Field experiment to investigate information technology in operative work

This week, we conducted a field experiment or field exercise with a fire crew at a fire and rescue services in the southern Sweden. The exercise aimed to further explore design implications for successful IT-use in fire crews operative emergency response work. The exercise was run as a cooperation between the Public Safety Research Group at the Viktoria Institute, the local fire services and a large industrial production plant.
A networked prototype was use to mediate incident and location specific information, UMTS/3G-connectivity was provided to two tabletpcs via mobilephones and bluetooth. The fire crew were equipped with one tabletpc for the crew commander having the role as incident commander. The other tabletpc was used by the search & rescue team, part of the fire crew. The exercise was documented using two teams with two persons in each team. The two teams videorecorded and made observations of the use of the prototype. A third person recorded the radio traffic. My role was to coordinate the documentation activities and making sure that the exercise was runnign smoothly.
The exercise was successful and we collected valuable data that we will analyze in detail during the nex few months. After the exercise was a shorter reflection and feedback session held, resulting in additional valuable feedback from the fire crew.
The results will be used to further develop our understanding in the challanges in designing information technology that complies to the incident command structure (ICS) as well as improves the situated emergency response work of the fire crew.
It is not too bold to say that fieldexperiments or exercises where new technology is introduced and studied provides excellent opportunities for designers and researchers.
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