Three students on internship at National Corona Team
Bram Verhoeven, Nikki van Emmerloot, and Frederik Venneman, three Information Management Master’s students, were already well on their way with their graduation research projects on crisis management, guided by their thesis supervisor Dr. Kenny Meesters, when the corona crisis erupted. As a crisis expert, Kenny Meesters had been appointed to the national operational team on corona (LOT-C) in Zeist. This proved to be a blessing in disguise for the three students: as a result, they were allowed to work for the team as well, a rare opportunity to obtain a wealth of information and experience for their graduation research. All three students have been keeping a diary for a week about their work at LOT-C.
LOT-C is a multi-disciplinary team consisting of representatives from numerous organizations, including the Ministry of Defense, the police, the Provincial Executive, the fire brigade and the Netherlands Institute for Safety (IFV). But also information management experts like Kenny Meesters have been added to this team. LOT-C functions as an information source for dealing with the corona virus outbreak and liaises with all Security Regions, emergency services, and the central government.
Monday 20-04-2020 - Bram Verhoeven
Today I will work mainly for the Continuity and Scarcity Section. This Section is concerned with continuity and scarcity issues outside the medical care sector (e.g., funeral care), critical infrastructures (e.g., the issue of the mobile phone mast fires), public policy, public order and safety and applications for social assistance. Because of congestion on the roads, I was too late for the briefing but they had waited for me to arrive! We discussed the past weekend. After the meeting, I listed all points of attention from the meeting for the internal SitRep (Situational Report). The SitRep is an internal update. By means of a facility in the list-making application Trello, Section members can indicate what they consider to be important to communicate in the internal update for LOT-C. Even before everything has been entered, there is another meeting about data on Governance and Compliance. Since the organization is growing all the time, it is important to look into data security. It is lunchtime before I know it. Everyone has been given a time slot to prevent the lunch facilities from becoming overcrowded and to guarantee that everyone can keep 1.5 meters distance.
Monday 20-04-2020 - Bram Verhoeven
After lunch I’m in another meeting on a project proposal that I helped write. The proposal highlights the Information Management side of the distribution of Personal Protective Equipment (PPEs). The report was received with moderate approval. The problem is finding someone to address this issue.
In the afternoon, I answer my e-mail and collect the data that the Security Regions need. I receive a message that someone has volunteered to become the owner of the project on the distribution of PPEs). I’m so glad! On to the next project!
Later that day, I drop in on my contact for my work at the Information Management Section. I am invited on the spot for a meeting to discuss the problems around collecting and reporting data.
Then home. More congested roads. I’ve been stuck in every traffic jam reported today! In the evening, I consult with my fellow-students on the things that still need to be done about our graduation project. Then a quiet end to the day with a beer.
Since the organization is growing all the time, it is important to look into data security.
Tuesday 21-04-2020 - Nikki van Emmerloot
Early on the road again today: although Zeist is centrally located, I’m traveling from the countryside between the rivers Meuse and Waal these days. The day started with my car breaking down. I hope this is not an indication for how things will go the rest of the day. Fortunately, my day turned out OK. I started with the update that is shared with external parties. This update contains information on how things are going, e.g., with scarcities in health care, the critical infrastructure, applications for social assistance, and public policy and safety.
We try to provide the update in such a way that it is clear in four sheets of paper whether a serious situation is developing on a certain point or that everything is under control and there are no problems. In the past week, I have updated information more clearly mapping the number of care locations in the Netherlands and to what extent they are equipped with medical resources. As a result, the situation is clear and further decisions can be made on this issue. The information for the update comes from the Security Regions in the Netherlands, from news items but, maybe even more importantly, from everything we pick up around us. In between, I attended a number of meetings to keep minutes, but also to take notes for my own research. I also had an interesting interview with my LOT-C internship supervisor. Everything I experience teaches me something new on the organization and the interests involved. Fascinating.
We try to provide the update in such a way that it is clear in four sheets of paper whether a serious situation is developing on a certain point or that everything is under control and there are no problems.
At the end of the day, I had another consultation with thesis supervisor Kenny Meesters on the design of my thesis and what I will be doing the rest of the week. In this way, we want to make sure that I can stick to the planning of my graduation project.
Wednesday 22-04-2020 - Frederik Venneman
Today I left home early. I mainly did some administrative work. The big job on my list for today was mapping how the Continuity and Scarcity Section has developed in the past week. Per week, I identified the main focus of that week. This information can be gathered from the daily briefings. As a result, we can see how the Section has developed and make it clear to other parties and LOT-C departments where the greatest pressure is in terms of continuity and scarcity. Strikingly, the care provider department, responsible for the continuity and scarcity updates in this sector, is busiest of all and that its tasks keep piling up. Now that this problem has been identified, the Section can take action to solve it. As a result, the organizational structure and approach is starting to change from reactive to proactive action. Given the development that we have seen in the past weeks, the Section is now able to take a critical look at where steering is necessary and what is working just fine.
Thursday 23-04-2020 - Frederik Venneman
Today, in addition to administrative duties and supporting Section members, I have to update the daily SitRep. This is the internal update that the Head of our Section takes along to the Heads of Sections consultations. This SitRep contains structured information on what every cell is working on, what activities are scheduled and what activities have been completed.
This kind of documentation proves to be very important in this organization. Since, in a crisis, you cannot know or remember everything, it is crucial that information is turned into sizeable chunks. This takes us a large part of the week to do. The information that is in the air here at LOT-C, at the Continuity and Scarcity Section, and around here is turned into in clear documents in which the necessary information can be easily retrieved.
Since, in a crisis, you cannot know or remember everything, it is crucial that information is turned into sizeable chunks.
Later that day, I drafted a debriefing. In this document, processes and ideas are elaborated in a structured way so that they can be retrieved for those who are interested or involved. After that, I elaborated a process flow. During meetings, many post-its, white boards, and flip-overs are used. It is nice and easy, but rather fleeting and not very sustainable. Therefore we usually make digital versions of this documentation if there is a need to keep it. These files are submitted for comments and updated where necessary.
Friday 24-04-2020 - Nikki van Emmerloot & Bram Verhoeven
Today there is two of us. This is because we have scheduled a number of interviews for our thesis research. The day started with cleaning up documents and making information accessible.
The headlines of the 7:30 evening news are often things that we already heard in the corridors at LOT-C earlier that day.
Till lunchtime, we worked on the internal and external updates. After lunch, we did the interviews. We use them for our own graduation project but also for an advisory report for LOT-C on the information management process. To structure the interviews as much as possible, we work with four themes: people, organization, technology, and data. These are also the pillars for information management as a whole. We asked the two Heads of Sections in the Information Management department about the past week. We did not only look at the sticking points but also at the things that went well. It is interesting to experience how information plays a role in the perception of the corona crisis. The headlines of the 7:30 evening news are often things that we already heard in the corridors at LOT-C earlier that day.
The first interview took place at LOT-C but for the second interview, we had to go to the National Operational Coordination Centre (LOCC) in Driebergen. It is located in the same building as the 112 control room. A fun adventure to have been at that location as well. After this interview, we could start our weekend. Recharging for the week ahead.
Key takeaways: Apart from the fact that we had an inside look in a crisis management organization, it was also very interesting to see what is important information in a crisis like this one. Like the Prime Minister said: we have to make 100% of the decisions with 50% of the information. Together with LOT-C, we are making every effort to make sure that this 50% increases every day thanks to the information that we as an organization gather, process, and forward to the people who need to make the decisions for the Netherlands as a whole.