Making timely and confident decisions in a crisis can get you through the storm and back on track.
Shouldn’t you try to strategically leverage available tools to make that happen?
Have you tapped into the power of data analytics and visualization to strengthen your crisis decision-making?
How can you start using these tools and techniques to be a more efficient and confident Crisis Manager?
Saving Lives with the Use of Data Analytics
Several years ago, while working as a Policy and Data Analyst for the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services (DHSES), I found myself called into an emergency operations center (EOC) activation for a severe weather event unfolding across the state. The storm had already caused widespread destruction of property and there were fears of significant loss of life if DHSES did not coordinate a quick and effective response.
The Emergency Management Leadership had asked to bring in some “data people”, i.e., people who knew how to use Excel. Being amongst those called in, I was eager to contribute however I could.
Upon arriving to the EOC, we were briefed by some Senior Leaders and told that we had one hour to produce a 2-page report that our Director would then use to brief the Governor’s office and the media about the unfolding event and what our agency was doing about it. There was palpable tension in the room to make this a solid report with lots of “key metrics” about the response, so we quickly got to work.
With the pressure on, myself and a couple others strategized what data we needed and how to visualize and consolidate it so that the Director could provide concise, straightforward answers and have the confidence to respond to difficult questions with the analysis we provided.
Working Against Time to Consolidate the Most Important Key Metrics
While having more than one hour to generate the report would have allowed us to capture data from more sources and conduct a deeper analysis, we simply did not have that kind of time and we had to boil things down to the most important key metrics and takeaways.
Luckily, our team developed a quick gameplan and pulled together a report with a strong balance of data tables, visuals (e.g., bar charts, line graphs), and a concise summary of key metrics to be used as our Director’s talking points. These key metrics included:
- # of municipalities that had declared a state of emergency
- # of search and rescue personnel deployed
- Types of resources requested from municipalities (e.g., rescue equipment, food and water, sheltering support, etc.)
- Locations of open shelters for displaced citizens
- # of power outages and estimated restoration time
We were nervous handing in our results as time ran out but were relieved to hear this report satisfied the Director’s needs and generated praise from the Governor’s office…small victories!
Gaining Clarity and Insight in Highly Volatile Situations
As a Crisis or Emergency Manager, have you ever found yourself in a similar situation? Having very little time and lots of pressure to produce answers that make your bosses look good in front of their leadership, the media, and even the public?
Reflecting on this situation, I realized that every crisis or emergency produces a swarm of information to sift through and make sense of, and that the more efficient I can be at sense-making, the better the analysis I can produce during time-sensitive incidents. Furthermore, there are numerous data analysis tools and techniques that I realized if I could build proficiency in, it would make me a quicker decision-maker and ultimately calmer amidst chaos.
“The goal is to turn data into information and information into insight.”
– Carly Fiorina, Former Chief Executive Officer, Hewlett Packard.
Information is Your Best Crisis Management Ally
When you or your organization experience a crisis, information is your best ally to weathering the storm. Information can also be the hardest to come by in the initial moments of a breaking crisis. The more equipped you are at capturing, analyzing, and presenting information about the event to your leadership, stakeholders, and constituents, the more confidence you will feel and exude and the better you will be able to lead through the crisis.
Data and the efficient use of analysis and visualization techniques can bring your decision-making to the next level. The question is: Are you ready to take that next step?
Incorporating Data Analytics into your Crisis Management Toolbox
Fortunately, there are numerous ways to quickly grow your data analytic skills and begin incorporating them into your crisis management toolbox. For those without any analytics background, it can be intimidating to dive into the world of data analysis and visualization but developing some goals and gradual milestones can get you on track. Below are some ideas to help you start or continue your analytics journey.
- Make Data Analytics a Strategic Priority – Like all new endeavors in crisis and emergency management, the support of leadership to champion the effort can greatly increase your chances of success. If your organization includes building data analytic capabilities as a strategic goal, then you can set objectives, dedicate funding, and measure progress toward achieving these targets.
- Build Your Team’s Practical Data Skills – Although data analysis and visualization trainings are available online or directly through technology vendors, these trainings typically do not focus on the specific problems and dynamics that Crisis Managers deal with. To address this, organizations should invest in practical data analytics trainings applied to realistic crisis management scenarios so that participants of all skill levels can develop the fundamentals and become proficient using these tools in a crisis.
- Progress Toward Advanced Analytic Tools – Organizations seeking to invest in advanced analytic and data visualization tools (e.g., ArcGIS, PowerBI, Tableau, etc.) should purchase them only if they have a plan to train staff and fully utilize each tool to support crisis management. Organizations should avoid buying sophisticated software capabilities if they will only be used by a limited number of personnel and potentially abandoned for simpler processes that staff and leadership are more comfortable with.
Next Steps in Strengthening your Crisis Ready Culture with Data Analytics
On July 12th at 11am eastern, I’ll be hosting a Mastermind Session for the Crisis Ready Community to dive deeper into identifying and utilizing the right data and tools to support your organization’s Crisis Ready Culture. If you are ready to dive deeper into leveraging tools to help support your decision-making in challenging times, I encourage you to check out the Crisis Ready Community and join us for this session.