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Using Audio-Logs for Analyzing the Development of a Common Operational Picture in Multi-agency Emergency Response

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Using Audio-Logs for Analyzing the Development of a Common Operational
Picture in Multi-agency Emergency Response
Kristine Steen-Tveit
Centre for Integrated Emergency
Management
Dept. of Information Systems,
University of Agder, Norway
kristine.steen
-
tveit@uia.no
Jaziar Radianti
Centre for Integrated Emergency
Management
Dept. of Information Systems,
University of Agder, Norway
jaziar.radianti@uia.no
Bjørn Erik Munkvold
Centre for Integrated Emergency
Management
Dept. of Information Systems,
University of Agder, Norway
bjorn.e.munkvold@uia.no
Abstract
Multi-agency emergency response requires effective
communication and collaboration for building and
maintaining a common operational picture. Full-scale
exercises are shown to be effective for learning, and for
training the collaborative skills needed. This paper
presents a methodology for the analysis of real-time
communication for building the common operational
picture, using audio-logs. The analysis of the audio-logs
provides insights for both practitioners and researchers
in the emergency management domain concerning the
dynamics of inter-agency collaboration and information
exchanges when responding to emergencies. Coding
and categorizing of audio-log-based information
exchanges among multi-agency stakeholders were
applied based on a full-scale emergency exercise on
multiple terror actions. The results show that the
methodology can contribute to analyzing the
development of a common operational picture,
supplementing existing methods for evaluation of full-
scale emergency exercises and real events.
1. Introduction
In large scale emergency events involving multi-
agency collaboration several factors need to be in place,
i.e. common communication tools, the establishment of
a common operational picture (COP), mutual trust and
respect, as well as awareness about own and other
Emergency Management Services’ (EMS)
responsibilities and tasks. To make expedient use of
those factors, it is important that the emergency
stakeholders possess the knowledge of the systems and
capabilities to use them to solve the tasks [1]. Yet,
without the key information concerning the situation,
cooperation is not enough to make a response operation
more efficient [2]. Such operations typically deal with
heterogeneous information needs, processes/ structures,
goals, resources, technology and other features within
the involved organizations [3]. Despite these
heterogeneities, the key goal for all actors is to
collaborate to save lives and limit damage.
Worldwide, mass causality incidents have a huge
impact on communities, both in terms of human
suffering and the economy. One example is the terror
attacks in Norway on 22nd of July 2011, where 77
people, mostly very young, were killed and 260 people
were injured in two planned attacks. The commission-
report concluded that there were several blameworthy
conditions and a significant need for changes. For
instance, the report stated that some of the failures were
due to impaired ability to recognize risk and that
learning from exercises had been deficient, furthermore,
the establishment of situational awareness (SA) and a
COP during the response operation was insufficient [4].
Learning from previous decisions, actions and incidents
must be practiced and evaluated through full-scale regional
exercises to enhance the EMS’ capabilities to handle mass
causality incident operations [5].
Evaluation is a method for generating new knowledge
and understanding in a certain setting, and by utilizing
the results of the evaluation, the consequences can be
changed in the affected organizations [6] As Weiss [7]
states: «the overall aim of evaluations is to assist people
and organizations to improve their plans, policies and
practices». In multi-agency emergency management,
the different involved actors are aiming to achieve a
collective perception, but they are likely to transfer their
own vision to the situation, based on their own
professional standpoint [8]. Therefore, in an exercise
involving several decision-makers, effective evaluation
is an issue because different decision-makers operate
with different understanding and knowledge about the
situation [9]. This reflects the difficulty of objective
evaluation of full-scale exercises [10] and the need for
an efficient method for evaluation is essential to be able
to defend the resource-and economic aspect of large
exercises. The visualization of information in most
evaluations relies on textual sources (such as reports)
and interviews. The lack of real-time communication
makes it difficult to gain the detailed information being
Proceedings of the 53rd Hawaii International Conference on System Sciences | 2020
Page 604
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10125/63813
978-0-9981331-3-3
(CC BY-NC-ND 4.0)
exchanged, and access to this material will contribute to
strengthen the evaluation`s results.
