Small scale field-experiment for improved situation reporting

Today, I had the opportunity to study a small yet powerful field experiment at the County Administrative Board of Västra Götaland. The county administrative board has a geographical responsibility for crisis preparedness and crisis response at the regional level. The field experiment took place at the county administrative board’s newly designed situation room facilities.

At the field experiment, the TiB-organization (the duty officers) tested new ways of conducting multi-actor situation reporting conferences. In a series of small scale, yet cleverly designed, sessions, the duty officer invited three different fire & rescue services, the police, the paramedic organization, the national 112-organization, the traffic authority and the Swedish meteorological and hydrological institute to participate in a multi-actor situation conference.
Until now, such conferences have mainly been done in the form of a multi-actor teleconference, where verbal reports are the mechanism for sharing information. But today, the multi-actor conference was mediated using collaborative tools, opening up for a richer set of mechanisms for information sharing.

The field experiment provided several insights regarding the delicate balance of striving for improved communication capabilities while at the same time keeping a strong attention to avoid the addition of unwanted side-effects. The session today also showed how a cleverly designed field experiment can be accomplished without creating a hyped expectation bubble that most experiments rarely are able to fulfill. The county administrative board presented great skills in running a field experiment that was nicely embedded into the ongoing discussions on how to further improve multi-actor situation reporting.

Many thanks to Marcus Green, Charlotta Källerfeldt, Maria Göransson for arranging the event, and also many thanks to Malin Lintzen, Per Marklund, and Per-olof Hårsmar (SMHI) for the experimental design.

 

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Maximized inspiration after a great week of field work at MSB:s national situation room.

It is nice to be back at the office with loads of impressions and ideas after a fantastic week of field work at a National Situation Room at the Swedish Civil Contingencies Agency (MSB) in Karlstad.
The field studies are a direct consequence of the insightful workshops hosted by JRCC/ Ispra with Tom de Groeve and his team of researchers, where these workshops during 2013 and 2014 provided me the network necessary to make the field studies possible. So, thank you Tom!
Another group of researchers that have had significant inspiration for me during the field studies are Kees Boersma and Jeroen Wolbers with their provocative yet constructive way of discussing the consequences of applying a too strong command and control management model instead of exploring other possibilities that might be more feasible, or could open up for new design perspectives. Thanks Kees and Jeroen!

From a system support point of view, it is fascinating to see how little traditional command center work that is evident in a situation room. My conclusion from the field studies are that we probably have new category of solutions waiting to be designed if we truly would like to further support the work in situation rooms. Solutions that are based on a command center idea will likely fail to support and extend situation room work practices.

Since situation rooms is an interesting socio-technical setting for authorities on national levels, but also an environment and a way of working that we also see traces of on regional and even local levels. One could assume that the new category of solutions that target situation room work, might be of general interest rather than being specific for a very limited group of people.

As one might realize at this point of this blog post, the field studies were great and provided a material that is truly inspiring to start analyzing. So, lastly, thank you all at MSB for the welcoming atmosphere and openness.

Kort reflektion kring ERCC-artikeln i Tjugofyra7

I det aktuella numret av MSBs tidning Tjugofyra7 finns en artikel om ERCC som beskriver deras uppdrag och tillgång till en rad olika informationssystem. Artikeln beskriver på ett bra sätt centrala aspekter av ERCC och deras beredskap. Dock gör jag följande reflektion då det är lätt att bli förblindad av all flimrande teknik som återfinns i lägescentraler. Det är faktiskt så att mycket av den teknik i form av stora videoskärmar och informationssystem som varnar för annalkande katastrofer också är tillgängliga för vem som helst.

Stora skärmar och projektorer finns att köpa på vilket köpcenter som helst (nej inte med samma möjlighet att anpassa innehållet som på en videovägg men dock snarlikt).

ERCC picture
Tidningen Tjugofyra7 med artikeln om ERCC

På bilden med Bart Materne som poserar framför den stora videoväggen återfinns Google Earth ( som är gratis att använda), vidare visas på skärmen i mitten GDACS som också är öppen och fri att använda, och på den vänstra skärmen finns en situation report som finns fritt tillgänglig via Reliefweb.

Det är värt att poängtera att en del av den information som behövs för att genomföra kontinuerlig omvärldsbevakning är baserad på öppen information eller via öppna informationssystem som till och med privatpersoner har tillgång till. Därmed inte sagt att lägescentraler saknar en unik kapacitet. Jag skulle istället vilja påstå att lägescentraler likt den hos ERCC har en mycket unik kapacitet men som snarare är relaterad till metodik än teknik. Tyvärr är en fungerande metodik till skillnad mot teknikstöd inget som kan upphandlas och monteras.

Avslutningsvis vill jag poängtera att min reflektion inte skall läsas som en kritik av reportaget i Tjugofyra7 då jag tycker att redaktionen gör ett mycket bra arbete.

