The Role of Virtual Command Centers in Emergency Response

Matt Icenroad

Virtual command centers provide a valuable yet often overlooked asset for emergency management.

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The physical incident command center is where emergency management teams have long orchestrated their response to natural, human, and technological events ranging from wildfires and hurricanes to active assailant situations. Robust emergency management binders and carefully drawn full building evacuation plans have covered the tables while runners have messengered in with the latest reports from their unit(s).

While this method is well-established and familiar, it isn’t always feasible. As we learned during the pandemic — a long-duration incident like nothing we have seen in our lifetime — gathering a team in one room isn’t always realistic. This is where establishing a virtual command center with emergency management technology comes into play. And its utility provides value long beyond the duration of this pandemic.

Enabling a bird’s-eye view of the situation

Network-level visibility is just one benefit of establishing a virtual command center. When a hurricane is targeting the east coast and stands to impact multiple facilities in your network, leadership can gather real-time data to inform the allocation of scarce resources across its facilities. Suppose a loss of power occurs, and the backup generator fails. In that case, leaders can use real-time data from across its network of facilities to inform the transport and relocation of patients. Simply put, this high-level data can help to save lives.

Improving activation times

Establishing a virtual command center can help your hospital avoid starting from scratch every time an incident occurs. Emergency management technology can house historical documents from prior incidents as well as emergency response plans. With these documents only a few clicks away — and the ability to deploy questions to units for real-time reporting just as quickly — facilities can activate their response teams and gain situational awareness in minimal downtime.

Engaging the right team members from the start

Virtual command centers allow the emergency management team to access critical data 24/7, regardless of their location. If an unexpected surge strikes at 2 a.m., the response lead can log in from home and put the wheels of response into motion before ever arriving at the facility.

Increasing consistency of response

It is easy to copy your response to a similar incident with a clearly documented response and reporting records housed in a virtual hub. This allows the team to build a comfort level with standard operating procedures of their all-hazards response, leading to a well-executed response. The benefits of consistency also carry over to reporting, allowing for side-by-side comparisons of outcomes.

While many emergency management teams are well-versed in operating within their physical command center, a virtual command center ⁠— like ProtectAdvisr™ — can provide a valuable enhancement to a facility’s existing emergency management program. By improving activation teams, providing anytime/anywhere access to key players anytime and anywhere, standardizing response and reporting, and giving corporate a bird’s-eye view of the situation as it unfolds, facilities can maximize patient safety and help to ensure a smooth response to incidents of varying scale and duration.

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