Using Information
Technology for Effective
Emergency Response
Stella Shen
Michael J. Shaw
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Emergency and Emergency Response
• Emergency
– Any natural or man-caused situation that results in or may result in
substantial harm to the population or damage to property
• Unique characteristics of emergency response
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–
–
–
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Time criticality
High degree of uncertainty
Dynamic assembly of diverse response agencies
Dynamic arrivals of events
Mixed array of incorrect or conflicting information
• Emergency response system
– A socio-technical system that comprises of not only IT, but also
social organizational components, such as networks of emergency
workers (Calloway & Keen’s, 1996)
Shen et al., UIUC, 4/02/05
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Problems in Emergency Response
• Too many people reporting to one supervisor
• Different emergency response organizational
structures
• Lack of reliable incident information
• Inadequate and incompatible communications
• Lack of structure for coordinated planning among
agencies
• Unclear lines of authority
• Terminology differences among agencies
• Unclear or unspecified incident objectives
Shen et al., UIUC, 4/02/05
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IT-Facilitated Emergency Response
Management
Dynamic Planning
• Case-based dynamic
planning
• Scenario planning
• Effectiveness of the
methodology
Emergency
Response
Agents
Emergency
Response
Shen et al., UIUC, 4/02/05
Integration
• Types of integration:
information,
communication, process
• Method of integration
IT Capabilities
• Communication
support
• Information
processing support
FIT
Coordination
• Sources of coordination
problems
• Coordination
mechanisms (process &
structure)
• Effectiveness of
coordination
4
Research Focus
Dynamic Planning
• Case-based dynamic
planning
• Scenario planning
• Effectiveness of the
methodology
Emergency
Response
Agents
Emergency
Response
Shen et al., UIUC, 4/02/05
Integration
• Types of integration:
information,
communication, process
• Method of integration
Coordination
• Sources of coordination
problems
• Coordination
mechanisms (process &
structure)
• Effectiveness of
coordination
IT Capabilities
• Communication
support
• Information
processing support
FIT
How can IT help
improve inter-agency
coordination?
5
Conceptual Framework
• Premises:
– Coordination is the problem that happens when groups of
people trying to work together
– As increasing number of novel tools and technologies being
developed, the coordination effect of information
technologies has been more and more widely recognized
and accepted
• Theories:
– Coordination theory (Malone and Crowston, 1999)
– Theory of task/technology fit (Goodhue and Thompson,
1995; Zigurs and Buckland, 1998)
Shen et al., UIUC, 4/02/05
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Conceptual Framework
Inter-dependencies
(Malone & Crowston, 1999)
 Sharing
 Flow
 Fit
Emergency Response
Coordination
Mechanisms
 Process
 Structure
IT Capabilities
 Communication
support
 Information
processing
FIT
(Goodhue &
Thompson,
1995; Zigurs &
Buckland, 1998)
Model of IT-Enabled Coordination for Emergency Response
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Research Method
• Case study (Yin, 1989)
– The questions under study are “how” or “why” questions
– It’s important to study the phenomenon in its own context
– The researcher is seeking to explain the linkages between causes
and effects
• Site selection
– Organizations engaged in responding to public safety emergencies
•
•
•
•
•
First responders
Supporting response agencies
Training centers
Emergency management and coordination agencies
Government offices
– Military training center
Shen et al., UIUC, 4/02/05
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Research Method
• Sampling
– The director or the main coordinator of each agency site
• They know the overall context of emergency operations
• They are the veterans for their particular functions
• They are the ones who participate in various inter-agency
emergency response and management trainings
• Data sources
– Semi-structured face-to-face interviews
– Written documentation
– Non-participant observations
• Data analysis
– Constant comparative technique (Glaser & Strauss, 1967)
Shen et al., UIUC, 4/02/05
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Finding – Dependencies in
Emergency Response (I)
Generic
Dependency
Specific Dependency
Activity-Actor
Activity-Activity
Actor-Actor
Sharing
Multi-task assignment. “…
that dispatcher is serving
maybe 25 police units… and
then the dispatcher is trying to
keep all these calls on the air,
servicing all these different
officers on different calls.”