This paper extending previous findings [11], and
aims to provide an analysis methodology for evaluating
the COP established during a full-scale exercise,
through post hoc analysis of the inter-agency
communication using audio-logs. One of the advantages
of this proposed approach is that the individual actor`s
narrative (which is likely to be affected by their own
view) can be compared to the actual communication
during the event, to inform the post even debriefing.
Thus, the method can provide an important contribution
to existing evaluation methods. This approach offers a
foundation for common discussion on important
features and the outcome of the interactions. Moreover,
the proposed categorization framework of the
exchanged information provides the opportunity to
evaluate the COP.
To demonstrate the usefulness of the approach, we
conducted a temporal analysis of a full-scale exercise
involving a multiple terror attack scenario. The analysis
shows the changes in the multi-agency interactions and
information being exchanged from time to time,
reflecting the communication patterns, interactions and
the importance of particular communications in
different stages of the event. By investigating
communication patterns and bottlenecks, the potential
for improvement is possible [12].
2. Theoretical Framework
Situational Awareness: Disaster management is
an active process over time, which gradually changes as
the situation develops, and the signals change [13].
Disaster response systems must be able to handle the
complexity of the emergency environment and include
the fact that a variety of agencies will be involved in
making complex decisions during the operation [14].
During these emergency operations, situational
awareness (SA) plays a critical role due to performance
and error prevention [15]. Therefore, it is necessary to
establish SA during emergency management. The
theory of SA is the foundation for a large number of
studies on dynamic human decision-making in several
domains [e.g. 16, 17-19]. With evolving technology
support humans are able to act more effectively in
decision-making when operating in dynamic systems
[20]. SA in multi-agency operations includes complex
cognitive components. While analysis of the audio-log
from the response operation does not cover the actors’
cognitive processes, the communication can reveal the
state of SA in different stages of the operation.
Moreover, SA is an important component for all actors
involved for both creating and maintaining a COP (see
figure 1). The SA theory is used by a number of other
studies, for example as a framework for defining
emergency stages by taking the available information
into account [21] and how individuals develop different
levels of SA by conducting a SA requirements - and
resource analysis [22].
Endsley [23] defines three different levels of SA:(1)
perceiving the elements in the environment, (2)
comprehending the current situation, and (3) projecting
the future status of the situation. The first level is crucial
for the actor to achieve SA because it involves the
critical cues/information needs, and further, it forms the
basis for the construction of the two next levels. The
actors` achievement of SA level 2 and 3 consists of
important information to share, for instance, level 2 is
the foundation for actions, and level 3 for action
planning. This is also related to the operation`s goals,
and in multi-agency emergency operations, such as in
mass causality incidents, the actors interact
interdependently toward a common goal [15]. The
involved agencies must collaborate to reach the shared
goals, and the critical information should not been kept
individually or internally in the agencies [24]. The case
to be presented in this paper clearly demonstrates the
importance of SA within the agencies for contributing
to a COP among all the involved stakeholders (figure 1).
Without a sufficient SA the contribution to a COP will
be incomplete.
Common Operational Picture: Collaboration and
coordination are crucial factors for success in crisis
management [e.g. 3, 25, 26]. Several studies and
retrospective analysis point to challenges related to
coordination in multi-agency emergency management
[27-31]. Information sharing is a significant component
in the collaborating process and the reliability of the
shared information is crucial in intensive operations
[12]. There are several bottlenecks due to information
sharing among multiple agencies in mass causality
incidents, and a major reason seems to be the nature of
the incident itself. Several studies point to the
complexity, the dynamics and the unpredictable aspect
Figure 1 Agencies’ SA and communication of
shared elements (SE) to create a COP
Page 605
of the environment [e.g. 20, 28] where collaboration
needs to be unfolded.
The EMS needs a collection of relevant and verified
information from different sources in the environment,
and further to share this with the collaborating EMS.
This includes both static and dynamic features of the
environment [32], such as location, incident type,
number of victims and threats.
