A critical part of the emergency management or business continuity planning process
involves preparing to operate an emergency command center. Good response
and recovery management requires a robust approach to information
management. Command Centers, supported by sound information management
systems, hold the key to successfully managing potential problems
associated with any disaster.
It is important to fully prepare your organization for crisis
event management. Crisis management strategy development
should include the entire business continuity
management team - you should use brainstorming techniques and help
team members "think outside of the box" when determining
your crisis event strategies. Review your information gathering and
dissemination requirements and then consider how these will work in
a crisis management atmosphere. Some key point to consider:
- Use the
Incident Command System (ICS) to provide a management
structure and system for conducting operations.
stakeholders on trigger events and the planned response to
- Use your stakeholders to monitor the environment for problems and
- Plan to implement, manage,
and track all contingency. response, and recovery plans
- Plan to track
- Prepare to document all
actions taken and the related costs
A Command Center should be equipped to perform a number of crisis
management functions but also should be able to function as a
day-to-day operations resource and to support efforts to test and exercise contingency and response
The Incident Command System (ICS) provides a
management structure and system for conducting on-site operations.
It is applicable to small scale daily operational activities as well
as major mobilizations. ICS, provides command center and operational
staff with a standardized operational
structure and common terminology. Because of this, ICS provides a useful and flexible
management system that is particularly adaptable to incidents
involving multi-jurisdictional or multi-disciplinary responses. ICS
provides the flexibility needed to rapidly activate and establish an
organizational format around the functions that need to be
See information on Incident Command System
training. A white paper on the ICS is available in Word
Let's consider how you will manage response and recovery
operations during a crisis -- there will be a lot of information
flowing around the enterprise. The command center's job is to
collect intelligence and to manage and control event information and
response activities. Typically, the information flow will look
something like this:
1. Stakeholder notices possible disruption
2. Alert message sent to the Command Center
3. Alert message evaluated by managers
4. Incident Log opened to track each event
5. SOPs implemented using checklists
6. Tasks assigned according to plan
7. Resource allocation tracked in log
8. Task performance tracked in log
9. Status briefings and updates to stakeholders
All of this information will need to be managed and documented.
A strong information management system will be a must. Continuity Managers need to provide a robust command, control,
and monitoring function that will:
- Above all else - be
easy and efficient to use
- Collect failure
information to allow rapid and early contingency response
- Track multiple
incidents and resources
activities across the enterprise
Strong oversight will be needed during crisis event operations.
Command centers should be activated as soon as possible to ensure
that oversight and rapid decision making can occur. During the
incident response phase, the real-time tracking of incidents and
response resources is critical. It is conceivable that emergency
managers and response organizations will be overwhelmed with calls
for service. Resources may be in short supply while multiple requests
for service pile up. An operations log capability in needed to
fulfill the requirement of documenting, tracking, and managing the
response to an infinite number of concurrent incidents.
Good information management tools can help
contingency managers create and organize their plans as well as in
exercising and executing them. While contingency plans often end up
in binders or files, a good information management system can make
plans and supportive materials easily available to everyone.
Of course, in operating our command center, good
command center software will make your life much easier. The
software should be able to perform all of the following functions:
- Incident Logging
- Team Tasking
- Resource Deployment
- Status Boards
- Executive Briefings
The Ideal Information System
The ideal command center would be an easy to use and
robust information and decision management system that provides:
- Central command and
- Early alert
- Functionality as a
- Secure data sharing
over the Internet and other networks.
- Event tracking and
- SOP and contingency
plan check-off lists
- Resource management
- Documentation of
Command Center software can help you effectively manage the vast
amount of information that is generated during a crisis. As
mentioned above, a good information management system organizes all
of your response and recovery data and should be designed to help
you manage your resources more effectively. Software replaces
white boards, black boards, flipcharts, and pads of paper with an
electronic data management tool. You can also use command center
software to test and validate your plans and to make necessary
ideal information system would create a "virtual
command center", turning every desktop in the organization
into an intelligence-gathering and reporting workstation.
