Group Information-Seeking Behavior in Emergency Response [chapter]

Q. Gu, D. Mendonça
Real-Time and Deliberative Decision Making  
Extended Abstract Emergencies-whether natural or technological, random or human-induced-may bring profound changes to organizations, the built environment and society at large. These changes create the need for reliable information about the emergency and its impacts, and thus require responding organizations to seek and process information from an evolving range of sources. By understanding how skilled versus novice response personnel search for information in emergencies, we may begin to
more » ... e may begin to understand how to support and train for skillful information seeking in situations characterized by risk, time constraint and complexity. This study develops a hypothesized model of information-seeking behavior in emergency response and evaluates it using data from expert and novice groups addressing simulated emergency situations. Revisions and future refinements of the proposed model are presented based on the analysis of information seeking behavior from the experiment. The paper concludes with a discussion of implications for the design of information systems to support efficient information-seeking and decision making under risky and time-constrained situations. Information seeking may be characterized by its extent (i.e., how exhaustive is it) and nature (i.e., what is searched for). Prior research suggests that the information-seeking process consists of multiple stages and is influenced by various factors. Under time pressure, decision makers may speed up their information processing and be more selective in choosing which information to process. In emergency situations task complexity can be regarded as a function of time, risk, available resources and changing goals. Increases in task compelxity lead to increases in information load and the rate of search. Differences between experts and novices may be manifested in several ways. For example, experts may be more efficient than novices in information filtering (i.e., seperating relevant from irrelevant informaiton) and in utilizing known facts. As depicted in Figure 1 , when decision makers at some time t are faced with a future deadline at some future time T, every minute spent on planning is one less minute available for plan implementation. Simultaneously, material and personnel resources available for responding to the event decrease, which increases risk as appropriate resources go out of range. On the other hand, the reduction in the size of the search space (i.e., the set of feasible plans involving these resources) means that a larger extent of it can be searched over time. The passage of time therefore leads to increasing complexity and risk, forcing response personnel to "make do" with diminishing resources. Task difficulty is inversely related to the number of available resources and the number of potential solutions. The hypotheses that follow from this discussion are as follows: H1.1: As time to implement decreases, extent of search increases. H1.2: The search extent of novice groups will be greater than that of expert groups. H2.1: As time to implement decreases, less information will be sought. H2.2: As time to implement decreases, search for information that is common to all members of the group increases. H2.3: As time to implement decreases, search for information that is unique to individuals in the group decreases. H2.4: As time to implement decreases, expert groups' search patterns will change less than novice groups'. The data were drawn from a series of studies on group decision making in simulated emergency response scenarios. Both novice and experienced groups of participants convened to work on two separate simulated emergency incidents (here denoted "cases"). Each group member took on one of five roles: Coordinator (CO), Police Department (PD), Fire Department (FD), Medical Officer (MO), and Chemical Advisor (CA). Their task was Time T t 0 1 Time available for implementation Extent of search Size of search space Task difficulty Figure 1. Model of Information-seeking behavior
doi:10.1007/978-1-4020-9026-4_4 fatcat:s3wnu57vd5bppdjp5kai6eg5gy