International Journal of Emergency Services

ISSN: 2047-0894

Article publication date: 21 October 2013



Brunsden, K.G.a.V. (2013), "Editorial", International Journal of Emergency Services, Vol. 2 No. 2. https://doi.org/10.1108/IJES-06-2013-0017



Emerald Group Publishing Limited


Article Type: Editorial From: International Journal of Emergency Services, Volume 2, Issue 2.

In the second issue of the first volume of this journal Pete Murphy and Paresh Wankhade indicated that one of the aims of the International Journal of Emergency Services was to support those looking to challenge traditional boundaries. In this issue we have two papers which challenge some contemporary misunderstandings of human behaviour, namely “irrational mass panic” and “bystander apathy”. In challenging these long-held beliefs our authors highlight the implications for risk profiling, planning and the response of emergency services. Advances in computer software and modelling techniques are also addressed in this issue with three of our articles focussing on their use in determining the optimum resource requirements for an incident, providing opportunities for incident command experience and testing hypotheses and causal processors within complex theoretical models. Our practitioner article in this issue continues with the theme of challenge as he explores the use of an item of personal protective equipment and the suitability of its adoption by the emergency services to address the increasing incidence of flooding.

Chris Cocking, in his article exploring the role of “zero responders”, a term used to differentiate between first responders and spontaneous helpers, uses the experiences of witnesses and survivors of the 7/7 London Attacks to challenge the pervasive misunderstandings of human behaviour in mass emergencies, specifically those of “irrational mass panic” (a notion now largely discredited) and “bystander apathy”. Chris finds that a common identity emerged which encouraged co-operative and resilient behaviour amongst those “caught up” in the disaster and therefore established the assumptions of mass panic and bystander apathy were not apparent in this case. His study also adds to a growing body of evidence supporting the Social Identity Model of Collective Resilience (SIMCR), a model which proposes that disasters may actually create social bonds between people, he suggests that there are practical implications for the management of mass emergencies. If emergency planners appreciate that the traditional view of crowds as being irrational is invalid they may also recognise that the application of a paternalistic response is also invalid, as it potentially stifles endogenous resilience and forgoes the opportunity to use crowds in emergencies as a positive resource.

Owain Thompson and David Wales's article focuses on the behaviours and motivators of individuals experiencing fires in their own homes. The project originated within Kent Fire and Rescue Service although the interest it generated has resulted in it becoming adopted as a regional project. Owain and David draw attention to the disproportionate quantity of fire-related injuries and deaths within accidental dwelling fires (ADFs) when compared to all other fires. Identifying that research into human behaviour in fires is almost entirely based on fires occurring in public, commercial and industrial spaces they suggest that fires in the home exert a different set of influences upon those involved. Like Chris Cocking they also challenge the assumption of irrational panic as the accepted view of behaviour of those involved in ADFs and note how this stereotype has consequential impacts upon how emergency responders both view and interact with the public. They suggest that the development of the database of behaviours and motivators of those who have experienced an ADF not only has implications for risk profiling but offers the potential to improve service delivery across operations, call-handling and community safety.

In their article Ali Sadeghi-Naini and Ali Asgary propose the use of artificial neural networks (ANN) as a predictor model to determine the number of firefighters required to respond to different fire incidents. They argue that whilst the traditional models of demand pattern analysis, such as moving average, are sufficient for resource allocation within emergency service areas they are insufficient to determine the optimum resource required for emergency events. An ANN is designed to learn by example, extracting patterns and detecting trends in data sets, and is used to model complex relationships between inputs and outputs to ascertain patterns in the data. This particular ANN was “trained” using data from fire incidents recorded in Toronto, Canada, between 2000 and 2006 using data that were available at the time of the alarm. The results from this research were promising and, whilst acknowledging there was a 7.9 per cent error, the authors identified that an ANN can help fire departments more effectively allocate resources with a consequent reduction in the loss of property and human life. The authors suggest that those responsible for fire dispatching and response systems should consider embedding an ANN into the existing computer-aided dispatch system.

Paul Young, Alan St Clair Gibson, Elizabeth Partington, Sarah Partington and Mark Wetherell explore the stress reactivity of specific roles during command and control of an immersive, computer-based incident. They identify that there are limited opportunities to gain incident command experience in large-scale disasters. This is primarily due to the infrequent nature of these real-life incidents but also attributable to the lack of available, and somewhat costly, practice opportunities. Previous research highlights the importance of repeated rehearsal of simulated crisis conditions for incident command roles in helping to develop situational awareness and appropriate responses. The authors observe that their research has given further insight into the stress and demands faced by firefighters but recommend that additional stressors, such as the arrival on scene of additional personal, role rotation and the introduction of supporting agencies would further increase the ecological validity.

Sarah Cruddas's article reviews the structural equations modelling (SEM) analytic technique with the intention of making it accessible to emergency service and disaster researchers. Owing to its mathematical focus and the on-going disagreement between researchers on key issues associated with the technique, Sarah acknowledges that researchers may be discouraged from using SEM within their work. However, she argues that this would be a mistake given that it has many advantages and much to offer. The SEM technique allows for testing of causal processes within complex and sophisticated theoretical models, whilst simultaneously checking the efficacy of the measures used. It has the flexibility and capacity to differentiate between observed and latent variables and the versatility to allow investigation of a range of hypotheses, making it particularly relevant for disaster and emergency management research. Sarah asserts that SEM has significant advantages over other forms of statistical analysis and, whilst acknowledging its surface complexity, stresses that software improvements are making SEM easier and more accessible for both researchers and practitioners.

Finally for this issue the practice interface contains a review of the performance of quick release harnesses (QRH) in water rescues by Chris Onions. Chris's investigation into whether QRHs operate effectively in low-flow conditions is in light of the increased reporting of incidents in which QRHs have either failed to release or have spontaneously released in training situations and real-life deployment. This is a timely investigation since the utilisation of these harnesses is becomingly increasingly part of standard operating procedures for a tethered wading technique. Chris's evidence suggests that in low-flow conditions the QRH is unreliable and inconsistent. Whilst this raises serious concerns for all rescue users the investigation suggests that experienced users may have the judgement skills for safe application. It is suggested that those who are less experienced users are provided with training to improve their judgement skills. Chris plans to continue with his research into QRHs and will next focus upon the materials used and optimising the load within the system.

As research technologies continue to evolve, offering new ways to consider and explore data, and as our theoretical understandings and evidence base expand, new perspectives emerge and long-held beliefs are being scrutinised. The two-way transfer of knowledge between academia and practice is not only allowing research to have genuine impact on emergency service working but is also shaping the focus of academic research in meaningful ways. The papers in this issue collectively demonstrate the diversity and relevance of contemporary emergency services research.

Kirsten Greenhalgh and Vivienne Brunsden

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