Why is fragmentation in the standardisation process allowed to continue?

Why is fragmentation in the standardisation process allowed to continue?

The NO-FEAR project (2019 – 2023) is ending in May.

NO-FEAR looked to establish a common understanding of the needs and innovation potential of its identified operational gaps, primarily in the European Emergency Medical Services and First Responder sectors. The project brought together a pan-European network of emergency medical care practitioners, suppliers, decision and policy makers to collaborate and exchange knowledge, good practices and lessons learned. TFC Research and Innovation Limited is a partner in NO-FEAR as well as PEERS. In NO-FEAR, TFC led in the area of standardisation, working in conjunction with NEN and external standardisation development experts throughout the undertaking.

NO-FEAR engaged with a number of related projects in the same space, with a collective focus on the determination of common needs and gaps across these projects. One important example was the ENCIRCLE project (2017- 2021). This project was aimed at improving resilience to CBRN (Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear) events and threats in Europe, with a commitment to strengthening competitiveness and efficiency.

During the course of ENCIRCLE, it was reported that operational practitioners in the European Disaster Risk Resilience (DRR) and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) fields have difficulties with standardisation. Standards help the uptake of innovations and new market entrants, but were not generally seen in a positive light by First Responders or Emergency Medical Services (EMS) operatives (ENCIRCLE Market Survey, 2021). It was reported that standards are poor and outdated, with little relevance to current capabilities. Moreover, while societal and civilian standards exist, they are not necessarily known or being applied by those expected to use them.

Troublingly, many non-coordinated pre-standardisation initiative have resulted in fragmentation and further confusion in these areas that is ongoing today. One example of fragmentation is highlighted below.

EN-ISO 22300


  • DIN CWA 17335 Terminologies in Crisis and Disaster Management

Key standards like EN-ISO 22300 focus on defining terminology in an International and European context. Use of ‘common language’ is crucial for CBRNE and Emergency Medical Service members and processes. It thus seems peculiar that working documents are being made available or produced via CEN and National Standardisation Bodies, creating ‘fragmentation’. Why do we allow these type of working documents to exist, given that it should be quite clear within CEN and National Standardisation Bodies that a standard document already exists for what is being proposed in the working document? Why are we allowing fragmentation to ridicule an area as important as citizen and societal security? Surely the relevant Standardisation Body should be known at the beginning of a CEN Workshop Agreement (CWA) process?

It has been suggested that EU research projects do not sufficiently take onboard the existence of established standards and the importance of compliance. Perhaps the drivers of these deliverables are not the people who should be driving. Perhaps, the first port of call should be to the relevant Technical Committee before the development of a CWA is sanctioned. What we know is that confusion in the area of standardisation exists across the CBRN domain in particular, and this cannot be good for field operations. We need our Technical Committees working to strengthen European resilience to threats through standardisation, rather than committing their time and energy into deciding what to do with the CWAs that land on their doorsteps!

I strongly encourage CEN and National Standardisation Bodies to remove CWAs that contribution to fragmentation. That means totally remove them from the system, ensuring they are inaccessible and cannot be sold, so that field operations are protected from working documents that can create confusion when preparing for or responding to an incident.

Please, take these fragmented working documents out of the standardisation system.

Author: Tom Flynn, TFC Research and Innovation Limited

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