Sep 032017
 

hurricane-harvey-pol-ml-170830_4x3_992With the recent devastation left on Houston Texas by Hurricane Harvey , I want to focus this blog post on how Knowledge Management (KM) can be used to help our first responders in managing the response to emergencies and disaster preparedness.

During a time of crisis relevant information is usually not received in a timely manner by the individuals or groups of individuals that need it the most. The lack of timely and correct information increases the level of confusion, resulting in ineffectiveness that may cause a loss of life. The lack of timely and correct information also prevents First Responders, key leadership and the public from preparing for imminent danger, compromises the ability to make informed decisions and enact the proper emergency preparedness operations.

When I speak of information I also include the data that comprises the information and the decisions (knowledge) that is gained from and acted upon with the information.

Creating a Knowledge Management (KM) Strategy presents a holistic approach to leveraging knowledge and implementing technology to improve the access to correct and timely data, information and knowledge. The KM Strategy reflects several key aspects in delivering knowledge throughout an organization. The KM Strategy suitable for execution by first responders should align with the National Incident Management System (NIMS), which “provides a consistent nationwide template to enable federal, state, tribal, local governments, nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and the private sector to work together to prevent, protect against, respond to, recover from, and mitigate the effects of incidents, regardless of cause, size, location, or complexity”. The KM Strategy for first responders will specifically address disaster preparedness, response and recovery including the technology that must be leveraged to support this strategy.

In order for any technology initiative to be successful it must address a need for the organization. The KM Strategy will identify the knowledge needs of first responders and determine the communication needs between national, state, and local entities and their corresponding first responder organizations (such as, Fire, Police, EMS, National Guard, and Cost Guard). Our preliminary research has determined that establishing a national alert system is a high priority initiative for the Department of Homeland Security. This initial system will incorporate the knowledge needs identified in the KM Strategy as well as technologies that will enable federal, state, and local government to support first responders more effectively and efficiently.

In determining a suitable knowledge management strategy for First Responders a determination must be made on the way they serve their clients, the types of knowledge that must be shared, captured and available for reuse, and should align with the strategic direction of the organization.

First Responders must have a KM strategy that supports the following:

  • Quick and Decisive Decision Making
  • Knowledge Recognition, Needs Assessment and Allocation, Feedback and Evaluation
  • Expertise Coordination Practices
  • Command and Control Structure
  • Learning and Knowledge Transfer

Quick and Decisive Decision Making

To support quick and decisive decision making, collaborative communication, and situational analysis there has to be an incident command structure that disseminates integrated information and knowledge utilizing real-time communications (see the National Incident Management System – NIMS). During an emergency first responders are operating in an atmosphere of panic fear and confusion as well as being under pressure to absorb information rapidly, judge its meaning, relevance and reliability. This information and knowledge of the crisis event is being passed along from individual to individual, team to team and agency to agency. As this communication escalates there is a need to incorporate technology to facilitate the rapid flow of information and knowledge that will enable quick and decisive decision making and situational analysis.

Knowledge Recognition, Needs Assessment and Allocation Feedback and Evaluation

During an emergency event first responders have to know details about the event as it is happening, what is needed to address the event, who needs specific information and knowledge, and what action(s) have to be taken. The NIMS protocols, procedures, and policies as indicated by the Communications and Information Management, and the Command and Management components support the knowledge recognition, needs assessment and allocation feedback and evaluation mechanisms needed in a KM strategy for First Responders.

Expertise Coordination Practices (ECP)

During an emergency event, knowledge is being exchanged in a rapid nature. Expertise coordination will establish the process to enable the management of this knowledge and skill interdependencies. ECP as part of the First Responder KM strategy will support knowledge sharing and expertise vetting during emergency events.

The ECP protocols supported by the KM strategy as identified by Faraj and Xiao will be:

  • Protocols to streamline work and reduce process uncertainty
  • Plug-n-play teaming arrangements, which allow for flexibility of personnel
  • Communities of Practice (CoP) for operational responsibility and training
  • Knowledge externalization to increase knowledge sharing

Expertise coordination activities are supported by the NIMS Resource Management component, which includes protocols, procedures and policies to support the facilitation and coordination of resources throughout every phase of the emergency event. It also addresses the coordination of knowledge between individuals, teams and agencies.

