As an emergency grows, the complexity growth is not linear but exponential. The Incident Command Team (ICT) faces an increasingly difficult time deploying resources effectively and achieving the desired outcomes. There is a common misconception that applying additional resources is the key to managing emergencies. However, at a certain point, each additional resource has diminishing returns, clarity is reduced, and momentum is lost. Moreover, costs continue to increase and the ICT is unable to maintain the speed, flow, and direction of a response (Battle Rhythm).
“…at a certain point, each additional resource has diminishing returns, clarity is reduced, and momentum is lost. Moreover, costs continue to increase and the ICT is unable to maintain the speed, flow, and direction of a response.”
Response to a hurricane, flood, or fire, is not that dissimilar to the way the military responds to an enemy in the battlefield. Like a natural disaster, an enemy would disrupt critical infrastructure, cut off supply lines and threatens the troops’ safety. In response, the ICT forms a quasi-military structure and develops objectives and plans like a military strategist. They will gather intelligence, prioritizing high-risk areas, and plan the battle objectives.
With force multiplication, the expected size increase required to have the same effect without a force multiplier advantage is the multiplication factor. This means if a certain technology like satellite communications enables a force to accomplish the same results of a force five times as large but without the communications service, then the multiplier is five. Such estimates are used to justify an investment cost for force multipliers. For example, Before the era of modern communications, the Mongols used swarming tactics coordinated by effective military communications using flags, horns, and couriers. This is an example of an ancient method of force multiplication.
The question becomes, what can you leverage to give your responders a force multiplier effect during your next response? Can you reorganize your response to deliver a disproportionate output and accomplish more than a significantly larger force could, in less time?
“Give me a lever long enough and a fulcrum on which to place it, and I shall move the world.” – Archimedes
The answer is Yes. Using a force multiplication advantage means you can keep your team lean and reduce complexity and costs. This will also translate into faster decision making loops (OODA Loops) and a greater increase in your ability to meet objectives.
- Observe – Make use of the best sensors and other intelligence available
- Orient – Put the new observations into a context with the old
- Decide – Select the next action based on the combined observation and local knowledge
- Act – Carry out the selected action, ideally while the opponent is still observing your last action.
On Wildfires and floods, I have seen OODA Loops take from 12-18 hours from the time planning receives the information and input to when the new direction is given.
In battle, the group with the fastest OODA Loop wins. So, how do you compress your OODA Loop so it is faster than the incident progresses?
- Reduce complexity – Keep resources to the minimum effective dose.
- Improve Communications – Increase the quality and frequency of feedback from the field.
- Develop a dashboard – Ensure the information is easily digestible and shareable.
Now, let’s apply a force multiplier to compress the OODA Loop so your ICT can maintain the speed, flow, and direction of the incident. Let’s say you have five, 10 person crews. Some are contract crews and some are Wildfire Unit Crews. From personal experience during fire suppression and in the Regional District Emergency Operations Centre, there is a significant difference in output and investment.
By leveraging GPS, reliable and text-based communications and real-time mapping the ICT can understand the output of the crews and keep only the teams with the highest return on investment. It is conceivable that with only high-performing teams, what would have taken 50 people can be accomplished with 25. This reduction in complexity proved a force multiplier of 2 because the task was accomplished with 1/2 the resources. Moreover, processes are running smoothly, responders are receiving supplies and resources are replenished as needed. The ICT is now making real-time adjustments to the plan as they compare the projected output to their actuals.
By applying a force multiplier to your faster OODA Loop, you can continue to compound the effects and increase your output by an order of magnitude over your peers. This will, in turn, drive down costs significantly and improve the outcomes for the public you serve.
What force multiplier can you achieve on your next deployment?