Digitalisation for efficient integrated risk management

The German city of Gütersloh develops a powerful virtual crisis management platform during the lockdown

Overview

Gütersloh is a city in North-Western Germany with a population of more than 100,000 people. It was essential for the city to develop lean technology solutions to deal with the uncertainty from the COVID-19 pandemic, to efficiently control the spread of the virus and ensure the protection of the people.

Background

Due to an outbreak of COVID-19 in a slaughterhouse in a neighbouring town to Gütersloh, the number of cases rose sharply by June 2020. Approximately 1000 workers lived across 500 flats, which were not known to the city until then. Together with the family members, around 2000 people living in Gütersloh were required to quarantine for 14 - 28 days.

Objectives

To deal with this critical situation quickly and effectively, a team from the municipality built a powerful yet simple virtual crisis management platform. This virtual platform allowed for situation to be handled remotely, without having to risk the safety of staff.  

The daily tasks for the city of Gütersloh was:

  • Controlling the quarantine of the infected persons across 500 flats.
  • Ensuring the supply of food and drink and.
  • Guaranteeing the safety - especially of women and children.

Activities

  1. The municipality established a new communication centre running around the clock. All needs and problems were registered in real time on a digital platform (digital app), and processed 24/7 in the centre.
  2. The colleagues used simple communication tools (Signal and Messenger apps) to connect all responsible crisis-managers at all levels at the local government.
  3. The municipality also built a simple, and powerful „virtual crisis management platform” using the already introduced tool from the project management “Meistertask” (www.meistertask.com) as their task management tool. This was to allow for real time sharing of documents and databases in an easy way. Other tools such as Trello, or Google docs could be used due to its simplicity and compatibility with all operating systems, desktops, and mobile devices.

Effects

The various communication tools of the platform enabled low-threshold networking of all actors as well as easy real-time communication in groups. In addition, geographic information systems (GIS) were used to map the 500 quarantine sites, where all information was stored in the form of a virtual map. Finally, the geo-based management app (VoluMap) was developed, through which the spontaneous work input of volunteers, was connected with the community's work in real time and many additional helpers were and are recruited and coordinated in a targeted manner.

Conclusions

The current crisis (COVID-19, floods, heavy rainfall, drought, ...) show that the topic of crisis and risk management is on the agenda of many German municipalities. However, many are still at the beginning - structures and processes still must be created and established on a broader scale.

Based on the experience of the municipality of Gütersloh, it is essential to start with integrated risk management before the crisis occurs. All relevant stakeholders must be brought together at a "round table", enabling a structured exchange among them. Simulation games could be conducted, allowing the stakeholders to visualize situations/crisis scenario in advance to aid in preparation.

Moreover, crisis management requires the necessary resources even before the crisis occurs: personnel, budget, structural and process organization, as well as clear responsibilities and competences.

Finally, even though a centrally organized crises team is important, the technical responsibility should be decentralized in the departments with clear assignment of personnel.

As shown in this good practice, digitisation is a tool that facilitates crises management and helps to master complexity and thus to meet people's needs more effectively. It seems that other municipalities can profit from the introduction of similar processes and (digital) tools before (!) new crises situations arise.

Further information

Disaster management in German local governments
Presentation of Dipl.-Ing. Henning Schulz

Interview with Henning Schulz: Digitalisation:
"You should develop your own digital agenda. It always individual to your city."
YouTube-Video

VoluMap - Gütersloh
https://www.volumap.de/guetersloh.html
(in German)

Published: 31/03/2022

Contact

Dipl.-Ing. Henning Schulz
Freelance consultant
Former Mayor of Gütersloh
info(at)henningschulz-gt.de
www.henningschulz-gt.de

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Categories: COVID-19 Digitalisation & Communication Crisis Management Public Health & Public Services Good Urban Governance crisis management nad disaster preparedness Public health Smart Cities / Digitalisation
Regions: Europe Germany Gütersloh

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