1.4 Collaborative Emergency Management Messaging: Eliminating Fragmentation of 6-Critical Elements

Wednesday, 10 June 2015: 2:15 PM
303 (Raleigh Convention Center)
Kenneth Galluppi, Arizona State University, Mesa, AZ; and S. F. Piltz, K. Nuckles, and B. E. Montz

In previous studies, the authors have found that during weather-driven disasters, emergency managers are looking for six critical elements of information that lead to understanding. These include: what the hazard is and its potential impact, where will it impact, when will it impact, how long (duration) it will impact, what has it been doing (history or climatology), and how sure (confidence) is the information provider. This collection of information acts as a packet of knowledge underlying understanding, and more specifically, understanding with confidence that enables decision-making. We have seen that when any of the elements are missing, confidence is lower and may lead to decision delays in order to find new or corroborating information, decisions are made followed by distracting verifying actions, or erroneous decisions might be made. The first step in decision-making is gathering and organizing the six critical elements of information to develop an understanding often called inappropriately situational awareness. In the current weather-EM social network, communicating the six critical elements however, is fragmented across weather products and across organizations that produce and consume this information. In this study, we have focused on three factors that lead to the success of conveying the six critical elements about forecasted severe weather and their impacts to the emergency management community: complete information conveyance, content understanding or competence, and availability of delivery mechanisms. As part of an ongoing collaboration with the National Weather Service in Tulsa, OK, researchers from Arizona State University, East Carolina State University, and CommPower are exploring dimensions of operational considerations from the perspective of emergency management information networks.

This study focuses on the fragmentation of the six critical elements that emergency managers need to form proper situational understanding and have confidence in their mental models to enable decision making. This presentation overviews findings of a prototyping experiment involving the National Weather Service Tulsa Forecast Office, government emergency management, and large public venues in Tulsa, Oklahoma that shed light on the value of collaborative messaging and consistent dissemination across available technologies. The first dimension of message content generation allows for participants with varying roles to collaborate with others in the creation of messages that identify and exploit the six critical elements to explain the severe weather hazard forecasts, potential localized impacts, and localized actions to be taken by the public at large venues. The second dimension explores the collaborative use of multiple dissemination pathways to simultaneously engage emergency managers, safety officials, and the public into understanding and action taking. For this study, we chose large public venue operations in order to explore decisions leading to direct public safety actions. Typically these venue operations perform their own gather, interpretation, and decision operations with little direct guidance from the NWS. The study was conducted in two parts: a survey of emergency mangers to ascertain operational needs, and a field experiment where joint messages can be created and disseminated to targeted managers and audiences.

Survey results confirmed that the six critical elements serve as a packet to higher levels of competence and confidence in decision-making. Further, 80% of managers responded that they pass information along to other managers in a social network, who may or may not have the same competence, needs, or ability to apply information. Of those that pass information along, 75% report that they actually interpret and change the information before passing it on. The rationale and ability of these managers to interpret and change the baseline information can range greatly. Current practices indicate that only half of emergency managers are in contact with the National Weather Service. Emergency Managers indicate a large number of actions might be taken when information is incomplete to compensate for the lack of confidence in the information.

Results indicate that emergency and safety managers find value in the ability to communicate in a collaborative manner to improve the consistency of information, its localization to operations, and to develop a clearer understanding of the event and the actions to should be taken by the public. Products that contain some or all the critical elements are received well especially when the information is clear and concise. However, having the ability to collaboratively add meaning and context to information greatly improves understanding for decision-making. While many managers state that technologies can be a barrier to effective communications, having access to a wide range of seamless technologies greatly enhances the ability to engage decision makers and the public that are usually left out of the loop as events evolve. Further, using technologies that are flexible and can be tailored to a spectrum of social media, mobile apps, and local venue capabilities is powerful for good communications and worthy of further consideration. To explore dissemination capabilities we employed CommPower's iNOTiFY technology to allow venues the flexibility to define, choose and tailor their message dissemination to Weather Radio-like broadcasts, sirens and public address (PA) systems, use the most popular social media formats, email and text notices, and use local display monitors or computer displays. The purpose of the experiment is to enable emergency managers and venue operators the freedom to explore ideas about what constitutes effective messaging and dissemination without getting bogged down on technology protocols and functionality. From the experiment, many of the survey results were verified. More importantly, emergency managers expressed real excitement seeing the benefits to be gained by employing technology in areas currently handled by manual means or no means. Specifically, emergency managers found value in utilizing a consistent communications framework that facilitates collaboration among all parties; they welcomed concise visual map-based predictive weather graphics; and they fully appreciated the ability to receive data from authorities such as NWS, quickly add local information/instructions to that data set and pass that amended data set to downstream users. Additionally, this type of hands-on experiment engaged the various emergency managers; prompting each to volunteer a host of “what if” scenarios of their own.

- Indicates paper has been withdrawn from meeting
- Indicates an Award Winner