Experiences Using Virtual Systems During Critical Incidents at Universities
University of North Dakota
Associate Vice President for Public Safety and Chief of Police
The purpose of this qualitative study was to explore experiences of university officials who utilized virtual emergency management systems as a technological platform for communication, resource coordination (i.e., personnel and equipment), and strategic thinking throughout a critical incident in operational and tactical environments using 4-year public institutions of higher education.
Such institutions are increasingly facing critical incidents. To assist in mitigation efforts, these organizations are adding the use of virtual emergency management systems to their operational and tactical environments; however, experiences with these systems regarding communication and incident management are unclear at best. Research literature regarding the use of virtual systems in the training environment indicated by utilizing this technology, communication and training, knowledge retention, and relationships among response organizations are effectively developed and maintained. Communication and collaboration resulted in more effective and efficient preparedness and response efforts in disasters.
The tragedy at Virginia Tech in 2007 and other more recent critical incidents prompted many institutions of higher education to enhance their abilities to respond to and recover from emergencies. These enhancements have included using expanded emergency response plans and operations to minimize reputational harm and protect their communities. The key to the implementation of emergency response plans during core capabilities mission areas of prevention, protection, mitigation, response, and recovery is communication. A lack of communication among administrators, both internally and externally, at 4-year public institutions of higher education throughout a critical incident poses significant problems for an organization’s ability to respond to a critical incident.
The wider problem of communication throughout a critical incident is not solved until a more narrowly focused study is conducted involving experiences of those using virtual emergency management systems as a technological platform for communication, resource coordination (i.e., personnel and equipment), and strategic thinking throughout a critical incident in operational and tactical environments. This study sought to fill these identified gaps in the literature.
- The use of virtual emergency management systems aid in the communication of information, the coordination and allocation of resources, and strategic thinking prior to, during, and after a critical incident.
- Virtual systems aid in the development of trust, leadership, and team building.
- Virtual systems are not being fully utilized at many of these institutions, thereby limiting their effectiveness.