“Teams, Tactics, Technology – Connected for Protection and Rescue.” That’s the 2020 lead theme for INTERSCHUTZ, the world’s leading trade fair for the fire and rescue services, civil protection, safety and security. It focuses on two key aspects of connectedness that are shaping the sector: the use of innovative digital solutions and increased collaboration among stakeholder organizations and institutions.
The world as we know it is changing rapidly as a result of the ongoing digitization of all aspects of our lives. The Internet, mobile communications and, increasingly, the Internet of Things are fundamentally transforming how we live and work, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future. Needless to say, this megatrend is bringing major change to the organizations, institutions and collaborative networks that make up the world’s fire, rescue, disaster relief, civil protection and safety services.
New technologies are opening up myriad new preventive options and ways of coping with crises and hazards. Everything that happens generates data, which can be captured and cross-matched in vast quantities and used to develop key insights and analyze alternative courses of action for a whole range of requirements and situations. This is all made possible by advanced IT and communications technology, which is making data collection and sharing both more powerful and more streamlined.
Big challenges ahead
However, these new technology capabilities are just part of the picture. They need to be deployed in a well-coordinated, appropriate fashion. They also need to be human-centric, because the fire and rescue services, civil protection, safety and security are all about people. That is not to say that the tasks faced by people and organizations who serve in emergency and hazard situations are not changing. They are. But digitization is only one of the causes of the change. Others include growing urban density, budgetary constraints and new and more complex hazard situations.
Today’s challenges are considerable: terrorist acts, major man-made and natural disasters, unplanned failures of vital infrastructure and unprecedented refugee streams all require the collaboration of more and more highly-trained specialists.
Amid these challenges, modern software and data processing infrastructure make a big difference to government agencies, fire departments, rescue services and aid agencies in the field. One thing that is standing in the way of making these technology solutions even more useful in the field is a lack of unified standards. At the moment, different agencies and organizations have different technology systems that don't always ‘talk’ to each other very effectively. Similar things can be said of the different people, policies and organizational structures involved. In short, what inter-disciplinary and inter-organizational emergency responses need is connection, integration and interfaces – between people and between technologies.
Of course, increased interconnectedness and integration goes hand in hand with increased dependence on technology infrastructures, which can make societies more prone to instability and crisis. If this is so, then what is the best way to enable societies to deal with modern crisis situations? These are among the questions that will be addressed in depth at INTERSCHUTZ 2020. Part of the answer is to raise public awareness of the potential threats and implement resilience-enhancing measures.
The other part relates to connection and integration. The individuals and organizations involved in emergency management and disaster relief need to work together in a connected, integrated fashion both before and during crises. Integrated communication is a key part of this. In crisis and emergency situations, it is no use the organizations involved having the latest technology solutions if they can’t communicate with each other effectively or if they have incompatible organizational structures.