Diagnosing co-ordination problems by modelling the emergency management response to disasters
In the United Kingdom, there is a system for the co-ordination of the emergency services in response to disasters - The Emergency Management Combined Response System (EMCRS). It is a complex three tier command and control system. It was set up in response to a need for better coordination between agencies, when they respond to disasters. This research has developed models of the EMCRS that support diagnosis of co-ordination problems between agencies. Data for the modelling was acquired by means of training exercises. The co-ordination pro blems were identified through behaviour conflicts between the agencies. For example, the Fire Service behaviours of setting up a cordon around the disaster site conflict with the Ambulance Service behaviours of accessing the site for treatment of casualties. In the course of EMCRS model development, the scope of an existing framework was extended to accommodate EMCRS characteristics, which are general to: (i) systems with more than one level of operation and interactions between the levels; (ii) systems that do not have stable membership; and (iii) systems where there are trade-offs between different parts of the system that affect performance. For example, the framework extension for (ii) is to include time lines and a symbol that denotes additional structures. The EMCRS models constitute substantive Human Computer Interaction design knowledge, that is, knowledge that is both explicit and supports design. Such knowledge supports design practice directly, as the diagnosis of design problems, and indirectly, as the prescription of design solutions. An initial method for coordination design problem diagnosis by means of EMCRS models is also proposed. The strengths and weaknesses of the research are identified and discussed. Future work would be to apply the extended framework to data from an actual disaster to valid ate the EMCRS models.