Lägesbild i de stora sammanhangen – inspiration från UN/OCHA

I förra veckan träffade jag personer från UN/OCHA i samband med ISCRAM Summerschool on Humanitarian operations, på övningsanläggningen Campus Vesta i Belgien. Både professionella och doktorander deltog i sommarskolan som organiserades av min kollegor på Disaster Resilience Lab (DRC). Naturligtvis blev det många och långa samtal om utmaningar kring situationsförståelse, meningsskapande och lägesbild. Särskilt fokus hamnade också på hur olika lägesbildsprodukter skapas och för vilket syfte. UN/OCHA pratar inte särskilt mycket om lägesbild i termer av Common Operation Picture utan fokuserar istället på produkten Situation Reports. UN/OCHAs beskrivning av syftet med Situation Reports ligger väl i linje med hur vi i MSBs LoS-projekt pratar om samlad lägesbild. Enligt OCHA har en situation report följande syfte:

  • A Situation Report is a concise operational document intended to support the coordination of humanitarian response in an acute crisis. It should provide an update on the current needs, response and gaps in a given emergency.

  • A Situation Report helps actors directly involved in the humanitarian emergency to be aware of ongoing work, and to inform the wider humanitarian community and other interested stakeholders about developments in the field. It is also used for advocacy and resource mobilization.

  • A Situation Report should give a factual and neutral account of an emergency response. To the extent possible in the time frame available, a Situation Report should analyse and report on trends in the situation and the response.

  • In some cases, it may be relevant to issue a regional Situation Report covering multiple countries affected by a crisis. These regional reports provide a broad overview of the response across the region and compare the priority needs and gaps of each affected country. These reports are therefore less operationally focused.

  • There should be only one version of an OCHA Situation Report in the public domain at a time. For example, the field should not circulate Situation Report No. 1, which is then slightly altered by Headquarters but also issued as Situation Report No. 1. (See below: Frequency.)

(Utdrag från 01_Guidance_OCHA Situation Report_October 2012.pdf)

Här finns det en rad formuleringar och underliggande intentioner som går att översätta till och använda i en svensk kontext, även om de stora sammanhangens klustermodell inte används i Sverige. Punkterna ovan bör kunna inspirera till värdefulla diskussioner både hos kommunal räddningstjänst och svensk polismyndigheten utifrån de erfarenheter som gjorts de senaste dagarna och veckorna.

Multi-authority COP should not be the aggregation of specific local authorities COPs.

Yesterday, I had a full-day of exciting work with Associate professor Erik Borglund and the ‘societal security project-ninja’ Malin Lintzen as part of the MSB-project Ledning och Samverkan (LoS) and the work package on Information sharing and Common operating picture. Based on the models we have developed during this project, in combination with empirical insights collected during the last few months, tentative results are under construction.

Governmental authorities seems to have a fairly good capacity in creating COPs that address and support the specific authorities own management of a dynamic societal disturbance. This is not surprising in the light of the significant resources that MSB has provided in terms of education, exercises and development funding (2:4-funding) during the last few years.

Government authorities seems to have a much weaker capacity in creating COPs that address and support the mutual efforts in multi-agency collaboration to manage dynamic societal disturbances. This could be seen as surprising since, some scholars argue that Multi-agency COPs are just an aggregation of local COPs. But, our empirical insights point in a different direction. The possibility to aggregate data from an Authoritity-specific level to a higher common Multi-agency level seems too often to lead to information overload and lack of comprehension for the involved parties. ‘ -You share information but very little comes back’ is a common frustration expressed by local authorities.

Instead of focusing on aggregation of information, we are exploring how ‘translation’ between levels or ‘condensation’ of information could be more valid concepts. One could argue that this is just a language-game where the term ‘aggregation’ is just replaced with other and perhaps fancier terms. Such interpretation is wrong. Not very surprisingly, we have identified that specific and different affordances will emerge in the materialization of technology artifacts dependent of how the problem-domain is conceptualized.  This is yet again not a very new insight but the identification of the desired and specific affordances of Multi-authority COPs are far from well-known.

In addition, the implication of these still emerging insights is that key technology for supporting the creation of Multi-authority COPs in Sweden faces the risk of have been based on an inadequate theoretical foundation combined with a limited awareness of the heterogeneity of work practices.

Oh yes…. a research-paper is in work-in-progress.

Fusion centers och samlad lägesbild – fler likheter än skillnader avseende de generella utmaningarna.

Här kommer ett tips om intressant läsning från FHS och CATS – centrum för studier av asymmetriska hot- och terrorist studier. För den som är intresserad av problemställningar kring lägesbild finns det all anledning att ta del av FHS-rapport om Fusion Centers. Fusion Centers kan på ett något förenklat sätt beskrivs som en funktion för samordnad och integrerad analys inom underrättelse området.

Vid en genomläsning är det lätt att fastna men också fascineras av de domänspecifika utmaningarna, men de slutsatser som presenteras i rapporten är dock av hög generaliserbarhet också för andra aktörer som kanske inte upplever att underrättelseanalys är en god beskrivning av vad deras arbete handlar om.

Mot bakgrund av den kunskap som tagits fram inom ramen för MSBs projekt kring Ledning och Samverkan (LoS) och specifikt det som delprojekt 3 med fokus på Informationsdelning och lägesbild har adresserat, finns värdefulla likheter mellan insikterna i projektet och FHS-rapport.

Rapporten finns att ladda ner från FHS-publikationer.

A Perfect Storm?

Today has Swedish media made big headlines about a storm that will strike the western and southern part of Sweden during the night between monday and tuesday. The local newspaper Göteborgs-Posten has started live-reporting about the storm. The storm might result in significant problems for fundamental societal functions. For all of us involved in crisis response research and practice, this storm presents a perfect opportunity to study as well as test improved procedures for establishing common operating picture across large networks of actors. Having said this, lets hope that the consequences for people and property will be kept to an absolute minimum.