Information Requirements for Crisis Response – A Radio Perspective

Information Requirements for Crisis Response – A Radio Perspective

I take the position that differing and contradictory viewpoints or perspectives help shed light on the many gaps and issues the industry faces. As such, I invited Terry Canning to provide a guest post in response to my recent post on redefining information requirements for disaster response. The views he expresses are his own. We welcome your thoughts in the comments below!

A couple of weeks ago Brandon wrote a thoughtful and thought-provoking blog describing how the information requirements for successful crisis response is being redefined.  He opened with “Developing information requirements for crisis response is a tedious and flawed process filled with many uncertainties…”  In a reply, I agreed with his postulation that it can be a tedious process (although I proposed fastidious rather than tedious) but disagreed that it is flawed.  Brandon then challenged me to write a response to fully explain my position on this issue – and I have accepted.

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Redefining Information Requirements for Crisis Response

Redefining Information Requirements for Crisis Response

Developing information requirements for crisis response is a tedious and flawed process filled with many uncertainties about the situation and the response. While we can take an honest stab at knowing what different responders need, when, and how, our unilateral focus on needed information stymies the best of intentions: historical learning is only as good as a similar future, which is rarely the case; and visioning workshops are only as good as the ability to identify the uncertainties that lie ahead, a very difficult task with severe consequences if something is missed. 

While decisions can be made without needed information based on expertise and experience, this is far from ideal in a complex adaptive system such as...

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What are Decisions Makers' Needs in Sudden Onset Disasters?

One of the greatest problems we face in disaster management is understanding the type and breadth of decisions that we make during a disaster.

So much goes into decision making that we need to devote significant research and effort to putting this skill in a better perspective so that better tools and approaches can be developed. Long gone should be the days of making decision "off the cuff." Decisions, despite their impending urgency and seriousness, should be as purposeful, collaborative, and as science-based as possible.

Andrej Verity, a disaster responder and Information Management Officer for UN-OCHA just released a report from a workshop on Field-Based Decision Makers' Information Needs. Here is a link to the full report.  The main authors included leading researchers Erica Gralla (GWU), Jarrod Goentzel (MIT), and Bartel Van De Walle (Tilburg). Check out Andrej's great introductory post on Demystifying decisions makers' needs in sudden onset disasters.

The report focuses heavily on the decision-makers' perspective.  It asked what decisions are typically made and then separately, what are the information needs in sudden onset disasters? Ultimately, the decisions and information needs will be linked in future research.

One  goal  of  this  workshop  was  to  help  Volunteer  and  Technical  Communities  (VTC)  to  understand  the  information  field  decision-‐makers  require  to  make  the  best  possible  decisions.  These  results  lay  a  foundation  for  this  understanding,  by  providing  (1)  a  framework  and  set  of  information  required  by  field-‐based  decision-‐makers,  (2)  categories  and  types  of  decisions  made  by  decision-‐makers,  and  (3)  a  large  set  of  brainstormed  decisions  from  workshop  participants.  VTCs  and  others  seeking  to  support  humanitarian  action  by  providing  and  organizing  information  can  utilize  these  results  to  (a)  prioritize  their  efforts  toward  important  information,  and  (b)  organize  their  information  in  a  manner  intuitive  and  useful  to  humanitarian  decision-‐makers

Check out pages 7-8 for great pictorials of the following findings regarding decisions and information requirements:

Decision dimensions and categories are broken down by timeframe, scope, locus/authority of decision-making, criticality, frequency/duration of decision, information gap (confidence), and function.

Information requirements are broken down by context and scope, humanitarian needs, responder requirements, meta information, capacity and response planning, operational situation, coordination and institutional structures, and looking forward.

Does this resonate with your work?  Why or why not?