Crisis response is all about information

At a very interesting meeting yesterday on crisis management hosted by the Independent Transport Commission, it became obvious that so much of the response to emergencies is  about information. And yet many transport organisations are  nowhere near understanding this or upgrading their procedures to ensure they can get information out.

During the recent ‘snow event’, the best train company was London Midland which had a very active Twitter service, sending out informal but informative messages and responding to individual complaints. At the meeting one transport provider made the good point that people do not necessarily want a detailed explanation of what is going wrong, but they do want accurate information and a likely prognosis.

Social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook will clearly be the way that people are both informed and, crucially, inform the providers in the future. This two way information is happening in other ways, too.  TomTom, for example, already makes use of the knowledge it receives from people using its devices in their cars to build up a pattern that will inform other users.

One of the satisfying outcomes from the snow chaos was that for once the railway did far better than aviation. Heathrow was a debacle, but BA did not cover itself in glory either. For example, its website suddenly – and not surprisingly – received forty times its usual traffic but was actually set up to resist such events as they were perceived as a cyber attack. But that shows that BA is an organisation that has not thought through what its website is about and is more concerned with its own security rather than its passengers. As I have said frequently, we are all still learning about the new IT dominated world , and many companies are only in primary school.

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