An Embarrassment of Riches
Today I received a press release tied to the NACCHO Preparedness Summit currently happening in Washington. This press release noted a new alliance between Previstar (a company which provides public health emergency response software) and USA Prepare (a division of Elsevier, which provides emergency preparedness training, as well as other areas). This alliance was announced with the development of the “Public Health Information Management System,” a combination of Elsevier’s Continual Preparedness System software and USA Prepare’s training curriculum.
This announcement led me take stock of our own software situation. Right now, the Health Department’s PHP and BT unit has control over two software applications (one for alerting, the other for volunteer tracking); and two other separate tracking databases. The City is ramping up the all-hazards Emergency Management office, and they are looking at a resource tracking software, and an alerting software, plus whatever else I haven’t heard of yet. The State also has another alerting software, just bought a piece of a resource management software, and I believe (I could be confused here) another volunteer tracking software.
As my position, at least in the beginning, is focused on making heads or tails of this software soup, you can see the stars in my eyes already.
I understand that the cacophony is partly a result of a new field (if you can count 2,000+ municipal and state governments with federal funding as a field) becoming flush with money, and few or no best practices or guidance being applied. Each state, county and municipality is becoming a test case – a pilot project with thousands of lives and millions of dollars at stake. Not that there’s really any other way to find which software will stand up to the rigors of a mass casualty incident; but still, it’s a bit frightening.
Furthermore, what will happen in five, ten years after we’ve all become proficient with our own personal software and have to actually work with other groups (you know, when ICS finally becomes de rigeur)? Can you imagine some future push to establish software interoperability (akin to our current communications interoperability scramble)? I’m just saying that some forethought, some communication with other levels of government, and dare I say, a bit of patience here might go a long way toward keeping us all safe and secure now and in the future.