Societal Security

Dec 15, 2011

Why International Standards?

Large scale disruptive events seem to be occurring more frequently and with greater impact on people, property, commerce, and the environment. These events can present overwhelming global challenges to organizations of all sizes. 

Disruptions can cost lives and threaten an organization’s core business services, key operational functions, or it’s ability to maintain an emergency capability. To improve resiliency, organizations should commit to a risk-based, systems approach to planning, prevention, mitigation, response, and recovery. Adopting national and international standards is one step in this comprehensive approach.

In December 2011, the International Standards Organization (ISO) published its first in a new series of standards for “ISO 223 Societal Security” which, according to ISO, purports to “help save lives, mitigate harm and damage, and ensure ­continuity of basic services such as health, rescue services, water and food supplies, electricity and fuel delivery.” To develop such standards, the ISO typically convenes working committees comprised of experts from around the world.

According to Professor Ernst-Peter Döbbeling, convener of the working group for this standard, entitled ISO 22320:2011 Societal Security – Emergency Response – Guidelines for incident response, “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 provides guidelines for establishing command and control organizational structures and procedures, decision support, traceability, and information management. Interoperability among involved organizations is essential for successful incident response, and the standard 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, thus minimizing the risk of misunderstandings and making 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.”

ISO/TC 223
To manage emerging international standards, the technical committee (TC) (ISO/TC 223 Societal Security) was formed. The committee promotes the adapative capacity of individuals, organizations, communities and society. This adaptive capacity is known as resilience, which enables organizations to deal more effectively with disruptive events, whether intentional, unintentional or naturally caused.


  • provision of international standards to enhance all actors’ capacity in society to handle all phases before, during and after disruptive events;
  • greater consistency across multiple interests and different abilities of professional disciplines, sectors, and levels of administrative responsibility within national and transnational contexts including increased organizational resilience;
  • increased preparedness and continuity management, and best practices within organizations;
  • reduced risks and consequences of accidental, ­intentional and natural events;
  • enhanced deployment, integration and ­interoper­ability of procedures, systems and technologies;
  • increased levels of cooperation and coordination;
  • increased awareness and enhanced capabilities among interested parties and stakeholders to share information and to communicate; and
  • increased public awareness and public warning.

Scope of ISO/TC  
ISO/TC 223 international standards aim to protect society from and respond to incidents, emergencies, and disasters caused by intentional and unintentional human acts, natural hazards, and technical failures. An all-hazards perspective covers adaptive, proactive and reactive strategies in all phases before, during and after a disruptive incident. Societal Security is multi-disciplinary and involves the public and private sectors, and not-for-profit organizations.

Societal Security standards integrate interconnected disciplines, such as risk management, crisis management, emergency management with its essential tools as crises communication and command and control, continuity management, security management, disaster management and resilience. Societal Security tools cover a range of integrated activities such as anticipation, assessment, prevention, protection, mitigation, preparedness, response, and recovery before, during, and after a disruptive incident.

Who participatesin ISO/TC 223?
ISO/TC223 brings together experts from developing and developed countries across the globe. Stakeholders are mainly from organizations in the private and public sectors, including emergency services, contingency planners, small and medium-sized enterprises, critical infastructure providers, consumer groups, governmental and regulatory bodies, NGOs, development agencies, and relief organizations.

Of the 45 countries that participate in ISO/TC223, 18 have observer status, and 10 liaison with the committee. The secretariat is managed by the Swedish Standards Institute, with Ambassador Krister Kumlin (Sweden) serving as Chairperson and ­Stefan Tangen serving as secretary.

The committee is divided into 5 working groups: WG1 Framework; WG2 Terminology; WG3 Emergency management; WG4 Preparedness and continuity; and WG5 Video surveillance.

ISO 223 TC usually meets twice per year, and has met 12 times since 2006. It very recently published its first international standard: ISO 22320:2011 Societal Security – Emergency Management – Requirements for Incident Response.

Each country formally assigns delegates to participate in international standards meetings through their national standards body. The Standards Council of Canada (SCC) facilitates and manages Canada’s participation in standards activities within the ISO and the International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC). These international activities are of strategic importance to Canada’s economy, sustainable development, trade, and welfare of its citizens.

Important to a country’s participation in international standards development is the establishment of national mirror committees, which extend each country’s involvement back home. In Canada, we also refer to our mirror committees as the “ISO/TC 223 Canadian Advisory Committee”, or CAC for short. The CAC strives to have a balanced representation of interest categories, such as producers, users, general interest, regulators, and consumer and public interest.   

Importance to Canada
Canada has an opportunity to pass along significant expertise through our national mirror committee, as well to learn from this work. Participating in international standards development enables us to build capacity at home and influence standards development. We need more participants with specific expertise in our CAC. Having more active members will enhance its effectiveness and increase the significance of our contribution. Making a difference at home can also mean participating in the CSA’s national standard on emergency management and business continuity.

Further information on ISO standardization can be found at To get involved with Canada’s national mirror committee for ISO/TC223, please contact the Standards Council of Canada at

J. Linley Biblow, MA, ABCP is an emergency management professional. He serves as the Canadian Head of Delegation for ISO/TC 223, Chair of ISO/TC 223 Canadian Advisory Committee, and a member of CSA Z1600 Emergency management business continuity standard. He currently serves as a Captain with the Calgary Fire Department, with over 22 years of service. Linley’s background includes CBRNE course design and implementation, Hazmat Specialist response, and municipal emergency management planning and execution. He can be reached at
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