9 Critical Features for Incident Management Systems

Incident management systems are an essential digital tool for most emergency services organisations. They work to improve emergency responders’ understanding of an incident, coordinate the response and ensure the best possible outcome. However, not all incident management solutions are alike. Solutions vary according to the features and functions they make available to emergency services. But long-term value and solution support are also distinguishing factors. While some digital systems remain relatively unchanged after implementation, others grow and evolve to reflect changes in the emergency environment.

Having just participated at the European Emergency Number Association (EENA) 2024 conference, we wanted to examine what makes an effective incident management solution, using Valencia 112 and Omda Incident as examples. In doing so, we identified nine critical solution features. From dependable communication infrastructure to ongoing solution support, this article explores each of these features in greater detail.

1. Reliable communication infrastructure

Communication infrastructure is at the heart of all effective incident management systems and enables emergency services to relay information quickly and accurately. As such, solutions should include call handling and distribution features, multi-party conference calling, assistant monitoring and recording capabilities.

Communication infrastructure must also facilitate immediate and comprehensive communication to all relevant incident actors. This minimises the number of potentially confusing radio transmissions, reduces the scope for error in information relay, and speeds up the process of updating all those involved in the incident.

While ease and speed of communication streamline incident management, system reliability ensures solutions are there when users need them most. In this sense, incident management communication infrastructure is only as good as it is reliable. Emergency services must prioritise system dependability.

The Omda Incident system utilised by Valencia 112 showcases a refined and highly developed communication infrastructure. Backed by an IP-based communication platform that utilises the SIP signalling standard and benefits from a healthy selection of supported codecs, it includes several emergency services-specific features, such as 2.5 party conference calling and free-seating capabilities, so users can manage calls securely from any geographical location.

2. Multimedia communication

Historically, incident management systems primarily operated on a voice-centred basis. The public provided information almost exclusively via telephony systems and emergency services invested the majority of their resources in traditional telephony infrastructure. With the widespread availability of mobile digital devices, this has changed.

Multimedia communication can contribute to a much more detailed and informative operational understanding, providing insight into areas where voice-based communication is not optimal. For instance, photos and videos can assist dispatchers in assessing an incident and empower them to make more accurate dispatch decisions. Similarly, medical professionals in an emergency department or hospital could leverage multimedia communication to facilitate pre-arrival diagnosis and treatment.

The European Emergency Number Association (EENA) has positioned multimedia communication at the heart of its NG112 project. This project focuses on developing and promoting a flexible incident management solution architecture that allows for various communication formats, including text, video and location data, among others.

For modern emergency services organisations, multimedia communication capabilities are increasingly important. It will become even more essential as the Internet of Things (IoT) proliferates and more connected devices generate valuable data. As such, incident management systems should accommodate these developments and solution providers should demonstrate an awareness of NG112 principles.

3. Real-time operational oversight

An emergency service’s ability to manage incidents and respond to them effectively depends on the information it has at its disposal and the operational oversight it can achieve. Operational oversight requires access to a range of features, functionalities and data sources, including mapping, communication and environmental data. Effective incident management systems collate these inputs to create a holistic incident overview.

Equally importantly, incident management systems share this overview and equip distinct teams and agencies with a common understanding and operational perspective. For instance, Valencia 112’s Omda Incident system enables radio groups from different agencies, such as the police, ambulance crews and fire services, to merge, share reports in real-time and deliver situational updates. In environments where effective collaboration between emergency services personnel often determines the quality of response, the ability to share information quickly, easily and accurately is paramount.

4. Mapping support and end-to-end coverage

Mapping is another critical aspect of operational oversight and all incident management solutions should ensure emergency services benefit from geographical insight into the incident environment and asset location and availability. Making several maps available can improve operational understanding, while multi-map layering is also valuable.

Functionalities such as smart geolocated objects facilitate improved planning and decision-making capabilities, reducing response times and enabling enhanced resource coordination. This can be key when dealing with fast-moving incidents that require constant adjustment, such as forest fires or ongoing events.

Incident management solutions must also provide end-to-end coverage, so emergency services can manage an entire incident via a single solution. This avoids complex system configurations and guarantees systems operate as intended. From case creation to incident resolution, there is no reason solutions cannot provide everything emergency services need to manage incidents effectively.

5. Decision-making support for dispatch

Many users of incident management systems operate in high-pressure environments that necessitate quick and accurate decision-making. In these instances, incident management systems should assist and empower users to make informed, data-based decisions.

For instance, call takers are responsible for acquiring all relevant information from the caller and dispatching the appropriate emergency resources. They do so under strict time pressures, knowing that an incorrect response could be remarkably damaging. Incident management systems should incorporate features that support call takers by providing clear workflows and prompts based on emergency services protocols.

However, a new generation of dispatch technologies is taking this a step further. Developed in conjunction with Valencia EMS and a team from the University of Valencia, Omda has explored how AI-assisted dispatch can support for call takers in assigning incidents the right category and appropriate response resources. The system provides category suggestions and highlights potential miscategorisations but leaves the final decision up to the call taker. This supports improved healthcare outcomes by securing that patients are served by the required resources.

