Emergency Planning and Operations Methodology Term Paper

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GIS: Emergency, Planning and Operations Methodology

Based on the Roskin article how does decision-making affect span of control during a disaster or emergency?

Decision making affects span of control directly during a disaster or emergency. How effective decision making is depends on the ability of the decision maker to adequately assess a threat and determine what forces or equipment must be utilized to moderate or defeat the threat before explosive damage can occur (Smith, 1997). A decision maker is more likely to maintain control during a disaster or emergency if his team of subordinates is well trained and well motivated. Such a team is more likely to respond in a positive and efficient manner when under the direction of a commander.

The decision-maker must adjust the level of control necessary during a disaster or emergency based on the severity of the emergency and the likelihood that widespread disaster will result. The decision-maker must also assess the size and skill level of his/her team when deciding on the level of control to maintain during a disaster. Flexibility of style is critical in relation to the amount of control exuded in an emergent situation. The level of risk involved in taking action must also be analyzed, so that the decision maker may accommodate for the "realities of manpower availability" (Smith, 1997).

The initial recognition and identification of the scope of an emergency and disaster lie within the hands of the decision maker. Based on his/her assessment of this risk, adequate control over the situation may be obtained. The decision maker may choose to maintain control over a situation using a very authoritative and dictatorial approach, if his team is less well trained or very small. The decision maker may also however, opt to delegate out a great deal of control and responsibility, yet still maintain a tight level of control over the disaster if his/her team is large yet well trained. The level of control ultimately will depend upon the training, size and motivation of the team as well as the nature and scope of the disaster at hand.

In your opinion, would the use of a geographic information system (GIS) enable the Incident Commander to operate more effectively with a narrower or wider span of control? Justify your position.

The use of a geographic information system would enable the Incident Commander to maintain a wider span of control during any type of disaster or emergency. The use of GIS will also enable the IC to operate more effectively and knowledgably, and may allow the IC to control a larger team over a wider span of area based on the information the equipment provided. The GIS is capable of providing the IC with more detailed information that may not otherwise be available regarding the nature and scope of the terrain and the disaster or emergency that needs to be dealt with. The likelihood is that once the IC has this detailed information, he/she will pass the information down to subordinates and delegate control accordingly, thus enabling the IC to take action of a larger area of disaster and manage a larger group of people. Having GIS give more info, enable you to loosen span of control.

The title Incident Commander carries with it the expectation that the IC will be responsible for directing, ordering and controlling resources and manpower during an emergency (Hall, 1998). The IC is responsible for all activities and incidents, including "the development and implementation of a strategic plan" (Hall, 1998). The IC is expected to make a number of critical decisions and call upon resources, as well as delegate authority to subordinates to ensure an emergency is handled appropriately. Use of the GIS will enable the IC commander to acquire more information about an incident, and thus direct subordinates in a more efficient and effective fashion. With use of the GIS, there exists one less unknown in the process of emergency and disaster management.

Use of the GIS is most likely to be beneficial to the planning team and logistics teams. The planning team can use the information provided by the IC and GIS to track resources and the status of people and equipment being used to alleviate a disaster. Logistics can operate more efficiently because they will be supporting the IC with supplies and ground support, as well as communications and food services (Hall, 1998).

List and describe several ways that GIS can assist the IC during a disaster or emergency. Which use of GIS do you believe would be more valuable to the IC and the Commander and staff at the Emergency Operations Center?

Use of the GIS can assist the IC in many ways, some of which are mentioned above. The primary benefit of using the GIS includes increased knowledge and mapping of surrounding terrain and emergency hazards, as well as efficient communication of such knowledge and storage of data. The GIS provides the IC with better maps, and thus better geographic information to help make more informed decisions. Commanders no longer need to make guesses regarding geographic information with the aid of such equipment. The GIS can also store data for the IC regarding previous emergencies or studies of a particular area, and this information can be disseminated to teams within minutes, allowing for more rapid decision making and better assessment of potential outcome.

The primary use of computer-based mapping such as the GIS is to establish a better understanding of a geographic location. GIS assists the IC by gathering information related to the terrain in which a disaster is occurring, and turning that information into a visual tool that enables planners and other team leads to better understand geographic considerations such as road conditions, construction, square footage and natural anomalies present in the land (Harrington, 2003). Among the other advantages GIS provides include provisions for more timely data accrual and increased productivity (Harrington, 2003).

The GIS provides IC commanders with the ability to download files with information and data directly with little error rate, and saves time because the information transfer is often instantaneous requiring little or no paperwork (Harrington, 2003). IC commanders will have the ability to log data regarding safety hazards and map them out at a quicker and more efficient pace. Emergency crews can subsequently be warned of dangers and safe alternatives more quickly, thus saving time and perhaps aiding in the more swift resolution of an emergency.

4) Which type of decision-making is most appropriate for Incident Commanders during a disaster? Is the use of GIS compatible to the different types of decision-making? Justify your position.

Incident Command System (ICS) is built to be flexible and modular in design so that you can respond to a situation appropriately. Thus, the best type of decision-making for Incident Commanders during a disaster is a flexible style of decision making. The use of GIS is compatible to different styles of decision making, and should be accommodating to all styles of decision making. Typically a small incident can be handled solely by an Incident Commander, who can develop an initial action plan by himself without the benefit or aid of advanced technologies such as GIS. However use of the GIS even under this situation where the style of decision making is likely to be authoritative in manner, can still be of benefit to the IC and team.

If the disaster or emergency is however, a much larger scale incident, the GIS will provide the information necessary for the IC to start breaking things down and delegating tasks. It will enable the IC to decide whether one person handles medical, one person coordinates extrication, communication. The IC can expand to meet the size of the incident. The type of decision making best associated with use of such equipment should be flexible decision making.


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