IF ONLY YOU COULD PREVENT A HURRICANE… What security directors should learn from the aftermath of Harvey and Irma

Erez Goldstein, Director of Global Marketing, Qognify // September 14, 2017
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While no one has the power to prevent the effects of a disaster like a hurricane, first responders and security teams can certainly contain some of the consequences with effective disaster management and response.

The recent back-to-back disasters of hurricanes Harvey and Irma provide some important lessons for response teams of all types about emergency response management before, during, and after the storm:

Being ready: train and PREPARE

Perhaps it goes without saying, but it’s critical you have solid plans and well-trained personnel in place, in advance. This includes automated response plans – based on proven best practices – which should be enabled in systems used by the emergency response and city operation centers.

A Hurricane in Florida

A Hurricane in Florida

Situation awareness: GET the complete picture

Make sure your Physical Security Information Management (PSIM) or situation management software is integrated not just with security systems, but also with weather and environmental monitoring systems. Irma proved that a storm’s track can significantly shift in an instant, thus up to date information is a necessity. Before you order residents where to evacuate from, you must determine safe areas for them to evacuate to. Ditto for emergency curfews. Does your current solution integrate all the data from video feeds, GIS maps, and monitoring systems without paralyzing your personnel due to information overload?

Active collaboration: SHARE that complete picture

In order to provide relief quickly, hospitals, fire brigades and other agencies need to see the same picture as the central emergency control center. They should be connected to the control center’s system and get alerts directly as they come so that they can be better prepared. The more prepared they are, the more efficiently they can use their resources to save lives and protect property.

During the height of the storm, the number of people in Florida without power due to Irma was greater than 7 million. Ask yourself if your emergency communications systems are resilient enough to operate independent of vulnerable infrastructure, or will you be in the dark like the millions of victims you’re trying help? Being on the same page requires deployed, operational, and resilient communications.

flooding in Florida

Effective response: ACT on what you know

Your personnel need to know what process to follow and practice consistency when they handle incidents. Predefined operating procedures for the case of a hurricane will give the teams guidance on how to handle the numerous events that take place in the course of the storm and automate some of the tasks involved.

Smarten up: use apps, online resources, and “human sensors”

Here’s one lesson learned from Hurricane Katrina back in 2005, where miscommunication and lack of coordination were widespread: Florida’s governor recommended that evacuating residents use apps and online tools to help find fuel, navigate safely, and stay connected both ahead of and following Hurricane Irma’s arrival.

Furthermore: we know the power was out but cellular communication wasn’t altogether so. With virtually every person carrying a smartphone, messages can be sent instantly, capturing. exactly what is happening and where. To benefit from this, the control room should deploy a system that puts an order in the clatter, harnessing the technology and human logic to received accurate, real time, visual, detailed information straight into the control room.

The aftermath of the hurricane

The aftermath

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