Keywords: emergency management, training, artefact use, collocated work, distributed work, real-time exercise, inter-organisational coordination, cooperation, information technology, communications, ICT, Sweden, electricity companies, telecommunications companies
A case study of information and communication technology in emergency management training
This paper addresses the roles of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) in training for effective emergency management and inter-organisational coordination. Collocation can encourage the development of common ground and trust and, in turn, result in greater efficiency and effectiveness. We expect to find communication and artefact use during collocated training that cannot readily transfer to the ICT used to link distributed work settings. This expectation makes the reliance on ICT and distributed work during emergency management operations suspect. To test these claims, we observed a large-scale, real-time exercise designed to facilitate cooperation among electricity and telecommunications companies. The exercise scenario was similar to the January 2005 windstorm that left much of southern Sweden without electricity or telephone service and revealed the need for better cooperation among utility providers. The observations suggest that while collocation is clearly beneficial, a mismatch in ICT use between collocated training and distributed emergency management operations is likely to be detrimental for preparedness.