What is an EOC information management system?

What is an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) information management system?  With all of the talk about the use of Social Media in Emergency Management and the use of new technologies for "Situational Awareness" and a "Common Operating Picture" it is important to remember the basics.  After all, EOC management is all about information and resource management. So I thought I would share a summary of EOC information management issues that we recently prepared.

The EOC needs an effective information management system to work.

The following problems are often seen at all EOC levels:

  • Activation takes place after the fact resulting in a “catch up” process.
  • Lack of good and complete information at the beginning.
  • Possible loss or degraded communications capability.
  • Possible loss or late arrival of key, trained staff.
  • Often a shortfall of resources available to meet demands.
  • Lack of inter-agency coordination.

Information management is the essence and key to successful EOC operations. 

It is the EOC Planning Section's responsibility to establish and operate the EOC information management system so that they and everyone else in the EOC understands:

  • What is going on: What are the existing and emerging threats?
  • What are the locations and types of damage and injuries?
  • What new incidents are occurring?
  • What is like to happen in the future?
  • What is being done about it: What ongoing incident response is taking place?
  • Are the incidents stable or growing in magnitude?
  • Resource management and accountability: What resources are committed and where?
  • What resources are available and not committed? What resource needs are unmet?

EOC information management is a process that collects information from a variety of sources, uses multiple methods and tools to manage message flow in the EOC, documents vital information about EOC operations, and analyzes and displays information in useful ways to assure everyone in the EOC maintains a common operating picture.

An efficient EOC information management system will allow planning staff to quickly:
  • Determine probable disaster impacts, identify incident goals and objectives for the current and for the next operational period, and develop EOC Incident Action Plans (IAPs) and deadlines to meet incident goals and objectives. 
  • Determine the geographic scope of the incident(s) and layout of deployed response assets, impact on governmental and critical infrastructure facilities, boundaries, resource locations, and personnel assigned. 
  • Prioritize requests for scarce resources and make decisions on who gets those scarce resources. 
  • Determine the appropriate staffing for the Planning Section and effectively manage the wide range of functions (units) that fall under this section. 
  • Maintain a common operating picture (COP) for everyone in the EOC. 
  • Deploy damage assessment teams and incorporate damage assessment team information into the situation analysis. 
  • Provide continual updates on changing situations and resource availability so that a common operating picture is maintained in the EOC.

Remember, it is the Planning Section's responsibility to establish and operate the EOC information management system so that they and everyone else in the EOC.

Is your EOC Plans Section organized and prepared to handle all of the planning function tasks?

Special thanks to my business partner Rick LaValla for his thoughts on this topic.


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