Every government agency was created with a singular purpose, whether that’s managing national finances, regulating housing policy, or creating laws around energy use. With such a singular focus, communication and collaboration can often fall by the wayside.
A large public emergency often requires a complex local response. State and local agencies come together, bringing with them a variety of responders, technologies, and processes. It’s a job in and of itself to parse through all incoming information in its different forms.
So how can government agencies know what to share, when, and with whom? They can follow these guidelines.
1. Sync Information Into a Central, Interoperable System
Have a strategy for interoperability – so disparate computer systems can easily exchange information. With a central collaboration framework like AtHoc Connect, agencies can surmount communication barriers. If one federal agency uses System A and a local agency uses System B, no problem. When they’re both connected, information syncs into one central place, and both agencies receive better information.
It’s not realistic to think that all agencies come equipped with the same tools. Budgets, team size, and operational capacity will always differ. So account for those differences by having a flexible, scalable communication framework that scales across many verticals.
2. Create Permissions Based on Role, Location, and Agency
Get on the same page with other agencies by using a core technology that uses permission-based communication channels. In a crisis, it can be tempting to spray out messages to as many people as possible at a partner agency. However, information overload can cause confusion and send mixed signals.
Instead, if you can create a permission-based network, your message will disseminate only to those who truly need it. Maybe you want to contact agency directors and executives. Maybe you only want to reach social media managers. Whatever the case may be, invite only the relevant parties to achieve your common goals and interests.
3. Consider Multiple Channels
Each agency has different communication needs. Agencies made up of first responders, for example, will have their personnel mostly out in the field or on the scene of a disaster. They’re more likely to be mobile than to be parked at a desk, looking at a laptop screen. It’s particularly important for field-based operatives to send maps, videos, and other visual content. Often, the puzzle of how a crisis is playing out is incomplete without visual components. For other agencies, all operations may happen within the confines of an office.
That said, consider all communication endpoints and devices. Agencies will need a communication strategy that is equally capable of sending directions to radios, walkie-talkies, and PA systems as it is to tablets, laptops, and desktops. The best real-time communication happens when a variety of content can be disseminated and analyzed. Just because your agency doesn’t use one form of communication, it doesn’t mean you can rule it out.
4. Streamline Reporting and Analytics
Using a centralized platform also creates analytics opportunities. Between three or four agencies, you might have thousands of applications and enterprise technologies. Taken alone, all of these systems have their own analytics and reports. But streamlined into a single report, the data tells a larger story.
Agencies should do whatever possible to eliminate manual reporting and analytics through several standalone applications. If you’re just looking at one data channel, you may not be getting the full picture.
Where possible, use mass collaboration software that turns data from many places into a cohesive narrative during an unfolding crisis. External content feeds can help to inform your response and create situational awareness.
5. Empower the Community Outside Your Agency
Sometimes, the most up-to-date information comes from the most unlikely places. Maybe a community member is first on the scene. In these cases, it’s important to facilitate easy channels for the community to reach you (but not overwhelm your overworked staff with too much extra information). Systems like AtHoc Connect allow communities to collaborate with agencies in as painless a manner as possible.
With crisis communication software, an agency can activate as few or as many tools as needed, without having to go to multiple platforms and interfaces. They might try to use sirens, phone notifications, or text and email alerts that provide two-way communication with individuals in the community. For incidents of all types and sizes, agencies can interact with a small group of community members, or the entire community at large. The result is faster, more coordinated responses that can minimize the overall impact of a negative event.