Information Sharing in Interteam Responses to Disaster

Research demonstrates that information sharing is facilitated by familiarity, and having a common understanding of problems, use of lexicon, and semantic meaning. These factors can be difficult to develop within extreme environments such as disasters as members of the multi‐agency system that responds often have limited experience of working together. Public inquiries repeatedly highlight the impact of information sharing difficulties on public safety, but limited academic research has focused on identifying concrete behaviours that facilitate interteam information sharing within such environments.

This paper presents a case study of a national disaster response exercise involving 1,000 emergency responders. Data consist of structured observations, recordings of interteam meetings, and interviews with emergency responders. Results of mixed‐method analysis indicate that interteam information sharing is delayed by limited situation awareness and poor articulation. Conversely, adopting behaviours that promote common frames for understanding interteam capabilities and information requirements improves information sharing and potentially reduces cognitive effort required to process information. Findings contribute to interteam communication theory by highlighting that in complex, time‐constrained environments, having a shared understanding of responsibilities and information requirement is important for minimizing redundant deliberation and improving relevance and speed.

Practitioner points

  • Facilitating the exchange and interpretation of relevant information is important for improving situation assessment, decision‐making, and the implementation of appropriate actions for addressing risks.
  • Interteam information sharing can be particularly challenging when teams are comprised of members from across different organizations with different language and cultures that must form ad hoc to rapidly respond to problems in extreme environments.
  • Adopting communication strategies that develop common frames‐of‐reference can facilitate information sharing and interteam responses to disasters.

(From the journal abstract)

Sara Waring, Laurence Alison, Grace Carter, Chloe Barrett‐Pink, Michael Humann, Lauren Swan, and Tomas Zilinsky. 2018. ‘Information Sharing in Interteam Responses to Disaster’. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology, 91 (3): 591–619.