Regional Coordination: Exploring new response capability
A crisis rarely occurs in one jurisdiction or community; they tend to cross multiple
geographic and organizational boundaries. The effects of the World Trade Center
attacks, for example, extended far beyond New York City and the effects of Hurricane
Katrina were felt far beyond the city of New Orleans. Events such as these continue to
generate new insights into the coordination across boundaries necessary to ensure effective
response to incidents—both natural and man-made.
"The cost of not being prepared to share information, to coordinate our responses, and to work together is well understood. If we are unprepared, the next event will cause incalculable human misery . . ."
World Health Organization, November 2007
The 9/11 Commission highlighted the need for a new kind
of cross-boundary coordination in emergency response
efforts, stating that “the attacks on 9/11 demonstrated that
even the most robust emergency response capabilities can
be overwhelmed if an attack is large enough. Teamwork,
collaboration, and cooperation at an incident site are critical
to a successful response.” But as these events have taught
us, coordination capability must be built long before a crisis.
Investment in coordination prior to an incident is necessary to
develop real understanding about roles and responsibilities,
to build the institutional and individual relationships necessary
to carry out those responsibilities, and to outline the
requirements of an effective response. The range of possible incidents is unlimited, the resources to respond are not;
building coordination capability is a necessary component of
WHAT IS “INFRASTRUCTURE”?
The basic facilities, services, and installations needed
for the functioning of a community or society, such as
transportation and communications systems, water and
power lines, and public institutions including schools,
post offices, and prisons.
American Heritage Dictionary
The nation’s critical infrastructure is receiving an increasing
amount of attention in terms of creating new and more
coordinated response capability. Key stakeholders are
coming together in a variety of sub-domains of the critical
infrastructure such as power, communications, transportation,
and water to ensure continuity of operations. One strategy
being implemented in some domains and explored in others
is regional coordination. Regional coordination links together
stakeholders in close proximity to one another to pursue
joint or similar goals and responsibilities.
Regional coordination efforts are being organized to provide
a forum for teamwork, collaboration, and cooperation to
occur through physical and virtual co-location. The challenge
to coordinating incident response efforts within regions is
that coordinated response requires leveraging currently held
resources in innovative and potentially more efficient ways, as
well as establishing new business processes, communication
flows, and a system of governance that satisfies the needs
of all stakeholders. In addition, trust, collaboration, and
timely cross-boundary information sharing all play a pivotal
role in this new model.
"The time of a crisis is not the occasion to start sharing business cards!"
Participant, Protect New York Conference
REGIONAL COORDINATION AND THE TELECOMMUNICATIONS INFRASTRUCTURE
The telecommunications infrastructure represents
a unique set of challenges to coordination efforts
because while privately owned, it is regulated by
government. Government agencies and private sector
organizations are jointly responsible for the communications
infrastructure. Ultimately, continuity of operations, both
governmental and private sector, is at the heart of any critical
infrastructure incident response effort. Regional coordination
strategies have the potential to improve these response
efforts if they enhance the capability that exists without
creating unnecessary duplication of effort. At the core of any
strategy is securing coordinated access to real-time data
to support informed decision making across four stakeholder
groups: government, telecommunications providers, the
private sector, and citizens.
Drawing on the reviews of the 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina
responses, which cited the need for stronger national as well
as regional preparedness, the organizations responsible for
the telecommunications infrastructure are exploring ways to
develop regional coordination capability. In particular, they
are seeking ways to respond to the broad recommendation
that coordination efforts must “be tailored to meet the needs
of specific regions.” The recommendations, together with
success in efforts at the national level and encouragement
from the telecommunications community, have raised interest
among states and localities as well as providers about the
creation of regional coordination of telecommunications
incident response as a complement to existing state and
local level incident response capabilities. These coordination
efforts have focused in four key areas: information needs,
information sharing, relationship building, and the public value
of coordinated response efforts.
INFORMATION: KEY TO A COORDINATED RESPONSE
To respond to an incident, regardless of its severity,
managers of the critical infrastructure need information
about that incident—both their own and that of others—
in order to react. Successful incident response cannot
occur without reliable access to accurate information. CTG’s
report, Information, Technology, and Coordination: Lessons
from the World Trade Center Response, identified four
critical categories of crisis-related information needs: for
preparedness, immediate response, recovery and restoration of services, and for the public (see Table 1 below). These information needs span the duration of the crisis and extend from preparation to assessment.
