Research leader

Associate Prof Chris Bearman
A/Prof Chris Bearman Research Leader

Research team

Dr Benjamin Brooks Research Team
Dr Christine Owen
Dr Christine Owen Research Team
Dr Steven Curnin Research Team

End User representatives

Heather Stuart
Heather Stuart End-User
Sandra Whight
Sandra Whight End-User
Geoff Kaandorp End-User
Phil Robeson End-User
Alen Slijepcevic
Mark Swiney
Mark Swiney End-User
Mike Grant
Mike Grant End-User
John Santiago End-User
Mike Wouters
Mike Wouters End-User
Mark Thomason End-User
Dr Peter Hayes
Peter Hayes End-User
Rob McNeil End-User

Emergencies are increasing in complexity, duration, and the number of agencies involved. This is likely to lead to an increasing number of errors being made, breakdowns in teams and degraded operational situations. These problems will play out within the context of a decreasing tolerance in the community and their political representatives. Rather than distributing the blame to individuals we need to acknowledge that errors and breakdowns in emergency management teams will occur, and that it is important to seek and manage them in a mature and systematic way.

The current project has three main research streams that are examining team monitoring, decision making and organisational learning.

Better methods to monitor teams and to detect breakdowns and disconnects that can impair operational performance have been developed under the team monitoring stream. The decision making stream has developed checklists which help people make better decisions in complex situations, through a number of decision making training modules.

The organisational learning stream has identified the barriers to effective research utilisation. A maturity-based organisational learning framework has been created under this stream which has also identified the barriers involved with effective research utilisation.

Team Monitoring

The Emergency Management Breakdown Aide Memoire and the Team Process Checklist have been developed to assist emergency management teams deal with breakdowns in communication. Click here to use an interactive version of the Emergency Management Breakdown Aide Memoire and the Team Process Checklist. Click here to download a guide on how to use the Emergency Management Breakdown Aide Memoire and the Team Process Checklist.

The Aide Memoire is a checklist that helps to recognise team breakdowns through their outputs (for example, incident action plans) and formal/informal organisational networks. It also offers a five-step practical resolution strategy.

The Team Process Checklist is designed to provide a health check for teams and, if there is a problem, to help determine what that problem is. This tool is designed to assist people to think through three aspects of effective teamwork: communication, coordination and cooperation.

The checklists help emergency managers to strengthen teamwork before, during and after response and recovery efforts. The tools can be used during training, during emergencies, and in after-action reviews, as well as a way to reflect on teamwork during periods of relative calm. They are a flexible way to examine teamwork from many perspectives. Click here to read about the success of the checklists, which were made available in Hazard Note 33.

The checklists are now being used by team members, team leaders, independent observers and external people who have operational oversight (for example, regional coordinators). They have been adopted by the South Australian Country Fire Service, the Tasmania Fire Service and have been used operationally by the NSW State Emergency Service.

End-users have been actively engaged throughout the project, with the human-centered design process placing them at the centre of an iterative cycle of development and testing.

At the beginning of the project the research team visited 18 emergency management agencies in Australia and New Zealand. The purpose of the meetings was to observe real life and simulated emergencies. They identified that team monitoring was often not done effectively and that there was typically little guidance surrounding how to monitor teams within most agencies.

The next stage of the project was to complete a comprehensive literature review that examined how team monitoring is carried out from the position of operational oversight in emergency management and other related high reliability industries.

Five studies were conducted to examine the checklists in real life and simulated operational situations. Feedback was obtained and used to improve the checklists after the studies. A research paper on this feedback and the project more broadly were published in the Australian Journal of Emergency Management. Click here to read that paper.

Two evaluation studies have also been conducted. The participants rated the checklist out of five on: how useful it was in helping them think about how the team performed; how clear the questions were and how comprehensive the checklist was (i.e. the extent to which it identified all the problems and good aspects of teamwork). Overall the checklist was rated a 4.19 on usefulness, 4.34 on clarity and 4.25 on comprehensiveness.

