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Information Sharing during Multi-Agency Major Incidents

Jyoti Laxmi Mishra, David K. Allen and Alan D. Pearman

ASIST 2011 Annual Meeting
New Orleans, LA, October 9-12, 2011


Information sharing is very important for a group task. The issue becomes underlined when group members are from different agencies. People may not know each other; they may not have any idea of what the other organization can provide them or in what way other members can help them. Such situations are very common in hospitals where specialists from many departments need to collaborate to look at particular patient, in the legal system where a jury of different people who may not know each other is formed, in academic sector where collaborative projects between different Universities within or with other countries is increasing, or in the emergency services where police, fire and health services need to come together during a major incident. Though multi-agency group work is becoming more popular, understanding of the information practice issues underlying such a multi-agency environment is limited. The research reported here looks at information sharing issues among such multi-agency groups, particularly emergency services, where emergency responders from different agencies need to work together in a time constrained environment. The analysis was done using third generation Activity Theory. For wider understanding, social and technological dimensions were adopted. Findings revealed that primacy of information with one agency (any agency having primary information) hinder information sharing among multi-agency group members. Similarly, from a technology perspective, availability, familiarity, interoperability and reliability were issues identified as affecting information sharing. The paper also provides recommendations to system designers and policy makers regarding ways to improve information sharing among members of multi-agency teams.

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