The different agencies involved, representing
different professional disciplines, will have some SA
requirements that are internal and specific for the
agency`s goal (see figure 1). However, in collaboration
processes, many of their actions will be interdependent
and they will have shared goals with the other involved
agencies and thus shared SA requirements [15]. In
communication that aims to achieve a COP, it is
important for all the involved parties to understand
information not only based on their own view but also
what is crucial for the collaborating agencies.
This requires knowledge of each other’s key
elements, such as information needs, goals,
expectations, responsibilities, resources, capabilities
and procedures to achieve effective cooperation [33,
34]. Agencies with different tasks and goals might
emphasize the data that mostly concern themselves [35],
and absence of knowledge on these key elements can
create an information overload or lack of information
caused by ignorance or inability to determine necessary
information to share [3].
In addition, the agencies utilize different
terminologies [36]. Using different terminologies
among the agencies addressing the same concepts and
events can hinder the establishment of the COP.
Heterogeneous awareness about different terms is a
problem among emergency stakeholders [37]. An
overview of crisis vocabularies are not always present,
and when they are, they are distributed on diverse
repositories designed differently and not harmonized
across agencies [38]. It seems to be necessary with more
coordination on terminology management [39] and the
task-critical information must be exchanged by using
harmonized terminology to build and maintain a COP.
The majority of the emergency management
information systems facilitate only information sharing
and do not emphasize the collaboration process [21].
The fact that the actors have different perceptions of
information [40] implies that even if the information
system provides a solid foundation for communication
and information sharing, the lack of a standardized
framework [21] for the collaboration process may result
in ineffective processes for communication and
cooperation.
The characteristics of a COP are relevant operational
information across agencies [41]. Thus, to create a COP
the communication must be structured to provide the
involved agencies with accurate, timely and prompt
information. The time aspect concerns several elements;
sharing information in the least possible time because of
the time-paced situation [42], sharing information in the
different stages of the operation, and the continuous
communication process for the involved actors`
maintenance of a COP. Several studies underpin the
importance of this upkeeping of a COP, and that it is a
necessary component for the emergency operation to be
effective [e.g. 41, 43, 44].
One must consider that complete SA is not possible
in any emergency operation [40], but each agency
involved will focus on collecting the task-oriented
critical cues that provide the highest possible SA.
Furthermore, in multi-agency operations, the individual
agencies have a responsibility to create a COP together
with the collaborative agencies. In addition to common
SA elements, the COP is an accumulation of important
information elements that are selected in different
categories such as the different organizational actions,
prognosis and perceptions [43].
The COP can be communicated by technology such
as Geographical information systems (GIS), by
providing a display of relevant operational information,
such as positions, infrastructure and different resources
using custom symbols [41]. Many EMS do not use the
same GIS interface and only operate with tools
supporting verbal communication in the collaboration
process. Regardless, the communication of shared
elements must be conducted in an appropriate way,
using a standardized framework, definitions and
common terminology [12] and symbols for successfully
creating a COP (see figure 1).
Building a COP among multi-agencies is a skill that
is focused as an important part of exercises in
emergency management, and the inclusion of
collaborative elements offer participants perceived
learning [45]. Conducting a full-scale exercise is
demanding both in terms of costs and resources
required. Several factors need to be considered, such as
the so-called “infallibility behavior” that refers to the
participants` effort to do their absolute best to make an
impression. Nevertheless, if a culture for learning exists,
the participants are willing to reveal their weaknesses
for the learning outcome`s sake [25]. The outcomes after
emergency management exercises offer useful learning
for the participants [46]. However, a study of three
collaboration exercises involving the police, fire and
ambulance services conducted in Sweden [47] revealed
that the perceived impact on actual emergency work was
moderate. The learning outcome did not include the
collaborating EMS` way of communication and
prioritizing, thus the collaboration elements in exercises
should be strengthened. An important step in this would
be a common understanding among the involved
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agencies concerning basic concepts, structures and
processes, thus knowing each other`s operational modes
[12].
