Resilience to Hazards

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Multi team incident management
Multi team incident management

Project Status:

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.

Improving decision-making in complex multi-team environments - April update

Improving decision-making in complex multi-team environments - Decision making case study

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

Improving decision-making in complex multi-team environments case study - Jeremy Smith

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

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.

3 August, 2018
The July 2018 edition of the Australian Journal of Emergency Management focuses on the inclusion of the disabled population in disaster management and research.
Learning from past experiences is integral to emergency management. Photo: South Australia SES (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)
15 June, 2018

Two CRC end-users have spoken about their first-hand experiences being involved in a research project that is shaping the way emergency managers think, learn and communicate information to their teams in highly stressful environments.

These case studies form part of the Improving decision-making in complex multi-team environments project lead by A/Prof Dr Chris Bearman.

During emergencies, individuals and teams often work under considerable pressure. Photo: New Zealand Fire Service.
1 June, 2018
There is a lot happening at an incident management centre when a bushfire, flood or cyclone occurs but two checklists are helping emergency management teams carry out effective teamwork.
Drivers for the coaching and mentoring resource include unique demands on IMT roles. Photo: Victoria State Emergency Service
31 May, 2018
Issue Two of Fire Australia for 2018 includes stories on two tools that are resolving breakdowns in teamwork, the findings from three catastrophic bushfires in NSW and a showcase of the latest CRC research that is resulting in real world outcomes for our partners.
21 May, 2018
All new journal articles and reports on CRC research have been made available this month and are available online.
4 May, 2018
The latest edition of the Australian Journal of Emergency Management is now available, informed by CRC research and expertise.
Japan deployment. Photo: Tim Fox AFSM
29 March, 2018
A new national learning and training resource has been created by researchers to strengthen leadership and learning.
Photo: New Zealand Fire Service
18 December, 2017

Teamwork is essential to ensure incident management teams function to the best of their ability in challenging and high stakes environments. To help improve teamwork, practical tools have been developed by the Improving decision-making in complex multi-team environments project, led by Associate Professor Chris Bearman at CQUniversity.

Photo: Rob and Stephanie Levy (CC BY 2.0)
14 December, 2017
Incident management research from the Bushfire and Natural Hazards CRC has helped the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services assess operations during Severe Tropical Cyclone Debbie earlier this year.
Post fire field work
17 November, 2017
New journal articles and reports on CRC research are available online.
AJEM cover October 2017
8 November, 2017
Many peer-reviewed papers from the AFAC17 powered by INTERSCHUTZ Research Forum have been published in a special edition of the Australian Journal of Emergency Management.
CRC sign
13 September, 2017
New journal articles and reports on CRC research are available online.
BlazeAid volunteers
27 February, 2017
Emergency services want to build ‘resilience’ into communities. A CRC researcher has developed a way to teach it to students.
Fire Australia cover
27 February, 2017
Firestorms, disaster resilience and fire preparation in Bangladesh are featured in the latest edition of Fire Australia magazine, with Issue One for 2017 out now.
AJEM January 2017 cover
31 January, 2017
Highlights from the International Day for Disaster Reduction and CRC research on incident management and communicating tsunami risk are featured in the latest edition of the Australian Journal of Emergency Management.
Incident management is being informed by new research. Photo CFA.
25 January, 2017
Research is informing how incident management teams function to the best of their ability in challenging and high stakes environments.
Flood hazard
16 November, 2016
The latest videos featuring CRC researchers, PhD students and end-users explaining our science and the benefits it will bring are now online.
15 April, 2016
New journal articles and reports on CRC research are available online.
15 March, 2016
New journal articles and reports on CRC research are available.
Year Type Citation
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. How emergency services organisations can – and do – utilise research. Australian Journal of Emergency Management 33, (2018).
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 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 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 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 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 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 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. 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 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).
2015 Report Bearman, C. Decision making, team monitoring and organisational performance: Part three team performance monitoring research stream. (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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