Local councils, critical situations and technology

los-ayuntamientos-las-situaciones-criticas-y-la-tecnologia-1In terms of technology, despite the many proposals and declarations of intent, the local public sector still has a long way to go in order to squeeze all the benefits out of new technology.  Without going much further, I would like to give an example of the technological equipment used by some councils.

It makes sense to think that one of the parameters in which the development of a country is measured is its plan of action in critical situations, which fortunately are not so common. By this I mean severe weather, terrorist attacks or fires, for example.

Operating under any circumstances

There are numerous measures that can be taken to deal with this type of events. On the one hand, there are the so-called active strategies, designed to prevent and detect the critical situation as soon as possible,  and on the other, there are the reactive strategies, that is, a series of linked measures that are taken after the event has occurred.

All technological systems that are destined both for the prevention and development of operatives have to fulfill an essential objective: to operate under any circumstances, that is to say, to operate when all other usual systems stop doing so.

Let’s look, for example, at the importance of communication among members of the Local Police force when coordinating with each other, with Civil Protection, with the fire brigade, etc. It is surprising that there are municipalities in our region and in other parts of Spain where such communication is made via the standard everyday mobile telephone network.

However, in the case of a critical situation, public communication systems are not enough. Mobile telephony is structured on the premise that all or a majority of subscribers will never access the system at the same time, and therefore it is dimensioned. A common example that we have all experienced is what happens on New Year’s Eve at midnight. The telephone system, both fixed and mobile, does not give us access and does not allow us to communicate, given that hundreds of thousands of users are trying to call their loved ones at the same time. This also happens when in a city or a town a massive event is celebrated, like a concert of some famous artist, a local celebration or a manifestation. That is, in any situation where there is an agglomeration of people.

Taking on the demand without saturation

In the case of a critical situation, exactly the same thing will happen. Imagine an earthquake in an area of Spain, what would the relatives of those people in that theoretical ground zero do? Surely call or send messages to their loved ones.

The various public entities, especially those related to emergencies and citizen security, should be equipped with systems that are ready to take on the demand of their staff without saturation, therefore, they should never base their communication on a public access system such as mobile telephony.

A few years ago, the north of the province of Lugo was left without communication coverage for over fifteen days. The fires in northern Portugal last year also highlighted deficiencies in communication.

Are our local administration authorities equipped with systems that allow us to successfully manage critical situations? As the great Murphy said in his law: “If something can fail, it will fail.” I go a step further and consider that when several things can fail, it will always be the one that causes the most damage that does so. Let’s take note and prepare ourselves for the inevitable.

Original article by Jose Antonio Ferreira Dapia, Technology Consultant.
Translated by Conchi Fuentes, Linking English.