Trends & Info: Preparing for the Future of Emergency Management

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It’s National Hurricane Preparedness Week, so as we get prepared for the present, the emergency management community is also planning for the future and looking at nine different factors (or what we call drivers) that will affect the future of emergency management.

The Strategic Foresight Initiative was launched so the emergency management community can seek to understand how the world is changing, and how those changes may affect the future of emergency management. Over 550 members of the emergency management community, including Federal, state, local, and tribal first responders and emergency management professionals, as well as individuals from the private sector and academia, have been engaged in the Initiative through a variety of forums.

The Initiative developed papers to provide some discussion about what the world might look like over the next 15 years, specifically as it relates to the emergency management community to support long-term planning and decision making.

Today I want to highlight two of the nine factors we are analyzing: (1) trends in American demographics and (2) how individuals and government use and access information. Here’s an excerpt from our findings:

(U.S. Demographic Shifts)

For example, where the larger population settles could affect what and how many resources emergency managers will need. Additionally, the implications of internal migration due to major disasters could significantly impact the future emergency management environment.

…The growth in metropolitan America has a number of implications for emergency management, including buildings possibly be putting in more vulnerable areas (e.g. the coast), evacuations becoming more difficult (which could be compounded by aging infrastructure), access to medical resources could become strained, the consequences of microclimate changes could be magnified, infrastructure could become more vulnerable, and community structure and culture changes may occur as population increases.

(Access to and Use of Information)

The explosion of social media and personal communications technology will continue to increase real-time access and delivery of information. We already see a significant amount of “spontaneous reporting” where individuals at or near the scene of an incident instantly post video, images, text messages, etc. from their personal communications device. This, combined with the 24/7 news cycle and the growth non-traditional sources of news such as social media, has created an environment of constant information flow that presents both with great opportunities (e.g., crisis mapping of the Haiti Earthquake) and challenges (information overload). The new patterns of information flow have changed the role of the mainstream/traditional media while making it increasingly difficult for emergency management to break through the cluttered information market.

For more information, read the full summary of findings for these two drivers and visit the Strategic Foresight Initiative web page.

Over the next few months, I’ll write additional blog posts about the other key drivers. In the mean time, I invite you to post any comments, thoughts, or suggestions about these drivers and how they may impact emergency management, or any other thoughts you have about the future of emergency management.

Last Updated: 
06/21/2012 - 15:01
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This sounds like a wonderful initiative!

This sounds like a wonderful initiative!

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