Based on the literature reviewed earlier, the following
table summarizes important features for EMS to maintain
a COP in complex emergency operations:
Table 1 Important features for a COP
1
Creation and maintenance of different levels of SA
within the involved agencies.
2
Knowledge of each other`s operational modus, such
as information needs, goals, capabilities, processes
and resources.
3
Effective and time-specific communication of
important static and dynamic environmental
features, shared elements and common critical cues.
4
Harmonized terminology, both in vocabulary and
software symbols.
5
Sharing useful comprehension of the current
situation and actions/action planning important for
the collaboration.
6
Follow a standardized framework for
communication to avoid useless information and
information overload.
3. Methodology
The empirical foundation for this paper is a case
study of a full-scale regional exercise involving multiple
terror incidents in southern Norway. The exercise was
designed to train the cooperation among stakeholders in
the field, but each involved EMS also had several
internal sub-goals to train. Multiple qualitative methods
were used, combining observation, audio-log analysis
and validation with stakeholders after the exercise to
clarify vague results. Using the audio-log as a
methodology for post-hoc analysis allows the actual
communication combined with the event timeline to
reveal the “live image” of the communication among the
collaborating stakeholders. This serves as an important
supplement to traditional retrospective interviews and
textual analysis, and it addresses the need for detailed
information being exchanged during emergency
operations.
3.1 Scenario
The exercise involved three interrelated incidents
occurring almost simultaneously. The scenario was built
on a terror attack where a single terrorist hijacked a bus
with 20 student passengers at a school a few kilometers
from the city center. The situation developed and
required a multi-agency operation involving the police,
fire and health services. The bus was not stopped and
drove away from the event site. About 10 minutes later
a traffic accident with an unknown number of human
injuries occurred in a harbor intersection. The police
Command and Control Centre (CCC) then issued a
triple-alert (alerting all involved CCCs in a conference
phone call) and provided a common update on the new
incident for building a common operational picture.
Yet another incident was alerted after 5 minutes,
from a public witness reporting that the hijacked bus had
driven into a crowd attending an open concert by the
waterfront of the city center. A large unknown number
of people was injured both on land and in the water,
creating a chaotic situation. The police CCC updated the
fire and health services on the new incident and
informed about the caller's perception of an intentional
event (the act of terror). The police defined the situation
as an ongoing life-threatening violence operation, which
activates specific procedures for all agencies involved.
Furthermore, this situation required the involvement of
more organizations such as the Sea Rescue, the affected
municipality, Volunteer organizations and the Civil
Defence. An assembly place for injured and deceased
was organized, and incident commanders for police, fire
and health services were appointed. Evacuation of the
area, the establishment of a next of kin center and
communication with media were some of the important
tasks that unfolded in the next 30 minutes of the
exercise. The entire exercise had a timeframe of
approximately 5 hours, with the active part lasting for
about 3 hours.
3.2 Observation
The observation was carried out by two authors,
whereby one was observing the work in a CCC and the
other was present at the most resource-intensive
emergency site. i.e. the last incident by the city center
waterfront. In the CCC notes were taken while
observing the operation as well as questions asked when
something was perceived as unclear. It should be noted
that the first author has practical experience from
emergency dispatching and therefore holds some basic
knowledge in this area. The on-site observation
involved observing the different emergency personnel`s
operation from a spot with a good overview, taking
several pictures. Some questions were posed to the
involved organizers and actors after the exercise both
for collecting their opinions and to clarify uncertainties
on the results. Stakeholders from all agencies provided
comments.
3.3 Audio-log from the inter-agency call group
EMS in Norway are using the Norwegian Public
Safety Network (NPSN) as a common platform for
collaborative communication. The technology is built
on the TETRA- standard (TErrestrial Trunked RAdio).
Page 607
This infrastructure provides secure communication in
coverage, capacity and voice quality. The NPSN gives
the users an opportunity to communicate in call groups
across agencies and geographical areas. The first
responder agencies in Norway use the NPSN as a key
tool in their daily operations. In this paper, the audio-log
studied is an inter-agency call group reserved only for
first responders, named BAPS (fire-police-acute
medicine cooperation). Common regulations for using
the NPSN [48] provides a set of guidelines for user
identification signals, when different functionalities
should be used, definitions related to the NPSN and
plain-radio language checks for group communication.
