Effective and timely decision-making is critical during emergency and crisis management. In order to be effective, decision-making requires that the best possible information is gathered, assessed and analysed, in order to provide an understanding of what is happening, why it matters and what might happen. This information will enable effective choices to be made and thereby support positive outcomes. However, little information may be available during crises and emergencies. The information that is available, may in fact come from unreliable sources, be too ambiguous and the situation changing too quickly, to allow for confident and appropriate decisions to be made. It is therefore crucial that information from all sources is assessed appropriately.
Different views exists regarding what constitutes good quality data and information, but the core considerations remain to be; timeliness, relevance and accuracy. Relevance is the ability of information to meet the real needs of the end users, timeliness refers to the degree of the currency attached to the information, while accuracy is a measure of how much information reflects the underlying reality of a situation. The quality of information available can influence the degree of situational awareness held by individuals and teams. Situation awareness is the state of individual and/or collective knowledge relating to past and current events, and the implications on potential future developments. Endsley (1995) identifies the three basic levels of situational awareness, which have been viewed to be central to the area;
Perception. Building a complete picture what is happening at the event level.
Comprehension. Developing an understanding of events, the causation, their consequences and the wider implications of effects.
Projection. The formation of simulations and scenarios can help organisations to predict what might happen in the future and what the implications might be.
The quality of information gathered, communicated and shared during crises can have a large degree of impact upon situational awareness. The uncritical assessments of information during crises can lead to time delays and poor decision-making. This can particularly be the case during cross-agency operations and engagements with external partners, where different systems and information management processes exist, potentially reducing the value of information passed from one organisation to another.
These challenges can be overcome by immediately asking and answering three questions, and communicating the findings; what (is it, is happening)? so what? and what might?. When these three questions are asked by each individual during the crisis or emergency situation and then appropriately shared with the other team members and the crisis management team, situational awareness is enhanced. Through this process the Information gathered becomes a vital asset, critical to managing a crisis.
Crisis Management training can improve your confidence in responding effectively and quickly, when it counts.