News from the CRC

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Photo: New Zealand Fire Service
Photo: New Zealand Fire Service
Release date
18 Dec 2017
More information:
Loriana Bethune
Utilisation and DELWP Program Manager

Working as a team

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.

The tools, a Team Process Checklist and an Emergency Management Aide Memoire, cover communication, coordination and cooperation and include helpful suggestions on how to identify and resolve teamwork problems during complex situations.

Emergency services have been engaged throughout development, with information sought from 18 separate agencies ranging from state emergency services, urban fire, rural fire and local councils. Agencies allowed the research team to monitor both real and simulated emergency situations from within incident management centres, as well as providing feedback throughout the prototype stage. This has led to tools that are tailored specifically for emergency managers.

The tools are flexible, and can be used as a health check to ensure the team is functioning effectively, to identify suspected problems, as a debrief tool and as a way to foster better teamwork. They have been used to better manage teams during incidents, to reflect on teamwork during periods of relative calm, and for assessment or debrief during training. The South Australian Country Fire Service, Tasmania Fire Service and NSW State Emergency Service have adopted the tools and the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services sought out the expertise of the team in the aftermath of Severe Tropical Cyclone Debbie in 2017 to inform future preparation, response and recovery.

Those who work in incident management teams, strike teams and at regional and state operations centres can see the most benefit, believes Mark Thomason, Manager Risk and Lessons Management at the South Australia Country Fire Service.

“The tools developed by the research are of great benefit to emergency managers to ensure their teams are functioning to the best of their ability,” Mark says.

“They are invaluable not only during operational response, but also in debriefs and training.”

The Tasmania Fire Service used the tools during the 2015-2016 fi re season, which saw TFS responding to many major bushfires over two months. The tools helped to ensure communication between different teams was efficient and timely during a highly stressful time.

Jeremy Smith, the TFS Deputy Chief Officer during the fires, highly recommends the tools to other emergency managers.  

“These tools have been validated and developed through a body of research. The support they provide for incident management is vital,” Jeremy says.

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