The guidelines for use of the NPSN [49] underpin the
importance of regular user exercises to secure proper
practice and utilization of the functionalities.
The audio-log consists of communication between
operative units and dispatchers from the police, fire and
health (ambulance) services. The communication mainly
originates from the following six actors; (1) Emergency
dispatcher from Police CCC, (2) Emergency dispatcher
from Fire CCC, (3) Emergency dispatcher from Health
CCC (4) Incident Commander Coordination Point, Police
officer, (5) Incident Commander Health/ ambulance
personnel, (6) Incident Commander Fire and rescue
services. Additionally, operative units from all mentioned
services occasionally communicated in the inter-agency
call group. There are other options for communication in
the NPSN, for instance, the stakeholders can communicate
in agency-internal call groups or in one-to-one
conversations during the operation. The studied inter-
agency call-group functions as a collaboration channel for
the first responders, and it is required for all actors in these
agencies to continually listen to this group.
The audio-log had several tracks, i.e. the recording
of the communication was divided into several audio
files in the record system and consisted of a total of 4,25
hours. The tracks show the actual timeline with both
silence and messages, and all tracks were transcribed to
ensure the completeness of all messages. All sequences
of the events were further reconstructed into a complete
dataset and systematized with the following
information; 1) the origin of the information; 2) the
recipient of the information, and 3) the information
content. The dataset was also triangulated with the real-
time logs documented by the police during the drill. The
authors discussed and classified the messages into
several categories (Table 2). The categorization used an
inductive method and was developed gradually through
classification and reclassification based on the content
of the messages until a stable, unique category
framework emerged. The process narrowed down the
original 22 categories into 14 categories, as listed in
Table 2. The categories aim to be sufficiently specific to
reflect the content of the messages, but still also generic
enough to to be used in other similar cases [50]. Some
of the categories relate to the important features of a
COP (Table 1), e.g., COP feature number 1, 2 and 3 in
Table 1 are mirrored in the “Situation Report” and
“Location” categories (Table 2) as the actors shared
their SA and provided the collaborative agencies with
important information from the operation and
environment. The categories “Action”, “action plan”
and “request” are related to feature number 5. Feature 4
and 6 are related to “report barriers”, as different
terminology and information overload can represent
hindrances in the task execution. In brief, analyzing the
features of a COP can be used for systematic learning
after exercises, especially as provided by audio-log
post-hoc analysis of real-time communication.
Table 2: Communication Exchange Categories
Categories Coverage
Situation
Reports
Information flow that involves new and
updated information regarding the
emergency.
Confirmation Statements that express the agencies’
acknowledgment (heard, known,
understood) information or actions.
Action Plan Statements which imply the agencies
‘plan for action in order to respond to
the current state.
Request Request for updated information,
resources or support
Action
Actions taken and reported in BAPS
Location Providing or confirming a current
location or being in a wrong location
Contacting The actor tries to contact one or several
actors
No Answer When the addressed actor(s) did not
reply to the contact request
Offer
resources
When one agency offers resources
relative to the situation
New
Emergency
event
Notifications on new emergency events
relative to the operation
Common
Understanding
Information on the situation and all
involved agencies confirm that they
have received and understood.
Report
barriers
Reports of barriers when performing
tasks, such as missing equipment or
conflicts with other involved parties.
Error Disruptions in the call group (such as
human mistakes).
Information
Mismatch
When actors have different SA in a
specific situation.
4. Results
In this section, we present the results of our
communication analysis. No actual contents of the
Page 608
communication in the audio-logs are presented, to
protect the stakeholder’s privacy.
However, both the timeline and actual conversations
have been documented, allowing us to trace back the
actual messages. Some of the stakeholder’s comments
are cited as validation for the results. It is necessary to
consider several issues regarding these comments. For
instance, each comment mirror one person’s opinion
and is likely influenced by post-hoc rationalization [51].
