6 Benefits to Creating a Virtual EOC in 2022
With COVID-19 forcing many workplaces to work remotely, it is now possible to deliver the solutions of the EOC remotely. Here we discuss how the benefits of operating a virtual EOC are great enough that this type of operation can continue long after this pandemic is over.
What is an EOC?
The Incident Command System (ICS) defines the Emergency Operations Center as a physical or virtual location from which leaders of a jurisdiction or organization coordinate information and resources to support incident management activities and on-scene operations. While the Incident Command Post (ICP) is formed at the incident site to focus on tactics, the EOC is created elsewhere to support the ICP.
What is the role of the EOC?
The critical roles of the EOC are:
- Supporting Incident Commanders
- Coordinating resources
- Developing situational awareness
- Informing the public
Most importantly, the EOC supports the incident and helps manage resources ‘outside-the-tape’. While responders are busy dealing with an incident, the EOC gives the administration team a method to support them.
Traditionally, EOCs are a physical location for the coordination of information and resources to support incident management activities. They may be a temporary facility or established in a permanent location. But look at our critical roles, what if we could achieve those remotely?
What is a virtual EOC?
With COVID-19 forcing many workplaces to work remotely, it is now possible to deliver the solutions of the EOC remotely. Government organizations and businesses can move their EOCs into the online world with the help of laptops, computers, mobile devices, and appropriate software.
A good incident management software solution will allow you to create one centralized virtual location to track your entire response in real-time. D4H’s cloud-based emergency management software is remotely accessible on any internet-connected device, from any location, enabling emergency managers to quickly and easily create a virtual common operating picture, communicate objectives, and collaborate on a resolution using forms, tasks, logs, maps, and status boards.
The benefits to operating a virtual EOC
Any change requires training and adoption by staff, but the benefits of operating a virtual EOC are great enough that this type of operation can continue long after this pandemic is over.
1. Remote workforce
The benefits of leveraging a remote workforce are well documented but one key aspect for emergency management is that you can now integrate your staff and worldwide experts in incident responses. Worldwide experts can just connect to the virtual EOC like any other team member, and this gives you access to resources that you may not have been able to previously afford or include in past responses. Best of all, there are no commute delays as they join directly from their smartphone or laptop.
2. Opportunities to scale
ICS prides itself on being able to scale up for large disasters. What better way to leverage those resources than with a virtual EOC? Now you don’t need to wait for additional office space, you simply invite new incident management team members to join with an online invitation.
3. Streamlined communication
One of the key requirements of a good disaster response is communication with your team, outside resources, and the public. Multiple forms of communication like whiteboards, emails, radios, phone calls, and text messages bring complexity to incident coordination. With a virtual EOC, you have a centralized platform for aggregating all of your communication into a single system that updates in real-time for all users.
4. Effectively coordinate resources
A virtual EOC easily manages resources, equipment, and activation of mutual aid agreements. When partners join the response they can centrally manage and communicate via the virtual EOC. By connecting team leaders during a response, the chance of miscoordination is drastically reduced.
5. Enhanced Situational Awareness
As updates from the incident are received, the situation report is kept updated and progress is tracked from external agencies. The incident management system allows a single operational picture to be formed. The best part is that this can be shared with your internal team, incident commander, mutual aid partners, or the public (completely or partially).
6. Informing the Public
Emergency managers don’t want the public flocking to the incident. The public will want to know the latest information, and we can deliver that to them virtually. With a status board pulling the necessary information from our operational reports, the public can receive real-time updates and get their answers through the EOC without impacting on-scene responders. You can read more on keeping the public informed during an emergency here.
December 11th, 2021
About the author
For over seven years, Clinton Boyda has led a regional municipal agency in Alberta, Canada, as the Director of Emergency Management (DEM). Representing ten municipalities, Clinton has seen how important using a tool like D4H is to help Emergency Managers keep organized during all phases of a disaster. Also, as a Search and Rescue First Responder, he has seen the value D4H provides to manage certifications, call-outs, and incident reports. What tools are you using to leverage your lessons learned?