Informed emergency response collaboration – why, what and how?

Keywords: Emergency response, information management, networked collaboration

Decision-making in emergency response is a multifaceted and nested phenomenon. It is multifaceted in the sense that it requires knowledge-intensive collaboration between organisations with differing knowledge bases and expertise backgrounds (Kapucu, Arslan, & Collins, 2010; Treurniet, 2014). It is nested in the sense that it typically consists of a number of interconnected coordination cycles, differing in abstraction and in speed (Chen, Sharman, Rao, & Upadhyaya, 2008; Rimstad & Sollid, 2015).

The safety regions in the Netherlands adopted the concept of netcentric operations (Boersma, Wagenaar, & Wolbers, 2010). Each monodisciplinary and multidisciplinary team keeps up an actual representation of the situation, reflecting the professional perspective of that particular team. The perspectives of the different teams are continually shared across organisational boundaries via the Common Operational Picture (COP), being an up-to-date representation of the status of the emergency situation and the initiated responsive actions. The information management organisation is responsible for the actuality and the coherence of the different perspectives. The COP is continuously available throughout the networked organisation and supports the coordinating of the participating organisations.

Although keeping up a COP is generally considered to be of great value for the speed and quality of the decision making process, it is not a panacea for successful emergency response (Wolbers & Boersma, 2013). How to avoid for example that the COP becomes a virtual reality for the emergency response organisations, detached from the real world? And how to deal for example with the plethora of data and information available via social media? It is useless to try to compete with this information flow, but how to use it in a responsible way to amplify and complete the COP?

Scientists and practitioners are invited to submit papers with respect to the ‘why’, ‘what’ and ‘how’ of emergency response information management. Papers are welcome from both experienced and new doctoral students and of both an empirical and theoretical nature. The papers may address issues such as:

  • the added value of a common operational picture for coordination and collaborative decision-making;
  • the roles of the common operational picture in the decision-making process;
  • to what extent and under what conditions a common operational picture contributes to collaborative sensemaking;
  • experiences with representation other than text and geographical pictures;
  • the position and role of the Information Manager in a team – “jack of all (information) trades” or essential gadfly;
  • is there a practically meaningful way to crisply distinguish the information management process from intelligence gathering and analysis processes?
  • organisational considerations with respect to Information Management;
  • information sharing criteria – how to strike a balance between information starvation and information overload (“infobesity”).


Boersma, F.K., Wagenaar, F.P., & Wolbers, J.J. (2010). Organizing Emergent Safety Organizations. The travelling of the concept ‘Netcentric Work’ in the Dutch Safety sector. Paper presented at the 7th International Conference on Information Systems for Crisis Response and Management (ISCRAM), Seattle, Washington, USA.

Chen, R., Sharman, R., Rao, H.R., & Upadhyaya, S.J. (2008). Coordination in emergency response management. Communications of the ACM, 51(5), 66-73.

Kapucu, N., Arslan, T., & Collins, M.L. (2010). Examining Intergovernmental and Interorganizational Response to Catastrophic Disasters: Toward a Network-Centered Approach. Administration & Society, 42(2), 222-247.

Rimstad, R., & Sollid, S.J.M. (2015). A retrospective observational study of medical incident command and decision-making in the 2011 Oslo bombing. International journal of emergency medicine, 8(1), 4.

Treurniet, W. (2014). Shaping Comprehensive Emergency Response Networks. In T. J. Grant, R. H. P. Janssen & H. Monsuur (Eds.), Network Topology in Command and Control: Organization, Operation, and Evolution (pp. 26-48). Hershey, USA: IGI Global.

Wolbers, J.J., & Boersma, F.K. (2013). The Common Operational Picture as Collective Sensemaking. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, 186-199.

Panel Chairs

Willem Treurniet (

Willem Treurniet MSc (1966) works as a strategic advisor on netcentric crisis management at the Institute for Safety (IFV) in the Netherlands. Parallel to his position at IFV, Willem is working on a PhD at the VU University Amsterdam (Faculty of Social Sciences | Department of Organization Sciences). He is studying how one can shape a trustworthy and decisive response organization in which relevant and useful capacities available in the community are incorporated.

Menno van Duin

Dr Menno J. van Duin (1959), professor (lector) Crisismanagement Netherlands Institute for Safety. He earned his PhD-degree in 1992 with a study on ´Learning from Disasters´. Together with Vina Wijkhuijs, Van Duin yearly publishes a volume on ‘Lessons from crises and mini-crisis’ covering 15-18 cases of accidents, social dramas and (small) crises on different fields.