The changing nature of emergency services multi-agency coordination
Owen, C, The changing nature of emergency services multi-agency coordination, Proceedings of the Bushfire CRC & AFAC Conference Science Day 2011, 1 September 2011, Sydney, Australia, pp. 214-233. ISBN 978-0-9806759-9-3 (2011) [Refereed Conference Paper]
One of the key issues arising from the 2009 Victorian Bushfires Royal Commission was whether organisational changes would benefit or hinder future emergency management response. This paper will report on research conducted in the first Bushfire CRC research program. The research included a survey to obtain emergency management personnel perceptions about the suitability of the relevant Incident Control Systems (ICS) in use during fire and emergency management of natural disaster events. The survey was completed with organisational survey data collected from 870 respondents engaged in emergency management work across 25 agencies in Australia and New Zealand.
The research indicates that the original functional purpose of the (ICS) used in Australia (Australasian Inter-Service Incident Management System or AIIMS) and its complement in New Zealand (Coordinated Incident Management System or CIMS) works well, particularly in predictable and routine emergency events. There is, however, evidence to suggest that AIIMS/CIMS processes are strained under conditions of escalation - when emergencies are complex - and that this creates different kinds of tensions for personnel working in different parts of the system.
This paper develops and tests a model of emergency management coordination based on key attributes identified in a factor analysis, and tests the model using structural equation modelling. The findings show that the coordination through organisational processes and distributed collaboration between teams better explained satisfaction with information quality and inter-agency interoperability than within-team communication. Implications for the future of managing dynamic events through the formation of supra-organisational temporary configurations are discussed.