Figure 2 Information being exchanged by each
agency (%)
Figure 2 presents an overview of the percentage of
categories exchanged by the agencies, whereas the total
number of messages is 134. As can be seen, the figure
depicts that ILKO and ILB (see table 3 explaining
abbreviations) were the most active agencies, especially
on communicating “action plan”, which was frequently
followed by “confirmation” in a number of messages.
Table 3: List of Abbreviations
Abbreviation
Description
BAPS Fire, health and police services inter-
agency call group
ILKO
Incident
commander Point, Police officer
ILB Incident Commander, Fire and rescue
personnel
ILH Incident Commander, Health, ambulance
personnel.
LA14
Ambulance Helicopter
POC
Police Operative Car
F
R
OC
Fire
-
and rescue Operative Car
Ambulance
Ambulance team
CCC 110 Command and Control Center, Fire and
rescue
CCC 112 Command and Control Center,
Police Services
CCC 113 Command and Control Center,
Health services
NPSN
Norwegian Public Safety Network
These two organizations played a key role in
reporting situations, especially ILKO. In this terror act
case, the police have the superior responsibility of the
operation. Thus, it is natural that they received most
information from their CCC and took responsibility for
building a COP. For ILB, this situation was resource-
intensive, requiring the mobilization of a truck (to stop
an uncontrolled bus) and divers (for rescuing victims in
the water). The ambulance personnel carried out the
treatment of the victims and would “not spend much
time on communication in BAPS [stakeholder
comment].
To analyze the development of the inter-agency
interactions when building the COP, we developed
chord diagrams. The diagrams show the communication
flow among the agencies, of which the chord runs from
the originator agency to the recipient agency,
furthermore, the more volume in the chord, the higher
number of messages. Information categories being
exchanged are presented as bar charts. The scenario
guidelines and messages in the audio-log revealed that
the crisis could be divided into three phases: the alert
phase (when the three CCCs alerted the different
response teams), the escalation phase (when the
operative units are starting to comprehend the crisis),
and response (when all involved agencies are managing
the crisis).
Figure
3 Multi-
agency interactions (upper)
and information being exchanged
(bottom), 10:00
-
10:30
Page 609
1. Alert phase (10:00-10:30)
In this phase the number of messages was at the highest
with 88 messages being exchanged. ILKO and ILB
communicated with each other with a considerable higher
frequency than the other actors. But as the chord diagram
shows, ILKO also addressed CCC 113 and CCC 110.
ILKO was in charge of the operation and provided the
others with critical information. ILB was also active. The
fire and rescue services hold the responsibility for the
operation until the police are on site. ILKO got updated
information until the time they were present.
There are several categories used in the alert phase;
where “confirmation” represents 25% of the messages.
As the bar chart presents, the messages are concerning
several features regarding the agencies’ SA. The
categories “action”, “action plan” and “location” are all
representing an increasing SA based in the category
“common understanding”, representing that information
exchanged in the BAPS call group was confirmed and
understood by all agencies. One could interpret this as if
all agencies in this phase were on the alert and followed
the procedure for confirming.
The high percent of the category “confirmation”
related to the confirmation that they heard and
understood messages in the other categories. The
“situation reports” would typically be communicated in
the different internal-agency call groups which provide
the agency-specific CCCs important information due to
their profession.
2. Escalated phase (10:30-11:00)
In this phase, the number of messages was 20. All
the agencies were active in BAPS, but ILB was far more
active than the rest (Figure 4). In this phase, the
operative units on site prepared themselves on the most
resource-intensive incident, and the fire and rescue
services had many tasks concerning the victims in the
water. At this time, they would need as much
information as possible. The situation was chaotic,
which could explain the high frequency of “requests”
and “situation reports”. In practice, these types of
messages contain requests of updated and/or more
information, resources or support. We can also observe
that the category “offer resources” is present, which
implies that the stakeholders comprehended the
situation. Thus, they can anticipate that the situation
required more resources than the current state. The lack
of “confirmation” can be a result of the busy situation
where the actors had a lot going on both on site and in
other call groups. As one stakeholder characterized the
situation; “Simply a mental overload” [Stakeholder].