Simultaneous activities. “…
while this is going on, there is
still crime going on in another
part of the town. Somebody
still had to go to the armed
robberies, the domestics, and
the bar fights.”
Common resource
sharing. “There isn’t really
one (boundary). Nobody
has enough resources so
that they can handle things
by themselves.”
Flow
Agent delegation. “All these
police departments, fire
departments, ambulances, and
everybody is coming in from
where they are to … the
command post … and find
what you are to tell them what
to do.”
Prerequisite. “… in a winter
storm, then we have these
other barricades like you can’t
get down that really soon
through the snow, so now I
need another resource to
open that road up. So I need
the County Highway
Department.”
Resource sequence. “We
are coordinating County
resources, which usually
get to the point that we just
don’t have any more, then I
coordinate with the State,
bring State resources in,
and then if State gets
overwhelmed, then I work
with FEMA to bring Federal
assets in.”
Shen et al., UIUC, 4/02/05
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Finding – Dependencies in
Emergency Response (II)
Generic
Dependency
Fit
Shen et al., UIUC, 4/02/05
Specific Dependency
Activity-Actor
Activity-Activity
Task qualification. “If you are
not bringing me anything, I
don’t really want you to come.”
Activity compatibility. “You
could have conflicts between
what a police agency wants
to do and a fire agency wants
to do, or what the city of
Champaign or Urbana wants
to do, which will affect the
University of Illinois.”
Actor-Actor
Goal compatibility. “…
when the police ordered
evacuation, the firemen …
they knew and they could
help us.”
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Finding – Coordination Mechanisms
in Emergency Response (I)
Dependency
Sharing
• Multi-task
assignment
• Simultaneou
s activities
• Common
resource
sharing
Shen et al., UIUC, 4/02/05
Coordination Mechanism
Coordination Structure
Coordination Process
Real-time, vertical communications. “we
have radio equipment downstairs that
information will be fed to us (from the
responders), so we would do briefings with
the key officials … so everybody knows
what he’s doing.”
Use boundary spanners. “I am the one
that tries to make them all play nice at the
same time … I can’t make any of the
jurisdictions to do anything… I am just
coordinating the information, coordinating
the resources, so that we are in a unified
group.”
Centralized decision. “Here (at EOC) you
have mayor or people-appointed officials…
They make policies, decisions, and
coordinate resources to support the
incident.”
Prioritizing. “… this group (of key officials)
would even prioritize what resources went there,
depending on how wide-spread the incident
was.”
Routine. “The operators … answers the call,
takes the information, puts them in the CAD
system. And then those response perimeters I
spoke about, they are in CAD. And then they
will get on the radio…”
Synchronization. “… it’s really synchronized
more and more how we do things as a joint
fighting force, because never again when you
have an Army operation, and Navy operation
doing something else … with a separate air
campaign that’s totally disjoint from the overall
scope of what the ground force is doing.”
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Finding – Coordination Mechanisms
in Emergency Response (II)
Dependency
Flow
• Agent
delegation
• Prerequisite
• Resource
sequence
Shen et al., UIUC, 4/02/05
Coordination Mechanism
Coordination Structure
Coordination Process
Pre-establish modular team structure.
“… what they have in Northwest Central is
three ring binder, one card, one agency,
and they got 700 levels.”
Real-time, synchronous
communication. “…by the end of this
year, every police department, fire
department, emergency management
agency, dispatch center will have at least
one radio per agency, so that we can talk.”
Centralized communication
coordinator. “Any ILEAS member … can
pick up the phone and call this number …
you give them a little bit information about
what you need, and they make all these
calls for you.”
Planning / scheduling. “We took all our
staffing … we made the plan for the next day. So
when the guy came in at 7 o’clock in the morning
relieving me at 8 o’clock, I sat down and said,
‘this is what you got’. So in the day, he made the
plan for the night shift, and he handed it to me…”
Efficient Deployment. “We will pick one of our
pre-planned sites to be our staging area and …
the dispatcher will tell anybody that’s coming ‘go
there, don’t come down to the tornado, go there
first’ … So they go do … instead of all showed up
in the middle of a mess.”
Notification, tracking. “They sent a person, who
would keep notification of their key personnel of
what’s going on during the tornado watch.”