The system should make it easy for individuals from every department
to quickly and accurately report on their progress using automated
checklists and other time-saving features such as automated reports
for incident tracking.
event information management system must be able to provide:
Two-way communications…a structured mechanism for receiving and sending information. Standard
categorizations will be needed to route reports to the appropriate
position in the Command Center. Emergency managers should be
able to centrally receive and evaluate this event information from
both inside and outside the enterprise. The
system should help manage this information in real-time and keep
records of events as they unfold.
Automated response and recovery checklists... for all of their major
functions to ensure that the recovery is complete. The key is to put
an automated checklist in the hands of the right person anywhere and
everywhere in the organization. Make it easy for them to send the
checklist results as data and make it easy for managers to see the
progress in executive reports.
Alert notifications… with a sophisticated message sorting and
distribution capability so managers can track and log multiple and
varied notifications and ensure that the right information gets to
the right individual.
There are a number of products on the market that can help you
automate the command center. See our listing of Command Center Software
Virtual Emergency Operations Centers
"Virtual EOC" is a concept wherein command center
participants can share information, make decisions, and deploy
resources without the requirement to be physically present in the
command center. Typically using web-enabled software, a Virtual
Command Center allows participants to work from their normal
workstation, from home, or from the field. Emergency plans and
reports are available from any location. In fact, all
information can be maintained in a central database that is available
to command center participants from anywhere in the world.
are many commercial command center software products available.
Several meet the needs of the "virtual command center" and
can be customized to fit your organization.
See an article on Virtual
Command Centers (Risk Management Magazine)
you need assistance, All
Hands Consulting provides comprehensive command center
services including software selection and implementation services.
You can be certain that taking the necessary planning and
preparedness steps ahead of a crisis will limit damages and speed
the recovery process. Having good plans in place, drilling on them
and using a robust information management system to implement and
track their execution will prove to be invaluable, no matter what
Need to know more about command center operations and
technology? Contact us
for more information.
Alternatives For Training Emergency Management Command
Our book store the best risk
continuity, and emergency
management books and products.
Making Your Command Center
a Success (Word Document)
Command Centers (Risk Management Magazine)
The Incident Command System (ICS) in
Systems for Crisis Management in Areas of Controversy
Command Center Software
Alert Technology offers
Ops Center. A complete web-based incident management tool.
Blue292 offers a Emergency
Management application and provides personal protection
equipment and safety supplies.
offers a web-based product by the same name.
integrators are the makers of WebEOC
- designed to bring real-time emergency information management to
any size Emergency Operations Center.
E-team provides an Internet
system that runs on Lotus Notes.
Essential Technologies offers Incident
another Web-based crisis management application.
touts an incident driven design.
Specialized Disaster Systems International makes a system called EM/2000.
Strohl Systems makes business continuity software including Incident
Alertcast - Offers an
emergency notification service that facilitates contingency
planning, emergency preparedness, and disaster recovery.
Technologies offers RapidReach - Automated Notification System.
Alert Network, Inc. (CAN) is
a high-speed, telephone emergency notification company that gives
you the ability to get critical information to large numbers or a
precise number of people in a short period of time. CAN uses the
latest in computer, telephone and digitized voice technology.
E-Alert USA - a fee-based
service that provides emergency notification messages via any e-mail
E-mail Network - a free service that provides notification of an
emergency by e-mail, cell phone or pager
from local, regional and national agencies.
Notification Server - designed to enable large groups of users
carrying a diverse set of wired and wireless devices to receive an
alpha message quickly and concisely from a single inbound message.
Notification System - Automated notification system for
emergency and non-emergency communications.
Notification - emergency alerting and warning systems for mass
notification, first response and critical communications.
All Hands Emergency
Management Consulting and Training Services - offers a
number of command
center and emergency management services including a
comprehensive command center evaluation tool: EOC
Emergency Operation Centers (EOCs)
MapServer - great topographical maps for any location.