Avoid panic and control costs during an epidemic crisis

Jacques Der-Ohanian
febbraio 10, 2020

How orchestrated communications during the prevention and intervention stages can help

The extensive Coronavirus media coverage has created a public fear that a new SARS-type epidemic could spread around the world. As the virus continues to spread across China and beyond, governments around the world are setting up public healthcare, travel and education plans and the economic impact of the Coronavirus* is already being felt, not only by the Chinese economy, but also by the global economy. 

Prevent panic from spreading with early crisis communications

Generalized fear, augmented by social media sharing, can easily lead to over-reactions. One defensive example is the hashtag #ImNotAVirus that has spread on social media. Government entities can avoid unnecessary panic and its consequences by alerting the population via official emergency channels and offering prevention or first intervention information. 

Orchestrated communication during the prevention and intervention stages is key in containing a crisis. It can help avoid panic and minimize problems such as emergency bottlenecks and medical equipment shortages. Trusted healthcare and government sources must rapidly :

• Inform the affected areas or populations at risk, such as the elderly, the young or the immunodeficient
• Explain how the epidemic is being transmitted
• Describe the medical processes to be followed and provide recommendations

control room during a crisis

Communications, the cornerstone of intervention and continuity plans

The healthcare and education industries can prevent epidemics from spreading with intervention plans and solutions to ensure continuity of public services. Proficient, on-site and remote communications are the cornerstone of such a plan.

Public healthcare officials’ top concern is a healthcare facility’s capacity to welcome all patients. Temporary hospitals can be built in 10 days, in extreme cases, as we have seen in Wuhan. But if this isn’t possible, available hospitals need to check and organize their emergency operation plans. They need to:

• Sustain internal and external communication with the community
• Check and coordinate available resources across the different wards 
• Prepare organizational aspects
• Plan staff responsibilities
• Review available utilities, resources and assets to ensure the patients’ safety and security

epidemic hospital medical emergency thumbnail 

The goal is to provide the best clinical support in any situation. Communications are mission-critical in effectively delivering an emergency operation plan and aligning all departments in one goal, to prepare the hospital for mass casualty incidents, as this strategic whitepaper details. This can be achieved by the integration of notifications, unified communications and collaboration services supported by a highly resilient and redundant communications system.

A second example is education. If officials encourage students and personnel to stay home, colleges and universities can reinforce the government messages on official communication channels and provide alternative continuity solutions, such as remote classes, with chat, voice and video integrated in the learning management systems that students can use from anywhere. Read more insights in this dedicated blog post on crisis management for campus safety.

Aerial view of crowd for campus emergency blog post

In today’s connected world, emergency situations and ensuing business slowdown affect global economies and industries almost instantly whether it is the cost of oil, air travel and hospitality industries, consumer goods or luxury sales. Global companies with manufacturing, production or logistics operation sites in the affected areas can ensure business continuity, anticipate backup plans and put in place effective communications to prevent stock values from decreasing. 

Managing the crisis: Break silos to accelerate resolution

When a global crisis is confirmed, multidisciplinary collaboration is key to successful crisis management. Lack of communications or acknowledgement of messages between the different emergency actors (first respondents, healthcare providers, public safety organizations) can have a huge impact on peoples’ health and lives. But connecting humans is only half of the story. Smart objects and the local IoT can also help solve a crisis. Breaking the silos not only between public services, but also between people, objects and processes can save the day when every single minute counts. 

After the crisis: Lessons learned and processes redefined

Once the crisis is managed and over, it is the time for analysis. A lessons-learned phase is crucial to identifying what went well, what went wrong and project future action plans. No matter what the next major emergency might be, an environmental crisis, an epidemic, an attack, replaying, analyzing and enhancing the process could help shorten or even prevent it.

In this stage also, multidisciplinary collaboration is key. Different stakeholder insights and perspectives can help better define the necessary data and processes to analyze. Cross-department cooperation will help enhance future emergency anticipation, intervention and keep associated costs from spiraling out of control.

Control room image for blog post

Looking into the future of emergency management with AI and IoT

AI and machine learning can transform global emergency management. Correlating different sources of data can be very helpful in identifying how an epidemic evolved, areas most exposed to risk and the most effective actions. Gathering data from previous crisis situations, transmission patterns and timescales can help governments or health agencies model action plans and population information broadcasts.

IoT is spreading to every area, particularly in the public safety and security sectors. The transportation industry deploys different types of cameras and sensors. They use thermal imaging cameras that can visualize temperatures higher than the usual 38-39°C instantly from a safe distance, identifying infected individuals and notifying security staff.

Surveillance camera in airport for blog post

Emergency intervention scenarios can facilitate crisis management and communications. Whether the trigger comes from a human being, a connected object (a camera or a sensor in a specific area) or AI, scenarios can be set up to ensure notifications are transferred to the right group of decision-makers, communicators and eventually affected populations. Instant communications scenarios should include all actors at the core of a crisis. 

Connecting everything that matters

To conclude, the cornerstone of any emergency plan is to ensure people, processes, smart objects, and AI are connected, effectively communicating, resilient and available 24/7. 

The Alcatel-Lucent Rainbow™ Communications Platform as a Service (CPaaS) can transform siloed communications into a truly coordinated, mission-critical teamwork. Rainbow CPaaS helps emergency players coordinate communications from people or smart objects, and improve responsiveness on any channel with SMS, chat, group alerts, audio and video calls or conferences. Connected with AI-powered bots, Rainbow allows people to alert authorities instantly, and vice-versa, helping both parties be aware and solve emergencies more efficiently, together. 

Rainbow is built on top of reliable, enterprise-grade voice services, notification servers and emergency-certified solutions. Also, Rainbow can be integrated into various public or industry-specific applications as well as processes, to help public safety actors anticipate crisis and accelerate resolution. 

Learn more about our Public safety solutions or contact us for a personalized use case.

* New York Times: The SARS and Coronavirus economic impact, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/03/business/economy/SARS-coronavirus-economic-impact-china.html

Jacques Der-Ohanian

Jacques Der Ohanian

Director, Head of Communications Vertical Solutions at ALE

Jacques is senior Director, Head of Communications Vertical Solutions at ALE. He is responsible for creating digital solutions to address needs in Education, Government, Healthcare and Hospitality as well as content creation to support sales. Jacques is a graduate of Telecom ParisTech, France.

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