3. Response phase (11:00-13:00)
In this phase, the number of messages was 26. The
actors were working with agency-specific tasks and
started to get an overview of the situation. As this was
an act of terror, the police had a major responsibility to
make the situation safe for both the collaborative
agencies and the civil people present at the emergency
site. This can explain why ILKO stands for most of the
communication in BAPS as can be observed in the chord
diagram (Figure 5). The terrorist was not arrested yet in
this phase. All communications were in the category
“Situation Reports”. It shows that the use of BAPS is for
building a COP by providing all agencies in the call
group with information that is seen as common
information needs. The lack of confirmation might have
several reasons; firstly ILKO, ILB and ILH were all
located at the assembly place for injured and deceased
and did not need to use BAPS to confirm. They only
used the call group for providing other actors with
information. Secondly, the agencies might use the
internal agency call groups for both communication and
confirmation. Third, the actors were too busy handling
the mass causalities for confirming.
Ideally, the “situation reports” should be confirmed by
all agencies in BAPS. The lack of this can be explained
by the assumption that the messages are not as critical
as in the previous phases. It might also be caused by the
Figure 4 Multi-agency interactions
(upper) and information being
exchanged (bottom), 10:30
-
11:00
Page 610
professional culture and needs more attention. As one
actor stated after seeing the results; Clearly we must
repeat our messages when we don`t get confirmation”
[Stakeholder].
5. Discussion
The results for all phases in the operation can provide
an overall picture of the collaborative communication
for building a COP. In the alert phase, a diversity of
categories is being exchanged and the category
“common understanding” shows that most of the
information is understood by all stakeholders. It seems
like the building of a COP is effective in the alert phase.
The maintenance of the COP in the next phases
(escalated and response phase) is less obvious. In the
escalated phase, the situation was chaotic, and the
stakeholders struggled to maintain a COP by using the
category “request” most frequently. In the response
phase, the stakeholders gained more control and
provided each other with information. If this means that
they maintained a COP is hard to conclude on, because
of the absence of the “confirmation” category. This
should ideally have been validated through retrospective
interviews with stakeholder. Nevertheless, based on the
observations, stakeholders’ comments and the
messages` content, there is reason to believe that a COP
was established in the two last phases. If the COP was
absent, we assume the categories “request”,
“contacting” and “information mismatch” would have
been used to some extent.
It is important to consider the fact that this is based
on an exercise, which despite being planned to be as
realistic as possible does not necessarily echo a real
event. Exercises are fictitious and constructed and
cannot provide the same effects as a real event, because
of the participants’ awareness that it is not real [25].
Furthermore, this case was an act of terror with multiple
incidents, which represents an extraordinary situation.
Because of this, the communication in BAPS does not
mirror an ordinary multi-agency emergency operation.
Nevertheless, this case was used for developing the
categories and a methodology to analyze COP which we
argue can be reusable in other full-scale exercises and
evaluation after real events. Several of the features of
the COP (table 1) can be identified in the analysis.
Firstly, different levels of SA within the agencies can be
observed through the categories “common
understanding”, “action” and “action plan”. These
categories indicate the actors` perception of elements in
the environment and that they comprehend the current
status.
The fact that these categories are frequently used in
the alert phase can demonstrate that the agencies`
communication embraces several important features of
a COP. For instance, the actors create SA (feature 1) and
by sharing information (feature 3 and 5) they depict
knowledge on each other’s operational modus (feature
2) in the alert phase of this exercise. In the escalated
phase the situation appeared as chaotic, and the high
frequency of the “request” category can show that the
agencies know the others` capabilities (feature 2) and
requests for information or some sort of action. The last
phase clearly reveals communication of information that
is assumed to be important for the collaborative
agencies (feature 3 and 5) by offering each other
“situation reports”. Regarding the harmonized
terminology and standardized framework (feature 4 and
6) post hoc analysis of audio-logs provide a good
opportunity to investigate this, but in that case, it would
be necessary to compare the communication to the
standards being used. In this case study, these standards
do not exist in any textual documents. To analyze this,
interviews with key stakeholders had to be required.