Command and Control Structure

Command and control address the management of information and knowledge at the tactical level. At the tactical level the KM strategy will address functional (tacit) knowledge at the operation level which includes, task planning (what tasks to do, when and how to execute the task), event monitoring (monitoring the actions taken and executed during an emergency event), understanding the time and place of emergency events, location and nature of the emergency event, reasoning about the cause and effect of the incident and lessons learned. Command and control has been identified as an integral part of any knowledge management system and the First Responders KM strategy must establish the protocols, processes, and procedures to address command and control. The KM strategy should specifically establish protocols, processes, and procedures for, planning, monitoring and learning, distributed knowledge framework to support teams, and support critical decision making. The establishment command and control activities are supported by the NIMS Command and Management component, which includes protocols to support Incident Command, Multiagency Coordination, and Public Information.

Learning and Knowledge Transfer

Since data, information and knowledge of the crisis event is being passed along from individual to individual, team to team and agency to agency there is a need to incorporate policies, procedures and protocols to facilitate an atmosphere of learning and knowledge transfer. The learning and knowledge transfer must not only take place between the various factions during an emergency but also within the various organizations. Learning and knowledge transfer will be a key ingredient in the KM strategy for the First Responders as they react to emergency events.

I urge everyone to contribute what you can in support of the Hurricane Harvey relief efforts to assist the people of Houston Texas. Access the following websites for information on how you can contribute; American Red Cross, YouCaring Fund, World Relief.

Aug 312012
 
Hurricane Isaac

As the US begins to recover from the aftermath of Hurricane Isaac, I am reminded of how knowledge management (KM) can be used to respond to disasters such as these.

The lack of response, or the inadequate nature of the response, has led to a need to increase the effectiveness and efficiencies of first responders.

Due to the nature of their work Disaster Response Teams (DRT), are usually first to arrive in a crisis situation.  KM applied to DRTs – in particular, first responders – will enable the DRTs to arrive at the scene in a more timely manner, be equipped with the right knowledge of the situation, and have the right tools and technology to execute their job, putting them in a position to save lives.

When a disaster occurs, first responders often do not arrive in a timely manner, are not fully aware of the situation and are not fully equipped to handle the situation.

Applying KM to DRT first responders will not only save the lives of the people in the community, but in many cases the response teams themselves. When fully knowledgeable of the situation they are responding to, the team will increase the confidence of the community by delivering a faster, more efficient response, assuring the community that they will receive the help they need. Applying KM must begin with a comprehensive KM strategy that promotes a proactive stance and preparation before disaster strikes!

Knowledge management is not a “silver bullet”, however I believe it will make a difference.

As always I’m interested in receiving and responding to all comments on this post…  be safe!

Feb 272010
 

First ResponderDuring a time of crisis, (such as natural disasters, pandemics, acts of terrorism) relevant information and knowledge is not received by the individuals or groups of individuals that need it the most. For instance many times First Responders are not able to respond quickly and effectively without the right information and knowledge during a crisis event. The lack of timely and accurate information increases the level of confusion, resulting in their ineffectiveness that may cause loss of life. Our current emergency broadcast systems are ineffective, see National Public Radio September 30, 2009 “GAO Faults FEMA on Nationwide Alert System (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=113345772).

This ineffectiveness is due to the lack of timely, accurate and meaningful information being delivered to the correct recipients during emergencies. This also prevents first responders, key government leadership and the public from preparing for imminent danger, compromises the ability to make informed decisions and enact the proper emergency preparedness operations.

Knowledge Management (KM) applied to the preparedness, response and recovery mission of First Responders will enable the first responder organizations to arrive at the scene in a timelier manner, be equipped with the right knowledge of the situation and have the right tools and technology to execute their job, resulting in saving lives. In many urban areas of the country, when a first responder team is dispatched they often do not arrive in a timely manner, are not fully aware of the situation and are not fully equipped to handle the situation. Applying KM to disaster preparedness, response and recovery will save lives not only in the communities’ first responders serve but also within the first responder teams themselves resulting in a safer, fully knowledgeable team responding to a crisis event.

With the current crisis event happening in Hawaii, and the recent events in Haiti having an Intelligent National Alert System is critical! Let me know your thoughts, I look forward to your comments.

 Posted by at 12:43 pm