But before, I get to this new chapter, I'd like to reiterate the power of mobile technologies in the hands of first responders, SAR/HUSAR teams and the such. It's not just about the use of social media in emergencies. Social convergence is much bigger than that!
From adding to a search dog's natural abilities, to receiving images coming from a bouncing ball full of cameras, creating 3-D maps on the go in destroyed buildings and making the work of rescuers easier, the power of mobile devices has barely been exploited:
It's clear to me that in the Operations Section, social convergence brings new, validated tools and procedures that can be used by a single resource ... up to the Section Chief.
From dynamic, real-time, GIS mapping showing up-to-date situation on the ground, to the use of drones to support efficient decision making, everything points to the integration of mobile technologies (phones, drones, satellites) to make response efforts more efficient. And all that can be held in your hand ... on a smartphone or tablet.
Now, imagine combining the data from drones, crisis maps and crowdsourced information, in real-time, to give the response leader all he/she needs to deploy resources in the most strategic fashion possible.
Want rapid damage assessment? What better than a cheap drone ... keep your staff out of the danger area. Here's what the aftermath of a recent tornado in Angus, Ontario looked like from a drone's eye view:
In the planning section, the obvious benefits of social convergence are in the creation of better maps. Maps that reflect reality as experienced by the people impacted by a disaster or emergency. We are squarely in an era of community-based situational awareness. An understanding of how an incident evolves based on the experiences on the ground and not simply analysis conducted in an EOC far away.
This might appear daunting for the Planning Section Chief or even the EOC manager/director to grasp. The fact is, there is help out there! More and more digital volunteers are stepping up to support emergency management agencies. Virtual Operations Support Teams (or VOSTs) are now active in many countries (including Canada).
Furthermore, that work is constantly being validated by sound academic studies and projects that keep giving it growing legitimacy. The results are in: VOSTs and other digital volunteerism efforts (mainly crisis mapping) save lives and speed up response/recovery efforts when whole neighbourhoods are burning or when large storms affect an entire country.
As the Plans Section Chief, you can use socially-convergent tools. Your resources unit can combine check-in apps, mobile devices and mapping to lay out a clear picture of what's available at any time. Again, the power of mobile is only beginning to be discovered.
For the Situation Unit ... mapping as previously described is greatly enhanced by social convergence. But sharing sitreps is made so much easier by the prevalence of mobile devices (smartphones, phablets, tablets) often "ruggerized" for field use. With a bigger screen info can be consumed much more easily by responders because it's provided in a much more visual manner.
The Documentation Unit can use a variety of cloud-based apps (google docs, dropbox, others) and services, all accessible by mobile devices to do its job and support operations.
Even your Demob Unit can use mobile devices and services such as check-in apps, cloud-based spreadsheets to keep track and help it plan the post-op draw back.
I'm only scratching the surface here .... in the next installment in this series, I'll look at socially-convergent tools for the Fin/Admin and Logistics section ...