Simulation as a tool for problem detection in rescue operation planning.


Leifler O.,Jenvald J


Management and response in the case of an emergency is a very demanding task. Rescue missions can involve numerous individuals and teams working together to save lives and property. The outcome of a rescue mission depends to a large extent on the responding units’ ability to co-operate and the overall co-ordination of their efforts. This in turn makes it important to investigate how to support the decision makers in emergency situations. The evacuation of multiple victims from an incident scene requires overall situation assessment, triage, first aid and efficient use of different transportation resources. From the time when the incident alert reach the emergency call operator to the end of the rescue mission, a flow of information will reach dispatchers, commanders, team leaders and first responders. In this chaotic environment the rescue commander must create his situation awareness and manage immediate decision problems as well as make plans in advance. The initial problem is to assess the magnitude of the incident and to allocate the proper amount of rescue resources. As the mission evolves the initial plan has to be revised due to known and unknown constraints, changes, and miss-calculations. Computer-based support tools can be valuable in planning the use of multiple resources with various properties. Even when managing a limited number of different resources it soon becomes hard for a human to efficiently control the use of them. If we add time pressure, life threatening situations and lack in communication, we have further increased the complexity of the situation.

In this paper we describe simulation as a tool for detecting possible problems when planning for rescue operations. During the planning process, we use a simulation engine and an automatic planner to check for possible problems with the current mission plan. That is, we use the current mission plan and updated information from the field to continuously check the plan against constraints and time-lags that may have appeared. If the system detects that the current situation deviates from the plan or if the plan is revised by the mission commander, a simulation is initiated to explore possible problems and to find alternative solutions. The results are presented in different views and our goal is to provide the commander with information that he can act on before a problem appears. In this way, the plan will incrementally evolve during the mission and hopefully reflect the realities of the situation to higher extent than the initial plan. The system will support the decision maker by alerting for future problems in the plan and by generating descriptions of alternative actions that will avoid the problem if possible. However, the decision maker still has to make the decisions and continue to manage the mission.