Inderscience Publishers

Emergency management and the information society: how to improve the synergy?

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This paper deals with the paradox of the relatively low integration of Information Technologies and Communication Technologies in the field of emergency management. This fact earns our attention, since difficulties during the management of emergencies and crisis are most often related to these two issues, information management and communication. The analysis of the activity of emergency management shows that this domain is different from other industrial and business activities because of the complexity of situations in terms of uncertainty, number of stakeholders, space and time extension, the potential of damage of any incident if not properly managed, the importance of human and organisational factors and the generalised use of tacit knowledge accumulated with experience. Success of emergency management is of great importance for the safety of local communities. Risk management of a local community is a process which urges interaction between the authorities and other stakeholders, most importantly with citizens. In this respect, ICT can provide useful tools. Yet to benefit from these new tools, we need to gain a proper understanding of real needs for information, of the model of existing information exchange and of ways of communication in the stakeholders' society. As result of the analysis performed, the main roots of the lack of integration of ICT in emergency management have been identified. Most of the problems come from the difficulty in understanding the complexity of EM and in accessing the tacit knowledge of practitioners, which are essential to determine specifications of appropriate ICT systems. A methodology to access the experience of EM practitioners and to formalise this knowledge has been developed. It uses unstructured interviews with stakeholders at different levels of the hierarchy, a formalisation in particles of experience and the validation and sharing of this collective experience. Beyond its objective, this methodology also creates opportunities to develop the culture of risk and the resilience of organisations.

Keywords: emergency telecommunications, organisational learning, emergency management, ICT

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