Friday, March 28, 2008

Collaboration Needed in Disaster Response Planning

Here's an interesting survey, cited by MRT, of 200 public safety communications officials and responders, conducted by Motorola and the Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO), indicating that some common assumptions about disaster preparedness and communications may be wrong. For one thing, first responders are far more concerned with responding to natural disasters than to terrorism or crime:

Of those interviewed, 65% identified response to natural disasters as a top concern, compared with terrorist attacks (7%) and crime (10%).
Of course, that's a "snapshot in time" perspective, which is subject to change in the wake of another major event.

Perhaps more relevant to preparedness professionals is this nugget:
Another surprise found in the survey results concerns how those who procure public safety communications systems and equipment view technology versus how first responders in the field view it, according to Tom Quirke, Motorola’s director of product marketing. For example, 24% of the first responders who were interviewed identified ease of use as an important criterion for any new technology; in contrast, only 1% of public administrators thought ease of use to be important.

“[First responders are] very comfortable with the voice systems they have today—they’re built over generations. The ergonomics, the usage—you don’t need to look at a radio to be able to use it,” Quirke said in an interview with MRT. “But first responders clearly said that any new technology has to be easy to use.”

From the perspective of public administrators, they really need to get closer to the first responders before making any decisions on public-safety equipment. … This is potentially a big wake-up call because it could lead to a lot of rollouts of new equipment and new technology that are inappropriate,” Quirke said. “[First responders] told us, quite honestly, that if equipment gets in the way, they’re not going to use it.”
It again speaks to the necessity of seeking collaborative solutions.

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