Mastering the Dynamics of Crisis: Improving Situation Awareness in High-Risk, Time-Critical Emergency Operations


Arne Worm,Johan Jenvald,Magnus Morin


The striking properties of tactical emergency response operations can be characterized in brief as constantly increasing risks and resource demands, and constantly decreasing reaction times. These dynamic properties raise a demand for increased personal and equipment performance requirements, and escalating needs for personal protection. The emergency response and management community also call for unique and innovative approaches to the mission command and control problem. Improving operator and commander abilities to manage and master these dynamics will have decisive impact on all decisions and selections of action, mission course of events, logistics, the number of casualties, and many other vital components of emergency response or other kinds of severe crisis. However, the specific skills and properties that managers and operators have to possess in order to yield optimal mission performance in such critical and uncertain situations are not easily identified, and hence, they are difficult to improve.

In this paper we outline our work on development of theories and models for acquisition, processing and representation of safety- and time-critical information, intended to aid decision makers performing complex and dangerous emergency response operations. We illustrate our work by applying this approach to a simulated chemical disaster as part of a recently conducted full-scale emergency response exercise in Sweden. The results indicate that supporting individual and team situation awareness in the execution of an operation, yields improved mission resource management and overall unit mission efficiency, and enhances mission endurance of the units and systems engaged in the mission. Determined and forward exploitation and control of these real-time, safety-critical operational dynamics are vital for success.