How Emerging Technologies Impact Emergency and Disaster Management

Whenever there’s a disaster or an emergency, both more time and the ability to communicate are advantages. The earlier emergency managers get warning of an impending critical event, the more time they have to prepare. The easier it is to alert and update the people affected, the better the outcome will be.

Emerging technologies, like AI-powered risk intelligence and critical communications, are game-changers because they make it possible for emergency managers to identify relevant information and react faster to critical events.

Recently, Matt Bradley, OnSolve Vice President Global Security Solutions, Alliances and Channels, spoke with Eric Holdeman, the host of the Disaster Zone podcast. In addition to discussing the impact of emerging technologies on emergencies and disasters, they also covered some of the key lessons learned in 2020 and what might be ahead in 2021. Here’s a recap of that conversation.

What We Learned in 2020

Lesson 1: Communicate quickly and to the right people

In 2020, the U.S. faced a pandemic along with hurricanes, wildfires, civil unrest and numerous other critical events. For many organizations, one specific need became abundantly clear: To manage this healthcare crisis effectively, they had to communicate quickly about COVID-19.

For instance, as cases of COVID surged in each region, businesses were responsible for keeping local employees informed. They also had to deliver communications about work-from-home policies and notify them when it was safe to return to the workplace.

To be successful, security teams have to rely on technology flexible enough to send custom messages at the appropriate time to groups in specific offices and regions.

Lesson 2: Be prepared

Many organizations had alerting capabilities in place prior to the pandemic, but few had comprehensive, tested communication plans in place.

To improve the outcome of any crisis, it’s essential for organizations to map out the steps in the process, identify who’s responsible for executing them and which teams and offices must receive alerts. They can prepare templates ahead of time that can be tweaked in the moment and delivered immediately.

What to know for 2021 and beyond

Tip 1: Learn how to keep the distributed workforce safe

Remote work is here to stay. Before the pandemic, a private sector business may have supported a dozen office locations. But when employees started working from home, the definition of “workplace” changed – and expanded to thousands of home office locations. Learning how to manage the safety and security of employees in home offices will be a top priority in the months ahead.

 Tip 2: Learn how to manage critical events more efficiently

As the world becomes more chaotic, organizations are finding they need to activate their crisis management teams more often. It’s not unreasonable to expect a cascade of critical events to occur all at once – a terrorist attack in Vienna, a hurricane in the Gulf, civil unrest in Michigan and wildfires in Colorado.

The process for handling each situation is the same, but each step takes time. When each crisis is treated as its own unique event, work multiplies and the timeline grows. Technology can consolidate tasks and reduce the time that emergency management teams spend managing lists, creating messaging, sending alerts and following up with each individual.

Tip 3: AI-Powered Risk Intelligence

The events of 2020 heightened awareness about the need for information and especially quality risk intelligence. Organizations need to understand what’s happened, how it’s relevant to them, and what they can do to produce a better outcome.

For many emergency managers, what stands in their way of truly understanding critical events and their impact is information overload. It’s not humanly possible to evaluate tens of thousands of sources and determine what’s important. Artificial intelligence is capable of identifying what’s important fast enough for you to make decisions and act.  

Of course, AI needs to know what to look for, otherwise, you won’t be looking for a needle in single haystack. Instead, you’ll be looking for a single needle in a field of haystacks. For emergency managers to get relevant information, the technology has to be focused on valid sources relevant to their organization. AI-Powered Risk Intelligence reduces that field of haystacks down to a pile of needles, making it much easier to identify and learn about what’s important.

Listen to the full conversation at the Disaster Zone podcast. Be sure to stay with it through to the end to hear Matt explain the OnSolve connection to Amber Alerts, IPAWS and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.

Learn more about OnSolve Risk Intelligence™ here.


OnSolve® proactively mitigates physical threats, allowing organizations to remain agile when a crisis strikes. Using trusted expertise and reliable AI-powered risk intelligence, critical communications and incident management technology, the OnSolve Platform allows organizations to detect, anticipate and mitigate physical threats that impact their people and operations.