The first responder agencies have pre-defined
tasks and goals which means that the messages` content
and purpose are relevant for several different operations
and can therefore be reusable for different settings. The
audio-logs from emergency operations provides access
to the actual real-time communication during the
operation including the timeline. This gives the
opportunity to capture the detailed information being
exchanged in different stages of the operation. The fact
that the actors use other ways to communicate internally
Figure 5 Multi-
agency interactions (upper) and
information being exchanged (bottom), 11:00-
13:00
Page 611
in their associated agency and one-to-one conversations
in the NPSN poses a challenge related to getting the
whole picture. Even if the BAPS call group exists for
collaborative communication, some of this information
is then taking place outside this call group. Other
imaginable limitations are the possibility of missing
tracks in audio-logs, legal challenges related to getting
access to audio-logs from real events and the nearly
unavoidable requirement of the basic knowledge of this
sort of emergency management operations. However, if
the goal is to identify important features in one
particular area, audio-logs provide real-time
communication and the actual timeline in the operation.
6. Conclusions and Future Work
By using the important features for a COP, it is possible
to evaluate the achievement and maintenance of COP
during an emergency operation. The features are (1)
Creation and maintenance of different levels of SA
within the involved agencies (2) Knowledge of each
other`s operational modus (3) Effective and time-
specific communication on important static and
dynamic environmental features, shared elements and
common critical cues (4) harmonized terminology (5)
Sharing useful comprehension of the current situation
and actions/action planning important for the
collaboration, and (6) Follow a standardized framework
for the communication. The categories developed in this
case study aim to be reusable for post hoc analysis of the
real-time communication related to establishing a COP
in similar cases. We argue that this methodology can be
an important supplement to textual reports and
retrospective interviews for future evaluations of both
full-scale exercises and real events.
The study`s findings may inspire stakeholders and
other researchers to further investigate the important
features of a COP in exercises and real events, and use
audio-logs and categories of messages to elicit a
dynamic development of a COP. Currently, this
methodology will be validated further in different
scenarios. This can be achieved by applying the audio-
log analysis in other exercises as supplementation for
other evaluation methods.
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... This is a cooperative process where the involved actors must be active and coordinated in a mutual dependency, and flaws in this collaboration have been shown in many real-world cases to result in inefficient outcomes [13]. Several factors need to be addressed for effective collaboration: technologies for supporting the COP, knowledge of each other's responsibilities and tasks, and establishment of common situational understanding [14]. However, without key information concerning the emergency event, cooperation is not a sufficient solution [15]. ...
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Purpose This research investigates the perceived collaboration between public, private, and volunteer organisations during maritime crisis work, with an emphasis on learning and collaboration. The purpose of this paper is to investigate participants’ perceived collaboration training in relation to learning and usefulness. Design/methodology/approach The exercise studied in this research was run in the far North in Norway. It was estimated by the participants to be Europe’s most extensive exercise in 2016. Mixed methods research approach was applied, i.e. on-site observations, photos and interviews were conducted during the exercise. After the exercise, an online survey was distributed to emergency personnel holding different positions in conjunction with this exercise. Findings As reported, the exercise contributed to new insights on the relationship between collaboration and learning. The study showed that collaborative elements in exercises contribute to perceived learning ( R =0.86, R ² =0.74), and that learning in turn had a perceived beneficial effect on actual emergency work ( R =0.79, R ² =0.62). Research limitations/implications The possible research implications from this study include more focus on collaboration and new training schemes that could increase learning and usefulness. Practical implications Collaboration between actors seemed to suffer from the size of the exercise. A smaller exercise, less dependency on predetermined scripts, and more receptivity towards improvisation could improve collaboration. Social implications Increased awareness on the outcomes of collaboration exercise might increase their learning and usefulness, providing societies with improved rescue services. Originality/value This research implies that increased perceived collaboration has an effect on learning and usefulness in maritime exercises.