Policy or decision-maker
You are a decision maker interested in enhancing inter-organisational disaster response collaboration?
You might want to learn more about the following topics:
Why is cross-organisational collaboration relevant for policy makers?
In all major incidents, organisations need to collaborate at different scales, including local, regional, national or even international level. However, collaboration between different actors can be difficult, depending on the level of interoperability they have reached. At the lower levels, Standard Operating Procedures are frequently developed at an organisational level, technologies are purchased individually and also trainings often relate to single organisations only. Hence, procedures and technologies do not necessarily match cross-organisational, if interoperability is low.
In smaller incidents, respective challenges do not attract much attention. In major incidents however, they become visible. Some examples encompass:
- London Terrorist Attacks 2005:
The Pollock Report (2013), reviewing past UK incidents states that “The evidence demonstrates, therefore, a need for a review of the extent and scope of inter-agency training. Such training is vital in helping to reduce confusion and in fostering a better understanding of the emergency services’ respective roles”.
- The Netherlands, creation of Safety Regions:
After several events between 2000 and 2003, the Dutch Safety Regions Act was developed in the Netherlands:
“The Dutch Safety Regions Act has a long history that includes some very tangible events that have led to its adoption, such as the fireworks disaster in Enschede in May 2000 and the New Year’s fire in the ‘De Hemel’ bar in Volendam in 2001. […] Because the threat from ‘classic’ disasters was broadened to include different types of disaster – like the foot and mouth crisis of 2003, the threat of a flu epidemic, the threat of terrorism and the ‘gritting salt crisis’ – disaster management has also been expanded over the years to include crisis management. The new forms of threat require a different type of approach, different partners and a different strategy.” (p. 5)
- The Manchester Terrorist Attacks 2017:
At just after 22:30hrs on Monday 22nd May 2017, a suicide bomber detonated an improvised device in an area known as the City Room. Around 14,000 people, mainly teenagers and family, had travelled from across the UK to attend the concert. The bomb killed twenty-two people including many children. Over one hundred were physically injured and many more suffered psychological and emotional trauma. The Kerslake Report reviewed the related preparedness and response activities. While many things went well, several learnings could be identified. For example, the Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) did not arrive at the scene and therefore played no meaningful role in the response for almost two hours (p. 8) and stayed “effectively ‘outside the loop’, having no presence at the rendezvous point established by the Police, little awareness of what was happening at the Arena”.
What does cross-organisational collaboration encompass at the national and international level?
Cross-organisational collaboration or aspects of interoperability can be assessed and enhanced among several core domains. In the civil protection context, first steps have been made in the United States by developing an Interoperability Continuum. It was a result of the 9/11 attacks (https://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/implementing-9-11-commission-report-progress-2011.pdf , p. 44, accessed 04.05.2020)
Thomas, J. & A. Squirini (n.a.): Measuring Systems Interoperability: A Focal Point for Standardized Assessment of Regional Disaster Resilience, p. 3, available via: http://www.spinglobal.co/wp-content/uploads/2018/04/Measuring-Systems-Interoperability.pdf (9.11.2020).
Multiple European states have adapted this approach of differentiating dimensions of interoperability such as Governance, Standard Operating Procedures, Technology, Training and Exercises and Usage. For example, the UK in 2009 (http://library.college.police.uk/docs/acpo/Multi-agency-Interoperability-130609.pdf), Belgium (Testelmans 2017), and France (Mannaioni et al. 2020) built on this approach.
Initiation of cross-organisational collaboration
A good starting point to further develop cross-organisational collaboration or interoperability, a good basis for decision making should be developed. This can be done by reviewing past event. For example, in the UK, the Pollock report (2013) revealed lessons from more than 30 incidents (https://www.jesip.org.uk/uploads/media/pdf/Pollock_Review_Oct_2013.pdf).
Similarly, a review of the interoperability dimensions might be a good starting point. For example, Testelmans (2017) reviewed these dimensions for the Belgian context (2017, https://www.cidss.be/publications/interoperability-dutch)
In terms of practical aspects, cross-ministry activity is supportive to enhance cross-organisational collaboration.
Also in the international context, the continuum might be applied for assessments on a case-by-case basis. For example, it was applied to assess the interoperability of French UCPM modules in the Swedish system which were deployed in 2018 (Mannaioni et al. 2020).
Based on an interoperability matrix (see section above), different dimensions of collaboration can be developed continuously through the development of frameworks, training and exercises, the use of new technology and finally the integration of lessons learnt into the system. In the UK for example, a dedicated joint organisational learning platform was developed: https://www.jesip.org.uk/joint-organisation-learning. Lessons identified during debriefings and notable practices are registered in a joint database. They are reviewed and eventually – after further evaluation – integrated into the training programme.