The Importance of Skill & Equipment Redundancy

Almost all military, public safety, and search & rescue professionals have had difficulty with communications gear. Common challenges can arise from relying on a single piece of equipment that unexpectantly fails or a lack of trained personnel to utilize available alternative equipment.

In tactical situations, communications[1] are often the lifeline to reinforcements or additional support, such as artillery or air strikes. For non-tactical conditions, having working communications may be the only chance of saving someone in need of emergency medical attention. The problems caused by communications challenges can lead to frustration and, in extremes, the loss of life.

As professionals who rely on communications gear to accomplish the mission, we all need to understand the importance of skill and equipment redundancy. With the proper equipment and training, leaders and team members can mitigate many of the risks associated with communications failures.

What is Skill/Equipment Redundancy?

As a young second lieutenant in the Marine Corps[2], I once participated in a joint firing exercise. Part of the multi-day operation included testing communications gear the Marine Corps was considering purchasing from a government contractor. Testing and evaluating the equipment was an essential part of the training exercise.

While setting up the communications gear, the contractor’s representative could not get the system to work. They troubleshooted the issues for several hours unsuccessfully. There was no backup system, and the representative was not an “expert” in troubleshooting the product. As a result, the gear was not a part of the exercise, and the contractor likely lost a significant government contract with the Marine Corps.

Situations like the one I experienced are avoidable by implementing a redundancy of skills and equipment.

Skill redundancy can be thought of in terms of team member cross-training. Communications gear often requires specialized training to set up and operate. If your team has a single individual capable of using specific communications gear, you have a potential weak point in capabilities.

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