Year Type Citation
2018 Journal Article Bearman, C., Rainbird, S., Brooks, B., Owen, C. & Curnin, S. A literature review of methods for providing enhanced operational oversight of teams in emergency management. International Journal of Emergency Management 14, (2018).
2018 Journal Article Owen, C., Hayes, P., Brooks, B., Scott, C. & Conway, G. Evidence to support incident management team capability. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 33, 5 (2018).
2018 Journal Article Owen, C., Brooks, B., Curnin, S. & Bearman, C. Enhancing learning in emergency services organisational work. Australian Journal of Public Administration (2018). doi:https://doi.org/10.1111/1467-8500.12309
2018 Journal Article Owen, C. How emergency services organisations can – and do – utilise research. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 33, (2018).
2018 Journal Article Brooks, B., Curnin, S., Bearman, C. & Owen, C. Human error during the multilevel responses to three Australian bushfire disasters. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management 26, (2018).
2018 Report Bearman, C., Brooks, B., Owen, C., Curnin, S. & Bancroft, H. Decision making, team monitoring and organisational learning in emergency management: annual project report 2017-18. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2018).
2017 Conference Paper Brooks, B., Curnin, S., Bearman, C. & Owen, C. Identifying lessons from exercising and training for emergency management decision-making. AFAC17 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2017).
2017 Conference Paper Rumsewicz, M. Research proceedings from the 2017 Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and AFAC Conference. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC & AFAC annual conference 2017 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2017).
2017 Conference Paper Bearman, C., Rainbird, S., Owen, C., Brooks, B. & Curnin, S. Enhancing team performance. AFAC17 (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2017).
2017 Journal Article Owen, C., Krusel, N., Bearman, C. & Brooks, B. From research outcome to agency change: mapping a learning trajectory of opportunities and challenges. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 32, (2017).
2017 Journal Article Grunwald, J. & Bearman, C. Identifying and resolving coordinated decision making breakdowns in emergency management. International Journal of Emergency Management 13, (2017).
2017 Journal Article Bearman, C., Grunwald, J., Brooks, B. & Owen, C. Tools for monitoring teams in emergency management: EMBAM and TBM. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 32, (2017).
2017 Report Bearman, C. et al. Decision making, team monitoring and organisational learning in emergency management: annual project report 2016-17. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2017).
2016 Journal Article Bosomworth, K., Owen, C. & Curnin, S. Addressing challenges for future strategic-level emergency management: reframing, networking and capacity building. Disasters 41, 306-323 (2016).
2016 Journal Article Brooks, B., Curnin, S., Bearman, C., Owen, C. & Rainbird, S. An assessment of the opportunities to improve strategic decision-making in emergency and disaster management. Australian Journal of Emergency Management (2016). at <https://knowledge.aidr.org.au/resources/ajem-oct-2016-an-assessment-of-the-opportunities-to-improve-strategic-decision-making-in-emergency-and-disaster-management/>
2016 Journal Article Owen, C., Brooks, B., Bearman, C. & Curnin, S. Values and complexities in assessing strategic-level emergency management effectiveness. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management 24, 181-190 (2016).
2016 Journal Article Bearman, C. & Bremner, P. A. Don't just do something, stand there! Mitigating goal seduction in emergency management. National Emergency Response 29, 12-17 (2016).
2016 Report Bearman, C. et al. Decision making, team monitoring and organisational learning in emergency management: Annual project report 2015-2016. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2016).
2016 Report Bearman, C., Rainbird, S., Brooks, B. & Owen, C. Proposed tools for monitoring teams in emergency management. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2016).
2015 Conference Paper Owen, C., Brooks, B. & Bearman, C. Challenges of Measuring Emergency Management Performance Under Adversity: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly Conference Paper 2014. Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC and AFAC Wellington Conference 2014 (2015).
2015 Journal Article Bhandari, R., Owen, C. & Trist, C. Incident Management Approaches above the Incident Management Team Level in Australia. Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management 12, 101-119 (2015).
2015 Journal Article Bearman, C., Grunwald, J., Brooks, B. & Owen, C. Breakdowns in coordinated decision making at and above the incident management team level: An analysis of three large scale Australian wildfires. Applied Ergonomics 47, 16-25 (2015).
2015 Journal Article Owen, C., Scott, C., Adams, R. & Parsons, D. Leadership in crisis: developing beyond command and control. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 30, (2015).
2015 Report Bearman, C. Decision making, team monitoring and organisational performance: Part three team performance monitoring research stream. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2015).
2015 Report Brooks, B. & Curnin, S. Decision making, team monitoring and organisational performance: Part two decision making research stream. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2015).
2015 Report Bearman, C. et al. Decision making, team monitoring and organisational performance: Part One Executive Summary. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2015).
2015 Report Bearman, C. et al. Practical decision tools for improved decision-making in complex, time-constrained and multi-team environments: Annual project report 2014-2015. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2015).
2015 Report Owen, C. Decision making, team monitoring and organisational performance: Part four organisational performance research stream. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 2015).
2015 Report Bearman, C., Brooks, B. & Owen, C. Practical Decision Tools for Improved Decision-Making in Complex Situations Annual Report 2014. (2015).
Practical decision tools for improved decision-making in complex situations
25 Aug 2014
There is increasing pressure on agencies from larger-scale natural hazards, financial constraints and...
A Twelve Step Program Towards Safety Redemption in Emergency Management
18 Aug 2015
The journey towards a mature system for managing safety has previously been imagined as a 'ladder' that...
Decision Making, Team Monitoring and Organisational Learning
18 Aug 2015
This Project aims to provide enhanced ways of:Making decisions in complex situationsMonitoring teams to...
Chris Bearman Conference Poster 2016
12 Aug 2016
This project has three main research streams that are:•Providing enhanced methods of making decisions;•...
Decision making, team monitoring & organisational learning: 2017 update
30 Jun 2017
This project has three main research streams that are:Providing enhanced methods of making decisions;...
Decision Making, Team Monitoring & Organizational Learning: 2018 Update
18 Sep 2018
The project is providing practical techniques and strategies to help people function in more complex EM...