Modeling Psychosocial Decision Making in Emergency Operations Centres

November 2014 (VOL. 32, NO. 3)

Download this article

The researchers compared the effectiveness of two decision models for modeling decision making in Emergency Operations Centers (EOCs): Klein’s Recognition Primed Decision (RPD) model and Gladwin’s Ethnographic Decision Tree Model (EDTM). The focus was on decisions that affect the psychological and social well-being of responders and community members. Communities of EOC personnel participated in a simulated emergency event, followed by an interview and/or focus group. Analysis of the decision-making processes during the simulation revealed that most operational decisions were made intuitively, with expertise, and best modeled by RPD. When the decisions involved issues for which EOC personnel had less experience (e.g., psychosocial issues), the decision-making approach shifted from a fast intuitive style to a more deliberative style. In some cases, EOC staff requested additional information before making a decision. With no formalized feedback loops, decisions were delayed or not made at all, leaving community residents and EOC personnel without psychosocial services for unnecessary lengths of time. The researchers found the RPD model to be most useful in its potential for identifying areas where future training (i.e., simulated exercises) and education (i.e., knowledge transfer) could be offered to EOC personnel to improve the provision of psychosocial services.