The "walking wounded" is a category of disaster victims that can help themselves in finding their way to safety.
The problem we address here is how first responders, walking wounded, and other rescue personnel can
coordinate their joint activities more efficiently in order to accomplish the evacuation as quickly as possible. We
focus our design on the "coordination loops" in the disaster response organization, both vertically across levels
of authority, and horizontally among responders in the same echelon. In our envisioned scenario of a chemical
accident we identify the most important interactions through which activities are coordinated that are crucial for
a successful evacuation. We propose three different “coordination devices” that can be used by the walking
wounded, the rescuers in the fields, and the people in the command center. We believe our approach, explicitly
designing support systems for coordination first, will lead to important improvements in the daily practice of
Collaboration, coordination, disaster response, evacuation, design for coordination, walking wounded
There is a category of victims of an incident that can largely help themselves, the so-called ”walking wounded”,
that provides a rich set of coordination challenges for crisis response and management. In order to evacuate
them properly, coordination is needed among a large group of people. For example, after a chemical spill the
walking wounded might have to be decontaminated and though they can walk away from the “hot zone”, they
still have to be guided to the proper location. Our goal is to design coordination support systems that assist a
disaster response organization in coordinating the process of evacuation of the walking wounded in the most
effective manner possible.
One of the major lessons learned from disasters in the past, (and even simulated responses), is that
communications are often the first to fail (Kean and Hamilton, 2004; Lisagor, 2002; Mikawa, 2006). Following
Klein et al (2004) we adhere to some basic requirements for a successful collaboration; first of all the people
that are coordinating their joint actions need to agree to work towards a collective goal (“basic compact”). In the
case of collaboration between rescuers and victims, it is usually clear that everyone wants to save as many lives
as possible. Secondly, the (joint) actions should be mutually predictable in the sense that coordinating partners
know what the other one is going to do, and when their task is done. The action should be mutually (re)
directable so that if one partner observes something is going into the wrong direction, action can be taken to get
the other partner back on track. Finally, “common ground” is the shared picture of the situation that is in
constant need of testing, updating, adapting, and repairing.
The process of coordination where common ground is checked and repaired, actions are observed and (re)
directed is called a “coordination loop” (Voshell et al., 2007). One can have separate horizontal loops, such as
law enforcement and fire fighting that are isolated via their scope and actions. A series of loops are often
working together in an incident (and even more when this scales up to a disaster) on independent isolated loops.
Vertical loops are any communication that modifies a plan across these horizontal levels to update information,
new plans, or new hazards.
This work, and related current research, have begun to use different classes of the walking wounded scenarios to
test the resilience of new information, communications, and robotic technology in multiple domains.
Gunawan et al. Envisioning Collaboration at a Distance in Crisis Response
Proceedings of the 4th International ISCRAM Conference (B. Van de Walle, P. Burghardt and C. Nieuwenhuis, eds.)
Delft, the Netherlands, May 2007