Information was critical to the 9/11 recovery effort, where
“it’s existence, availability, quality and distribution clearly
affected, sometimes dramatically, the effectiveness and
timeliness of the response and recovery efforts.” The most
recent draft of the new National Response Framework,
which the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
published in January of 2008, speaks to the critical role of
information in crisis response.
For an effective response, expertise and experience
must be leveraged to support decision-making and
to summarize and prioritize information rapidly.
Information must be gathered accurately at the scene
and effectively communicated to those who need it.
To be successful, clear lines of information flow and
a common operating picture are essential.
To provide an effective response to an incident, disaster
response teams need pertinent details about that incident.
In the most basic terms, they need information. When a
response team is built from multiple organizations or relying
on information from multiple organizations, coordination
across the boundaries of those organizations becomes key.
Governments around the world are increasingly
turning to information sharing as a lead strategy for
developing response capacity for problems in a wide
range of program and policy areas. Developing cross-boundary
information sharing to support government response
capacities requires change—in some cases, significant
change—in policies, procedures, processes, and systems.
These changes require new capability in technology certainly,
but also in group decision making, learning, understanding,
trust building, and conflict resolution, among others. Many
organizations are just beginning to understand how difficult
it is to create information sharing capability both in normal
times and in times of crisis.
CROSS-BOUNDARY AND CROSS-SECTOR
Research and experience show that trust plays a
significant role in the building of public-private
partnerships where issues of confidentiality, proprietary
information, and differing organizational cultures may arise
and clash. Although both government and the private sector
may have similar goals, they have different expectations about
the type and amount of information that needs to be shared
and how that information should be used once shared.
Within the telecommunications infrastructure,
telecommunications incident reporting requires adept
management of both organizational and technological
resources. While private sector telecommunications providers
are required to report information about threats to the critical
infrastructure, government regulators still heavily rely on
trust and cooperation as a means to gather sensitive data.
Trust (or mistrust) develops out of the joint experience of
working together. By observing how different individuals or
organizations deal with risk and vulnerability, we learn to
expect certain behaviors. Managing the cross-boundary
sharing of information about telecommunications security
requires sensitivity to both government and private sector
needs, while remaining true to the public value of ensuring
a secure communication network.
THE PUBLIC VALUE OF
Altering a familiar and established crisis management
response framework is a risky endeavor. The new
response framework may duplicate the same problems
in the current response or, worse yet, create new and
unfamiliar problems. Ultimately, regional coordination should
only be considered if it enhances the system that currently
exists without institutionalizing redundancies. One way to assess
the potential added value of new regional coordination
capability is to use CTG’s Public Value Framework to consider
the value in two ways:
By improving the value of the government itself from
the perspective of the citizens, and
By delivering specific benefits directly to persons,
groups, or the public at large.
To enhance the public value of investments in regional
coordination these efforts should produce response capability
that increases both the likelihood for continuity of operations
of government in times of crisis and the quality of service in
Donna Canestraro, Program Manager, Center for Technology in Government
General recommendations for regional coordination
In a recently completed CTG project focused
on regional coordination for telecommunications
incident reporting, key stakeholders from the
telecommunications infrastructure in New York State
brainstormed a list of recommendations for moving
forward with regional coordination in that sector. Based
on those specific recommendations and conclusions,
CTG offers the following general recommendations
for regional coordination:
Jointly establish guiding principles. Bring
together key actors from across the sectors
to collaboratively establish guiding principles.
Learn from others. Conduct current practices
in regional coordination efforts. Research
should specify focus on regional coordination
of telecommunications incident response, in
addition to models for governance and
information sharing agreements of existing
regional response efforts.
Learn from yourself. Increase knowledge
sharing about information resources, practices,
and capabilities among key stakeholders and
avoid duplicating response capabilities in either
the public or private sectors.
Act on new shared knowledge. Develop
information flow models through collaborative
group model building sessions to create shared
understanding of where information is needed
and how it gets to those places from where it is
captured. Use new models of information flow
and the results of recommendations 1, 2, and 3
to create necessary policies, procedures, and
Secure funding for continued exploration.
Continue to assess progress and make
assessments of impact as a strategy for securing
funding for ongoing capability development efforts.
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