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Workshopping issues of paper/Excel systems for emergency management

Posted 30 August 2011 by Sean Fishlock (Datalink)

During our recent regional Victorian roadshows Scott, myself and Peter facilitated some workshops with groups of emergency managers and IT managers to get some more participation into our information sessions.  We focused on identifying limitations and issues associated with using existing paper (MECC Book) and Excel based systems for logging MECC activity and general incident management.

The segment proved quite popular and emergency managers and IT staff generally opened up and provided some great insights into the benefits of both traditional and electronic forms of communication in the MECC as well as identifying some of the ways that existing systems could be improved.

Anyway I found that some people attending were busy scribbling our mindmaps down.  We realise that these issues are often useful in building a business case for implementing an electronic system, so I thought I'd compile a list of some of the points raised.

This list is non-exhaustive and in no particular order:

  • Priority
  • Status
  • Workflow
  • Auditing
  • Backing up
  • Accountability
  • Reporting
  • Decision making
  • Remote access
  • Data access
  • No geographical data ("mapping")
  • Multi-user* Duplication* Archiving
  • Data sharing / Interoperability
  • Time consuming
  • Scaling up (multi-MECC and regional-RECC activation)
  • Scaling down (level 1 AIMS incidents)
  • Timeliness
  • Double Handling
  • Record keeping
  • Contact list
  • Trackability
  • Following up
  • Readability (handwriting)
  • Agency participation
  • Missing information
  • Paper use (environmental concerns)
  • Too many people
  • Language (common language)
  • Classification systems
  • Currency of information
  • Cost tracking
  • Cost recovery
  • Resource management
  • Workload distribution
  • Detailed Notes
  • Attaching files
  • Visibility
  • Handovers
  • Rostering

We found that some had solved some of these problems by enhancing the Excel functionality (for example adding fields or colour coding for status) or implementing different sorts of electronic systems.

It has also been pointed out that these systems do have their benefits (as well as regulatory requirements) so it is important to work with them rather than simply replace them.  However we also found that the EMV does not contain sufficient guidelines on use of such systems but that MECC Central at least can address almost all of these. 

For interest, here are some snapshots of our whiteboard taken from Bendigo and Horsham.

Whiteboard, Melbourne

Whiteboard, Bendigo


  1. recover files said on 21:10 Tuesday 11 Oct, 2011

    [ -30 ] Using Excel system is still followed as it is convenient to use and few upgrades can help it to solve many problems.

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