Measuring Shared and Team Situation Awareness of Emergency Decision Makers

Measuring Shared and Team Situation Awareness of Emergency Decision Makers

Yasir Javed (COMSATS Institute of Information Technology, Abbottabad, Pakistan) and Tony Norris (Institute of Information & Mathematical Sciences, Massey University, Auckland, New Zealand)
DOI: 10.4018/jiscrm.2012100101
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Large scale emergencies are usually responded to by a team of emergency managers or a number of sub teams. Team coordination has attracted considerable research interest, especially from the cognitive, human factors, and ergonomic aspects because the shared situation awareness (SSA) and team situation awareness (TSA) of team members is critical for optimal decision making. This paper describes the development of an information system (SAVER) based on SSA and TSA oriented systems design. Validation and evaluation of the implemented design shows that decision performance is improved by the SAVER system.
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Situation Awareness And Emergency Decision Making

The first step in any type of decision making is understanding the situation so that its requirements can be fulfilled to achieve the decision maker’s goals. Situation assessment done by an individual decision maker for naturalistic decision making produces a product called situation awareness (SA) (Endsley, 1995).

Early work due to Adams et al (1995), Durso and Gronlund (1999), Smith and Hancock (1995) and Endsley (1995) has produced a range of definitions of SA and because there is no universally accepted meaning (Stanton et al., 2005) it is important to describe the way this particular study is using the concept. SA is often defined operationally in terms of the goals and decisions for a specific task (Endsley, 2000) so that a formal and broadly accepted definition of SA that has been found applicable across different domains describes SA as:

“The perception of the elements in the environment within a volume of time and space, the comprehension and the projection of their status in near future.” (Endsley,1995)

This definition reveals three levels of SA (Endsley, 2000):

  • Perception is level 1 of SA. It means understanding the importance of information about any situation. For example in the context of a tsunami, the earthquake magnitude, source location, depth and direction near an earthquake epicentre are relevant attributes;

  • Comprehension is level 2 of SA. It indicates how people combine, interpret, store, and retrieve information. Comprehension also covers the integration of multiple pieces of information and determination of their relevance to a person’s goals. For example, combining the SA level 1 attributes described above will indicate if the event is under water or near a coastline and, if so, whether its intensity will trigger a tsunami and its likely impact;

  • Projection is level 3 of SA. It is the ability to forecast new situations from previous and existing ones. This ability allows for timely decision making that predicts future situations and counters risk. For example, wave height predictions and anticipated times of tsunami arrival on specified coast locations etc can help to initiate controlled evacuations.

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