Technology Tools for Crisis Response. (Crisis Management Series)

Article excerpt

Although the essentials of crisis management--leadership, communication and preparedness--have remained constant throughout the years, the development of technological solutions continues to change the effectiveness of emergency response. All the gadgets, equipment, programs and systems could fill many more warehouses than Risk Management Magazine has pages to write about them, but we were able take a glimpse into the world of crisis management technology to introduce tools that could play an important roll in your crisis planning.

We divided the tools into three categories--operations, facilities and personnel--and asked industry experts ten questions about their products. The resulting checklists offer introductions to some of the most useful applications and examine the feasibility of products that you may not have considered.

Operations: Web-Based Crisis Management Systems

1. Who would most need to use this technology?

Any company with multiple locations or off-site employees may use this product. Those with serious exposures, such as the chemical or aviation industries, are also likely to need it. Interest thus far has come largely from Fortune 500 companies, but also midsized operations.

2. What is an example of its effectiveness in action?

Following the evacuation of its offices at the World Trade Center, an insurance broker used a Web-based program to continue its operations, which were up and running in five days.

3. How long has it been around?

This technology is only a couple of years old and is thus in the development stage as it reaches its fuller potential for a broader range of clients.

4. How much does it cost?

Although for most large companies "cost has not been a major consideration," purchasing a Web-based crisis management system costs about as much as building a Web site from the ground up. A specific product, like one that manages the delivery of crisis response services, can cost between $20,000 and $40,000 with monthly upkeep fees. A more complete program costs $50,000 per deployment.

5. How easy is it to use?

Once the system has been set up, in a crisis situation it is designed to be easy to use, allowing the staff to concentrate on other issues. For example, communities of personnel e-mails can be created such that specific directions and data are sent out to the appropriate people at the touch of a button.

6. Are upgrades available for a changing or growing business?

As an online system, the software is continually upgraded.

7. Are there technologies that supplement it?

Wireless connections, e-mail notifications, personal data assistants, mapping software and desktop software

8. What is its life span?

The Internet was originally developed by the U.S. government to survive a nuclear war, so it is a survivable platform. Software is continually updated--as often as every two months--so it does not become out of date.

9. What is its guaranteed availability in a time of crisis?

The programs are dependent on communications lines with the Internet, but as long as those are clear, guaranteed availability is close to 100 percent.

10. What is its most unique feature?

Real-time data is pushed out to the appropriate people, while information on the ongoing crisis is fed back to the main command center. Having instantaneously available information instead of relying on paper-bound copies of a crisis manual can save lives and money.

Sources: Howard Green, president, RiskClick Inc., London Lyle Labardee, Crisis Care Network, Inc., Byron Center, Michigan

Operations: Electronic Data Vaulting and Recovery Systems

1. Who would most need to use this technology?

All businesses need to protect their data, but whether or not electronic data vaulting is used depends on how much data can be lost and how long the business can wait to get data back. …