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New ISO standard for emergency management

To minimize the impact of disasters, terrorist attacks and other major incidents, ISO has published a new standard for emergency management and incident response. ISO 22320:2011, Societal security – Emergency management – Requirements for incident response, will help save lives, mitigate harm and damage and ensure continuity of basic services such as health, rescue services, water and food supplies, and electricity and fuel delivery.


Prof. Ernst-Peter Döbbeling, Convener of the working group that developed the standard, explains, “Any response following an incident might include the participation of both public and private organizations working at international, regional or national levels. Harmonized international guidance is needed to coordinate efforts and ensure effective action. ISO 22320 is a valuable tool that all types of organizations can use to improve their capabilities in handling incident response in any crisis.”

ISO 22320 outlines global best practice for establishing command and control organizational structures and procedures, decision support, traceability and information management. Interoperability amongst involved organizations is essential for successful incident response. The standard also helps ensure timely, relevant and accurate operational information by specifying processes, systems of work, data capture and management. It also establishes a foundation for coordination and cooperation, ensuring that all relevant parties are on the same page during a disaster, minimizing the risk of misunderstandings and ensuring a more effective use of the combined resources. 

Prof. Döbbeling adds, “In addition to its many benefits, we hope that the information and communication requirements outlined in the standard can promote the development of innovative technical solutions enabling maximal interoperability for communication, which in an emergency can be a the key element for success or failure.”

The standard encourages community participation in the development and implementation of incident response measures, to ensure a response that is appropriate to the needs of the affected population as well as culturally acceptable.