Resilience to Hazards

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Multi team incident management
Multi team incident management

Project Status:

How can incident management teams function to the best of their ability in challenging and high stakes environments? This research has developed practical techniques and strategies to help emergency managers to function in complex situations – situations which can exert extreme pressures on response and management teams, sometimes causing breakdowns in teamwork that can lead to impaired operational response.

Two tools have been developed, the Emergency Management Breakdown Aide Memoire and the Team Process Checklist. The tools’ flexibility and ease of use helps emergency managers to strengthen teamwork before, during and after emergencies. The tools can be used during training, during emergencies, and in after-action reviews. Agencies that are already trialling these techniques include the South Australian Country Fire Service, Tasmania Fire Service and NSW State Emergency Service.

Practical decision tools for decision-making in emergency management - project overview

How can incident management teams function to the best of their ability in challenging and high stakes environments? This research has developed practical techniques and strategies to help emergency managers to function in complex situations – situations which can exert extreme pressures on response and management teams, sometimes causing breakdowns in teamwork that can lead to impaired operational response.

Two tools have been developed, the Emergency Management Breakdown Aide Memoire and the Team Process Checklist. The tools’ flexibility and ease of use helps emergency managers to strengthen teamwork before, during and after emergencies. The tools can be used during training, during emergencies, and in after-action reviews. Agencies that are already trialling these techniques include the South Australian Country Fire Service, Tasmania Fire Service and NSW State Emergency Service.

The tools are a very flexible way to examine teamwork from many perspectives. They are being used as a health check to ensure the team is functioning effectively, to identify suspected problems, as a debrief tool and to foster better teamwork. They are utilised in real time during an incident, as a way to reflect on teamwork during periods of relative calm, and as an assessment and/or debrief tool during training. They are being used by team members, team leaders, external people who have operational oversight (for example, regional coordinators) and by independent observers.

End-user partners have been engaged throughout the study, with information sought from 18 separate agencies ranging from state emergency services, urban fire, rural fire and local councils.

The project has also investigated organisational learning, identifying broad challenges that agencies need to manage in order to enhance and sustain learning. These include shifting value from action post an event, to reflection, focusing on the bigger picture and allowing enough time to effectively embed the new practices after an emergency. A key insight for agencies interested in facilitating improvements in learning is to locate potential weak links in the learning cycle and to develop a better understanding of how to learn.

Longer term utilisation of this research will embed the techniques, strategies and tools in the formal emergency management system, as well as development of an improved learning culture across the sector.

About the Emergency Management Breakdown Aide Memoire

The Emergency Management Breakdown Aide Memoire is a checklist that helps people to recognise teamwork breakdowns through team outputs (for example, incident action plans) and formal/informal organisational networks. It also provides some practical resolution strategies.

About the Team Process Checklist

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 teamwork: communication, coordination and cooperation.

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Year Type Citation
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 Journal Article Grunwald, J. & Bearman, C. Identifying and resolving coordinated decision making breakdowns in emergency management. International Journal of Emergency Management 13, (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 Report Bearman, C., Rainbird, S., Brooks, B. & Owen, C. Proposed tools for monitoring teams in emergency management. (Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC, 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).
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 Owen, C., Scott, C., Adams, R. & Parsons, D. Leadership in crisis: developing beyond command and control. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 30, (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 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).
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).
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 declining volunteer numbers.

Key Topics:
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 organisations need to climb. Our research suggests there are twelve steps on this ladder for an organisation to achieve 'safety redemption'.

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Decision Making, Team Monitoring and Organisational Learning
18 Aug 2015

This Project aims to provide enhanced ways of:

  • Making decisions in complex situations
  • Monitoring teams to detect problems
  • Learning from operational performance
Key Topics:
Chris Bearman Conference Poster 2016
12 Aug 2016

This project has three main research streams that are:
•Providing enhanced methods of making decisions;
•Developing methods to better monitor and modify the behavior of teams
•Identifying the enablers and barriers to organizational learning

Key Topics:
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;
  • Developing methods to better monitor and modify the behavior of teams
  • Identifying the enablers and barriers to organizational learning

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