Achieving Electric Restoration Logistical Efficiencies During Critical Infrastructure Crisis Response: A Knowledge Management Analysis

Achieving Electric Restoration Logistical Efficiencies During Critical Infrastructure Crisis Response: A Knowledge Management Analysis

Teresa Durbin, Murray E. Jennex, Eric Frost, Robert Judge
DOI: 10.4018/jiscrm.2010070103
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After the 2007 Southern California wildfire events, event-assessment of the efficacy of spreadsheets and paper forms raised the question of whether alternative tools could have achieved greater efficiencies in the logistical support of command centers, the sites from which the local utility’s electric restoration personnel were deployed. In this paper, the authors examine what approach would have enabled personnel working on the logistics of the command center effort to have easier-to-use, faster-to-access, command center data stored in, and provided via, a catastrophe resilient platform other than the traditional company computer network. Additionally, the capability to store basic command center requirements from previous emergency responses, thereby saving time during the next emergency, was examined.
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This paper is a case study using action research to assess whether future activities by the command center support teams can be influenced to convert from paper forms and spreadsheets to something more real-time, as a new solution for crisis response.

The working definition of action research (Zuber-Skerrit & Fletcher, 2007, p. 413) incorporated situations where people reflect and improve (or develop) their own work and their own situations by tightly interlinking their reflection and action; and also making their experience public not only to other participants but also to other persons interested in and concerned about the work and the situation, i.e. their public theories and practices of the work and the situation, and in which the situation is increasingly: data-gathering by participants themselves (or with the help of others) in relation to their own questions; participation (in problem-posing and in answering questions) in decision-making, self-reflection, self-evaluation and self-management by autonomous and responsible persons and groups. This study is action research as the lead author is a team lead of the SDG&E supply chain systems team tasked with assessing logistics performance.

Reflection for this study was done using knowledge management, KM as the reflective lens. Jennex (2005) summarized KM definitions to conclude that KM is about capturing knowledge created in an organization and making it available to those who need it to make decisions and improve organizational performance. Jennex (2007) discussed the role of KM in crisis response and included the role of post event evaluation of lessons learned as a way of capturing knowledge generated during an event and ensuring that knowledge is shared and incorporated into crisis response activities. This implies that KM is a good reflective lens for crisis response research.

The ability to apply KM to the 2007 command center logistical effort and how it can benefit future emergency responders corresponds to KM in support of crisis response as expanded upon by Jennex and Raman (2009). The underlying KM principle upon which this study is constructed are that experience gained from one emergency can be applied as knowledge when shared with others to improve performance during a subsequent emergency. Additionally, improved performance will help an organization meet its goals or mandated objectives acceptably.

Comparing how the basic computer tools used in the 2007 command center set-ups performed against how an alternative process would perform should demonstrate the need to move towards tools that are multi-user, require no consolidation of data, and which can be used with little to no training in the fast-paced environment of an emergency.

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