To better understand how decision makers in complex environments, such as a mass evacuation, can successfully commit their resources and make the best possible decisions, Germany’s Maritime Search and Rescue Service (DGzRS) and Jönköping University undertook a study on how local incident coordinators (LICOs) react during live Mass Rescue Operations (MRO) exercises.

In this study, which was published in Organization Studies, a leading academic journal in the field of organisation and management, the researchers looked at how LICOs positioned their team on a distressed vessel — in this case, a ferry ship in need of evacuation — and how they subsequently received information and made their decisions.

The study revealed a trade-off. LICOs substantially improved their ability to perceive information when they spread out their team members, although their decision-making capacities were hampered as such an approach could lead to information overload and ineffective interpretations of the overall situation.

The study also showed how a LICO works on the bridge has a substantial impact on the information they perceive. LICOs often missed information that happens at the periphery of their view while over-emphasising what happens in their direct line of sight. The study concluded that how a LICO sets up their workplace on a bridge will shape the decisions they make.

The authors of study further found that decision makers seldom positioned themselves and their team members intentionally, and instead deprived themselves of a tactical tool that they could use to adjust themselves and their resources to the need of the situation. The study cautioned decision makers to carefully consider their team and their own positioning and offer recommendations in that regard.

If you are interested, you can read the full study here:

The IMRF has also released updated versions of its Mass Rescue Operations Summary Guidance, which offer SAR organisations a framework to develop their own MRO plans, as well as provide practical advice on issues related to funding, resources and communication strategies.

The documents are available to download from the IMRF’s official MRO website. Please click here to access the documents.