“Crisis Suite” Only in the Movies ?

The concept of the “crisis suite” has always been intriguing. Made popular by big budget action and political film franchises such as Mission Impossible, Jason Bourne and of course Bond, James Bond- 007, the concept of a key group of government and military officials in a room with complete integrated comms, lightning fast computers, unlimited information access abilities including CCTV cameras on anything needed and of course displayed on giant screen displays is certainly breathtaking.

Operations Centers now of many flavors (Emergency Operations Center (EOC’s), Department Operations Centers (DOC’s), Joint Operations Centers (JOC’s) appear to aspire to Hollywood’s high mark. Certainly, this is easier said than done. In the movies of course everything works great. Conversations, verbal orders, and replies are crisp and to the point. Everyone is logged in when the scene starts (not struggling to remember a password or needing to call downtown to get IT to help) and the basics of activation are smooth and seamless. Also, everything seems to be working all of the time with agency administrator types intimately familiar with the systems, processes and how to effectively contribute and play their roles.

Utopian at best, but definitely a model to strive for.

A few takeaways as we apply it the “real world”:

Ease of usage is aways a key consideration, particularly under the duress of an incident. The implied position in the movies is that the minions sitting at the terminals in the crisis suites, sit at those terminals every day. In the real-world using software that one is significantly familiar with can be make or break. I simply love Microsoft because I have grown up on it. Under duress it’s the software packaging that I’m going to be most effective at using.

Web based solutions not requiring elaborate sign in procedures are another stumbling block. Finding a happy medium between total lockdown and being able to get the Public Works Director and the Commissioners logged in is an all-important factor. Systems like VEOCI are a possible high viability solution.

Making the Operations Center purpose built. The mission seems to drive the action in the movie crisis centers. Everyone seems to get why they are there and what they are expected to do. Recently in Colorado a client of my firm was activating for an annual planned summer event only to find out that a particular discipline had their own command center, doing consequence management and calling it an ICP. In a very recent situation (2 days ago) The City and County of Denver, under the direction of a newly sworn in Mayor activated its City EOC for the ongoing homeless situation in the City, a key campaign issue and a first.

Our issues are complex, our representative form of government is complex and how we deal with “emergency or disaster” situations are complex. This may be unavoidable, but Hollywood’s images should give us optimism of how things could be with a little thought process, creativity, and a lot of effort.     

FEMA EOC Quick-Reference-Guide Virtual Considerations

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