At the same time, AI-assisted dispatch technology optimises resource use. Many call takers understandably err on the side of caution when categorising incidents, resulting in over-categorisation and inefficient use of scarce and valuable resources. The AI tool highlights instances where this is likely to have occurred.

Woman with headset using an incident management system.

6. Transparency and accountability

Digital technology improves emergency response by supporting evidence-based decision-making and more informed incident management. But it also enables us to better understand those areas where we can improve performance. Whether emergency services want to improve a sub-optimal response or identify errors to prevent them from happening again, incident management systems can provide a comprehensive record of events and total transparency on incident progression.

Emergency services can and should record almost every aspect of an incident for post-event analysis. From incoming emergency calls to dispatch decisions, this data is invaluable and enables in-depth reflection and improvements in response. It is particularly important in constantly evolving environments, where we can learn lessons with each incident and emergency services are always seeking new and innovative ways to approach incident management.

7. User-specific adaptability

Emergency services rarely operate in isolation. This means many different types of organisations utilise or have access to a single incident management system. The Valencia 112 Omda Incident solution is an excellent example. More than 120 agencies utilise and coordinate responses via the platform, including police, ambulance and fire services. Inevitably, these organisations will operate in different ways, have access to variable resources and boast unique needs.

With this in mind, incident management systems benefit from user-specific adaptability. By this, we mean organisations can tailor the solution to individual organisations and contexts. Again, Valencia 112 and Omda Incident provide an illustrative example. Valencia 112 covers a diverse geographical region that includes both the metropolitan urban area and large low-density rural areas. In these areas, police agencies benefit from many Omda incident features but do not require others. A stripped-back version would prove more user-friendly and better reflect their operational context. Recognising this, Omda and Valencia 112 developed Police Tool 2.0, a web client-based platform that incorporates select Omda Incident features and functionalities. The result is an effective incident management system tailored to the precise needs of regional police forces.

User-focused design improves incident management systems by equipping them with the right tools, features and functions. In many instances, different aspects of the emergency service apparatus will require distinct tools, features and functions. Incident management solutions should be able to accommodate that.

8. Minimal downtime

System stability is one of the most desirable characteristics of any effective incident management system. Emergency services are responsible for safeguarding lives and their actions (and ability to act) have significant consequences. As a result, solutions must be reliable and guarantee access. The gold standard is zero downtime.

In the past, systems have achieved a high level of reliability but still had to accommodate some downtime to update digital systems and perform essential maintenance. During this time, emergency services rely on antiquated systems and management methods, with many forced to utilise pen and paper to manage operations.

Today, emergency services need not experience any downtime. Omda incident’s Continuous Operation feature introduces parallel systems, enabling emergency response organisations to switch between them whenever necessary. The two systems draw on the same databases and operate in the same way, so it is possible to update one while utilising the other and switch across to complete the process. While this eliminates maintenance-related downtime, it also ensures the organisation can update its systems more frequently, facilitating regular improvements.

Minimal downtime is an essential feature of any contemporary incident management system. However, emergency services should no longer settle for solution stability alone. Instead, they should consider solutions with features that actively work to eliminate downtime.

9. Dedicated and ongoing support

The emergency services landscape is always changing. And technology is advancing at a previously inconceivable pace. From artificial intelligence to IoT devices, developments are rapidly and radically altering how organisations approach incident management and redefining what dedicated incident management solutions can achieve. Emergency services are also facing new challenges. Climate change, population growth and demographic shifts, and political and social developments mean organisations are shifting their focus to adapt to new operational realities.

All this creates a need for adaptable and versatile incident management systems that can evolve to meet new user needs and overcome complex and continuously changing challenges. Such solutions are only possible if built on strong, long-term partnerships between developers and their customers. Prioritising ongoing, long-term support and product development based on customer priorities ensures we do not confine solutions to a particular moment or burden them with a shelf-life. Instead, it enables developers and customers to collaborate and progress the solution in ways that maximise benefits to users and guarantee relevancy.

At Omda, we believe highly specialised, user-centric incident management systems are the only solutions emergency services should consider. Because they are so focused on meeting unique user needs, they encourage more responsive and proactive design and become more and more valuable to organisations and their users over time.

Incident management systems with Omda

At Omda, our incident management systems assist emergency services around the world to plan, manage and execute responses to a wide range of accidents and events. In Valencia, our work with Valencia 112 has resulted in one of the sector’s most respected and admired incident management systems, Omda Incident. The product of a partnership that spans more than 20 years, the Omda Incident system provides Valencia 112 with leading capabilities that continue to evolve.

To learn more about Omda incident management systems, head to Omda Emergency.

Helen Døcker
Chief Marketing and Communications Officer
Categories

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Helen Døcker
Chief Marketing & Communications Officer
helen.docker@omda.com
She is based in the company’s headquarters in Oslo, Norway.

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