Critical Event Management, Government

The Time is Now: Why Agencies Must Adapt to More Frequent and Complex Critical Events

By Shannon Gallo

Modern times have given us many innovations and advances that make life easier. The Internet of Things and social media keep us connected to friends and family across the globe. We can shop for just about anything we can imagine, and in just a few clicks, it appears on our doorstep.

But there’s another side of modern life that’s filled with challenges we never dreamed we’d have to face. Any one of a seemingly endless list of threats – civil unrest, extreme natural disasters, cyberattacks and a pandemic that changed the world overnight – can impact our daily lives without warning.

In times like these, citizens are more reliant than ever on federal, state and local government agencies for protection. The increasing frequency and complexity of critical events mean agencies have an imperative to rise to the occasion and seek a more effective way to respond when crises occur so they can protect people, places and property.

5 reasons NOW is the time to gear up for critical event management:

  1. The rising threat at home – Domestic terrorism and civil unrest are on the rise within the United States, as evidenced by the January 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. A recent intelligence report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence highlights various sources of domestic extremism that threaten the safety of Americans. How can federal, state and local governments deal with the rising threat of militias and a growing political and racial divide within the country?
  2. More frequent and extreme natural disasters – A new record was set in 2020 for the highest number of billion-dollar weather and climate disasters to impact the U.S., with a total of 22 such events. The 2020 North Atlantic hurricane season shattered previous records, with 12 storms making landfall in the contiguous U.S. According to the National Interagency Fire Center, 10,274,679 acres of land burned in 2020, making it a record-setting year for wildfires. There were also several notable tornado outbreaks. In early April, 34 tornadoes occurred over a two-day period, only to be followed a few days later by a confirmed 140 tornadoes touching down from Texas to Maryland. How can agencies alert citizens early and keep them informed during and after such events?
  3. The rising threat online – Citizens and businesses are facing a tremendous increase in cyberattacks. Ransomware attacks in particular are skyrocketing. What’s perhaps even scarier for citizens is who is being successfully targeted in these attacks. When hackers are able to penetrate the food supply, healthcare companies and gas pipelines, it’s normal to wonder what could be next. How can government agencies do a better job of detecting cyberattacks and keeping citizens and businesses informed of recovery updates?
  4. A global pandemic – Believe it or not, it was less than a year and a half ago that we were going where we pleased, without a care in the world. Then, as if overnight, everything changed when COVID-19 spread like a wildfire of its own across the country. With stay-at-home mandates and shutdowns, the painful consequences of the pandemic quickly became evident. While we’re finally seeing some light at the end of the tunnel (and the face behind the mask), COVID-19 isn’t going anywhere. How can agencies keep constituents informed of vital information and deal with the enormous tasks of vaccinating the population and reporting on new variants and outbreaks?
  5. An increasing complex web of critical events – Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the increased frequency and extremity of the above-mentioned events is the fact that government agencies often have to deal with multiple crises simultaneously. Extreme weather events, cyberattacks and issues of domestic extremism all occurred while we continued to recover from the pandemic. How can agencies at all levels respond to multiple events effectively and in a timely manner?

Three capabilities agencies need in their defense arsenal:

Properly managing and responding to more frequent and complicated critical events is a daunting task. Agencies need to arm themselves with three capabilities to ensure the safety of people, places and property.

  1. Accurate and relevant information about whether a critical event is happening or may happen in the near future. There’s a ton of data out there, so agencies need a way to sort through it quickly. Artificial intelligence (AI) delivers timely, relevant data so agencies can make well-informed, proactive decisions to protect against extreme weather events, civil unrest and cyberattacks.
  2. A detailed plan or checklist of how to respond. You can’t act quickly if you don’t already have a plan in place. In addition, everyone involved in the response effort needs to be notified immediately and have a way to communicate with others in real time. Extreme weather events are a classic example of when agencies need to modify their response plan based on the location, severity and duration of the event. Real-time communications and collaboration are essential.
  3. A reliable and effective means of communicating with all stakeholders. First responders, agency staff members and impacted citizens need to know what’s happening, what they should be doing and what others are doing to keep them safe. Alerts should only be delivered to impacted individuals and through a variety of communications channels. During the pandemic, for example, agencies need to alert citizens when they’re eligible for the vaccine, send appointment reminders and notify nearby people if any last-minute appointments are available.

One last point: It’s not enough to have each of these capabilities at your disposal. They need to be integrated into a single platform so you don’t lose precious time transitioning between disconnected systems. A reliable, responsive and modern critical event management platform arms agencies at all levels of government with the capabilities required to fight back against terrorism, wildfires, hurricanes, ransomware and, yes, even a global pandemic.

Want to learn how you can transform your agency’s crisis management capabilities? Download our playbook today.