This is part 7 of a 12-part series describing the consequences of a typical large-scale loss of life incident. Following the framework of the 12 Principles of Crisis Management, I describe these consequences and offer best practice solutions for each consequence.
There is a vast amount of unorganized, but very important information generated by various sources in multiple functional areas. This includes: facts and reported facts about the incident, response activities, information received at the call center; information about the people directly affected from the first involvement with the company through the incident; data about their families, tracking of the employees that are involved in the response, and tracking of information that may be needed for the identification of the deceased. Some of this data should be shared across multiple teams of people.
It is important to recognize that in a mass fatality incident, there are two constants. The first is the survivors and the families of those that do not survive. They were there in the beginning and will be there in the end. The second is the company involved in the loss event. They were also there in the beginning and will be there in the end. So survivors and families clearly look to the company involved to manage or lead the response. Part of that management is data management.
In picking a data management program, which should be done as part of your planning process long before an event ever occurs, look for a centralized data management system – one that is easy to use and can be accessed and used by different groups. It needs to be secure.
Organize the data by functional areas; there are three:
The first area is incident information. What is happening, who is doing what, and what is their contact information? For typical crises, there are easily over 50 different agencies and groups involved. There is also the tracking of which company employees are involved in the response and what roles they are filling. There could be several hundred employees involved in a typical response.
Secondly, there is the information about those directly affected. If they are in hospitals, which ones? Do they have family traveling to assist them? If they are missing or believed to have died then the ante-mortem information will be needed for the identification.
Thirdly, there is the information about the families, including their wishes and desires on receiving more information, or what information they want, and disposition of there loved one, if deceased. For the average event, we plan on 4-6 family members per each directly affected person.
The next step is figuring out who and how you will enter data. A lot of plans call for handheld tablet type applications and connectivity in the field. We have found that that rarely works. Instead, when working face to face with families, consider hard copies and then at the end of the day, have all the information entered into a database. That way the computer or technology never becomes the focal point – the family always remains the center of attention.
Additionally, the data needs to be protected and is covered under various data protection laws. Families need to be informed and consent to this. They need to understand what information should be shared and whom it should be shared with. Finally, the information needs to be in a format that can be easily printed and transferred to the myriad of documents that will be needed as the process continues so that families do not have to provide the same information twice.
Data flow is also very important. The entry point for most events is the call center. The information first gathered by the call center operators is what first populates the database. It will continue from the call center, to the family assistance center and other family support activities, through the eventual identification and repatriation of the deceased.
In most large-scale loss of life events, survivors and families often come into contact and share information with each of those many groups referenced above. It is very frustrating for families to have to repeatedly provide the same information over and over. They feel that organizations involved in the response should share information and work together, because they really don’t care about the name on the back of the jacket. It does not matter to them. What matters is that the system as a whole comes together to care for them. At Kenyon, our data management system, Kenyon Response™, captures data elements in more than 70 tables and drop-down menu options and produces over 60 preconfigured reports that can be easily printed for use when electronic data collection proves difficult or impossible. So that throughout interactions with the call center, family assistance center, identification and repatriation, and management and return of personal effects, families only ever need to provide information once.
Finally, understanding the details is as important as understanding the big picture. For example, one critical detail is the nature of a relationship. It is hugely important when you pick up the phone to speak with a family member, if the relationship is only identified as “mom,” are you speaking with the daughter who lost her mom, or the mom who lost her daughter?
Download the Data Management Flow Chart below for use in your own emergency planning: