Situational intelligence can help organizations react more quickly and more appropriately in times of crisis
It can be the difference between disaster or averting disaster. How do you get your employees to safety in a natural or man-made catastrophe? Which authorities do you alert, and what critical systems do you shut down during a cyberattack? How do you divert resources to a safe place or avoid travel in suddenly unsafe areas?
Those are just a few situations where acting minutes or seconds earlier can make a difference. On such occasions, the value of “situational intelligence” cannot be understated. It is a key element in any effective risk and resiliency management strategy.
A 2017 report titled, “Recommendations for Crisis Management,” put it bluntly: “During an escalating situation or a developing crisis, the timely information of the internal organisation, the authorities, and the public is essential.”
The report adds two rules of thumb:
- The more serious the situation, the larger the circle of those requiring information, and
- For the initial internal information, speed is more essential than precision.
When preparing internal responders to make decisions in a crisis, the need for speed is seen as essential. The proper situational intelligence solution can deliver targeted information significantly faster than traditional information sources (such as the news media). With the right technology, situational intelligence alerts can be designed with interfaces designed to grab your attention and alert you automatically, saving resources that are necessary to monitor other global content.
Often, the most useful information to your organization is what you would never expect from traditional sources. For example, how many media outlets will tell you about an explosion near your facility? But does the media know how it impacts your site when it happens on the weekend and no one is there to tell you that a portion of your building is already on fire? The right situational intelligence is vital to minimizing risk and keeping you operational.
Can you use situational intelligence even more efficiently than the typical notifications of your emergency alert system? Absolutely! You will be enabled to respond even faster and more accurately. You make your initial response even less prone to human error when time is critical.
In an emergency, time could be lost as responders get acclimated, stop what they are doing, find their laptops or bring up their mobile apps and start to review the situation. So how do you take the potential for human delay or error out or your initial internal response and avoid mistakes or missed observations?
The answer is incorporating situational intelligence through an automated feed directly into your risk and resiliency management system. You can thus do more to prepare a response that can give your emergency responders a head start that can save precious seconds that can make the difference.
Suppose you could build your initial response based on rules that you have been able to think through in times of peace? You can pre-plan for knowing you have access to your full information foundation, which contains data that defines the potential impact such as sites, facilities, vendors, the location of your people and teams, where your products are manufactured and distributed and the complete set of plans you’ve developed.
Building an initial response to different classes of situational intelligence is completely within your purview. No one should wait for a crisis and or react wholly on instinct—especially when you have the information and tools to configure your risk management system to take your knowledge (including previous related incidents) and build the initial response and activation plan. Then, when your first responders are notified, they can enter the command and control center with a predefined scenario ready to be acted upon.
Of course, first responders likely will need to make situational adjustments, but the room for error in missing a critical site or vendor or plan to include in the response is decreased greatly. The situational intelligence feed provides the critical and timely trigger, and the knowledge contained in the risk management system with the workflows that have been preconfigured has created a complete scenario ready to be activated in far less time and with far greater accuracy.
Your situational intelligence alert will likely contain information that may take extra time for your staff to evaluate and act upon, such as, Where is the event occurring exactly? How close is it to any of my locations, partners or people? What type of event is it? How severe is it? What else is going on in that area right now? By filtering for what is most important, you can focus on serious situations that you have predetermined create significant risks.
The integration of your situational intelligence with your incident command center will also lead to more meaningful after-action reports that include your actions taken as well as the situational intelligence alert history to give you a complete picture when defining your improvement plans.
Historical event information accumulated through an integrated situational intelligence feed and risk and resiliency system can be a key input to your overall decision-support system. For example, when you want to assess the risk of relocating part of your business in a new area, you will have data in one place that can be used for much more informed decisions.
Finally, when planning your next crisis management exercise, remember to ask if you are enabling your situational intelligence by feeding it directly into your risk and resiliency system to drive faster, more accurate responses when every minute or second truly does count.