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Why is interoperability important? A view from first responders

Crisis management can be defined as development of strategies to inform a response mechanism to deal with a sudden and significant negative event. Such crisis can occur as a result of an unpredictable event or result from unforeseeable consequence of various events, such as man-made threats (terrorist attacks), natural disasters (earthquake, tornado, tsunami), technological accidents or other emergency situations (pandemic).

In every case, crises require swift decision-making to limit consequences to the effected organizations. As a comprehensive process put into practice, crisis response should be prepared before a crisis happen. The practices should cover the whole crisis management circle and are applied before, during and after a critical incident.

Generally, there are two basic types of crisis management: proactive and responsive. Acting proactively plays a significant role in the preparation of an organization to effectively respond in case of emergency and includes training, purchase of appropriate equipment, response planning and exercising. Response crisis management goes into practice once the event has occurred and after it becomes apparent that the event will not be mitigated quickly and could continue for days, weeks or months. In this case, response mechanism is fully activated, all command levels are engaged (strategic, operational and tactical) and emergency plans are applied.

The role of first responders

A first responder is a person with specialized training, who is among the first to arrive and provide assistance in place (scene of an emergency). First responders typically include law enforcement officers, paramedics, emergency medical technicians and fire firefighters.

First responders try to do their best to save peoples’ lives, protect properties and minimize damages. However, the lack of an interoperable approach in the crisis management domain becomes evident often, standing as an obstacle to effective crisis response

Interoperability is a challenge for all response mechanisms and first responders. Interoperability refers to the ability of different systems and organizations to work together. To achieve interoperability in case of an emergency, different characteristics of different products or systems used in response should work with other products or systems, in either implementation or access, without any restrictions.

Interoperability is difficult to be achieved in the first responder’s aspect, because even within one country, first responders are not aware of each other’s standard operating procedures (SOPs) and policies. That does not mean we have to learn one another’s responsibilities, but before we implement the same emergency scenario, it has to be clear from all sides that we have to cooperate. Last but not least, cross-border collaboration is particularly important, when it comes to crisis management, because success can be potentially measured by saving human life.

In this context, crisis management is directly and strongly connected with the interoperability of various management processes for building resilience in and against crises. Regardless of the phase (proactive or responsive), it is essential for every response organization to set interoperable guidelines, practices and techniques for effective first and main response and successful crisis management.

STRATEGY project and interoperability

It is well-known that interoperability is crucial in the field of crisis management, not only among different organizations in a country, but also internationally. There are increasing instances of cross border crises, like the COVID-19 pandemic, international terrorist threats and climate change. Interconnections in transport, energy and other crucial sectors of the EU stress the importance to develop interoperable systems, tools and procedures that allow a harmonized, pan-European approach to disaster response.

STRATEGY project is a three-year-long project, funded by the European Commission, Horizon 2020 Among STRATEGY project consortium members, there are two first responder organisations. Their contribution and real-life experience will help to improve interoperability of different systems, tools and operational procedures serving the crisis management domain by developing a Pan-European pre-standardization framework.

For more information about STRATEGY visit the project website and follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Author: Kyritsis Theofanis, Police Lieutenant

 

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 883520

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This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 883520

This communication material reflects only the authors’ view and the Research Executive Agency and the European Commission are not responsible for any use that may be made of the information it contains.

Duration: (09/2020-08/2023)
Grant Agreement Number: 883520
Funded Under: H2020-EU.3.7.5. – Increase Europe’s resilience to crises and disasters
Funding Scheme: IA – Innovation action
Topic: SU-DRS03-2018-2019-2020 – Pre-normative research and demonstration for disaster-resilient societies
Cordis link: https://cordis.europa.eu/project/id/883520