Dynamic planning. “… plans don’t survive the
first contact … as soon as the first bullet’s
fired … things change… So you are gonna adjust
your plan as long as it’s in synch with the intent
of what you are supposed to do…”
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Finding – Coordination Mechanisms
in Emergency Response (III)
Dependency
Fit
• Task
qualification
• Activity
compatibility
• Goal
compatibility
Coordination Mechanism
Coordination Structure
Coordination Process
Hierarchical line of authority. “It was set up so that it
was me, and then I had a sergeant in charge of the
perimeter … I had a lieutenant here who was in charge of
interior. Then I had a sergeant in charge of the logistics.
Unified command structure. “… the policy makers from
the different jurisdictions would come here so that we
could have a unified decision making group in one
location.”
Unified codes and languages. “(in a joint task force),
they’ve got their own procedures and stuff, but more and
more it’s specified on a joint basis, where we are
combining our dictionaries, coming up with common
terms …”
More horizontal communication. “I assigned … an
Urbana officer with three other officers from another
department, and turned them into a squad of four people.”
Nesting goals. “So you want to look at what the higher
intent is, you also look at what other units are doing within
your organization … rather than everyone is just kind of
doing their own things, plan it so that everyone’s actions
are coordinated with a central focus.”
Automatic agent identification. “…let’s take
the bomb threat at the court house … if that’s a
threat, that information goes to the Sheriff’s
office, they are the law enforcement in the
jurisdiction of the court house, which is in this
plan. It automatically triggers us to send a
command post…”
Mutual adjustment. “in a response thing, if it’s
a unified type command, decision s are made
unilaterally among agencies… By sitting around
this table and figuring out what we want to do in
four hours, basically is a unilateral decision.”
Team meeting. “we had meetings every couple
of hours to make sure everybody was on the
same page.”
Qualification / standard. “By working with
these agencies all the time, know what their
resources are, how long it’s gonna take to get
something … If we need a shelter, I’ll call the
Red Cross, and I know in an hour or an hour
and a half, it’s gonna open.”
Shen et al., UIUC, 4/02/05
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Fit Between IT and Coordination
Mechanisms (I)
•
•
•
Coordination by prioritizing requires most updated, correct information
collected from the field and transmitted to the decision-makers
Using the boundary spanner introduces a lot of synchronous
communications between the boundary spanner and individual
agencies
Synchronized activities can be achieved by the real time
correspondences of orders and quick status reports between the
boundary spanner and various agencies.
Proposition 1: Managing sharing dependencies in emergency response
requires real time information collection, validation and transmission.
Communication needs to take place via any possible connection and in any
possible format, synchronously or asynchronously.
Shen et al., UIUC, 4/02/05
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Fit Between IT and Coordination
Mechanisms (II)
•
•
•
Having the ability to automatically track some given emergency situations
and notify the relevant agencies of any changes will allow the distributed, or
even dispersed groups of agencies to coordinate their activities.
Information manipulation capability, particularly all kinds of analytical,
modeling and simulation tools can serve as a great support for dynamic
planning.
Traditional synchronous voice communication, such as telephone, will not
be sufficient for the amount and type of communication needed, such as
real time notification, between distributed, diverse groups of agencies.
Proposition 2: Managing flow dependencies in emergency response calls
especially for technologies that support information manipulation, tracking
and notification. More asynchronous communications in format other than
voice will be used in addition to the traditional, synchronous voice
communication.
Shen et al., UIUC, 4/02/05
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Fit Between IT and Coordination
Mechanisms (III)
•
•
•
When databases of experts or resources are shared among agencies
and jurisdictions, by performing some easy data query, authorized
personnel can locate the expert or the particular resource needed for
the task immediately
Computational capabilities can be utilized to generate different
response consequence scenarios or simulate the combined result of
individual responses
The communication media should be rich and powerful enough to
facilitate near face-to-face meetings among group members who might
be physically distributed
Proposition 3: Managing fit dependencies in emergency response entails
database and knowledge management technologies, and modeling and
simulation capabilities. Communications will take place using more diverse
media choices and covering larger geographic areas.
Shen et al., UIUC, 4/02/05
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Using Information Technology for Effective Emergency …