6 Reasons Why You Should Digitize Your ICS Forms
Digital forms are an integral part of moving emergency management activities to the cloud. In this article we will be discussing 6 key benefits to digitizing your ICS forms.
1. Quickly Retrieve Information
ICS forms are excellent for collecting information during an emergency, but shoe boxes containing paper copies are a poor method for storing that documentation.
Digitization allows emergency management teams to follow the industry standard ICS structure and quickly retrieve that information from their mobile phone, tablet, laptop, or computer. It may feel faster to scribble field reports on paper, but the time to communicate the information to others slows down the whole response. Time saved by being able to quickly view ICS forms from one central cloud-based location can drastically reduce the damage being caused by a disaster.
2. Improve Situational Awareness
Multiple people can view your ICS forms and collaboratively fill them out. Any information added to a form will sync in real-time for all users. By moving your ICS forms to the cloud, teams can easily fill forms out in the field on a tablet or laptop. As the forms are now digital, the information is automatically synced and shared into the Common Operating Picture (COP) for all senior responders to see.
3. Maintain Accuracy
The value of your output is the product of your input and no emergency manager wants garbage in and garbage out. Paper copies are plagued with misinterpretation of handwritten notes. Here’s how digital ICS forms keep information accurate:
Updates through a web browser or mobile device are automatically synced to the cloud to ensure information is not lost or overwritten.
Information is date-time stamped to ensure that important decisions are based on up-to-date field reports.
Humans make mistakes and less data entry means less chance of errors. You can maintain accuracy by linking fields in your FEMA ICS forms to your Situation Report. Enter key information once and D4H will instantly autofill it throughout your Incident Action Plan (IAP).
New information expands our incident picture, but we certainly don’t want to lose previous details. All information from the entire incident lifecycle is stored and available for viewing and downloading long after the incident has come to an end in D4H Incident Management’s Audit Trail.
4. View Patterns
As an incident grows, if we are not sharing information digitally then we can only see part of the picture. It’s easy to lose perspective and miss patterns. Worse, emergency managers don’t want to make decisions based on partial information. Digitization allows for all information to be gathered, analyzed, and compared.
Digital reports enable us to view incident patterns and emergency managers are given the ability to relate to past responses and integrate that learning into current situations.
5. Better Prevent and Mitigate Emergencies
Every year, emergency managers sit down with their agency to review their risk assessment to help focus on the risks and plan strategies to mitigate them. The emergency management continuum is a common process. There is even an entire industry dedicated to emergency preparedness. But what are you preparing for/preventing?
Digital emergency management reports can show your actual history, the frequency of community issues, and trends in a region at the click of a button.
6. Track Goal Progress
It’s important to measure what you want to improve. Emergency management measures success based on lives saved, property protected, and response times.
Sure, paper records can eventually be used to calculate an incident’s total damage or cost of responses but while the accountants are going through that stack of paper do your elected officials know how much of the budget remains? Real-time emergency management reports based on information gathered digitally ensure decisions are being made based on current realities, not guesstimates.
December 10th, 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?