Comparison of Conceptual and UAE Improved Framework

Introduction

The Incident Command System (ICS) is a coordinated approach applied in the direction, management, and synchronization of emergency reactions. Therefore, this system provides a common chain of command that responders from various agencies use to be effective during emergency responses (Jensen & Thompson 2016). A previous review showed that the UAE ICS system and the UK GSB system were similar in some ways. Both systems were marked by three levels of command: Gold, Silver, and Bronze in the UAE system, which corresponded to strategy, tactics, and operational activities in the UK scheme. It was noted that several limitations could be addressed to enhance the efficiency of future operations in the two systems.

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The review also identified a knowledge gap regarding the application of the GSB system in the UAE. Later, dimensions and factors from the two systems were combined to develop the research conceptual framework. A quantitative study involving 151 incident commanders in 7 different departments and semi-structured interviews of 15 Gold and Silver commanders sought to identify the factors ‎identified in the research conceptual framework as well as other factors that may arise in the UAE CDGC ‎agency. Findings from the interview led to the development of an improved UAE incident command system ‎framework, which consists of five main dimensions with 42 factors.‎ However, before the improved incident command system framework can be implemented, it is necessary to determine its strengths, weaknesses, and how it differs from the conceptual framework, which is the purpose of this paper.

Differences Between the Conceptual and UAE Improved Framework

The first difference between the two frameworks is the number of dimensions and factors. The conceptual framework has 3 dimensions that are divided into 29 factors (Figure 1), whereas the improved framework has 5 dimensions and 42 factors (Figure 2). However, in the conceptual framework, the Organizational and Individual dimensions are grouped together as Fundamental factors, which implies that there is a relationship between the two dimensions (Flin & Arbuthnot 2017). Similarly, Implementation and Driver factors are grouped together as one dimension. On the other hand, the improved framework separates these two aspects. The Kruskal-Wallis test (KWt) of the relationship between the different groups of variables revealed marginally significant differences in the overall impact of Individual factors (n= 151, χ2(6) = 12.286, p =.056). The difference was noted on factor 7 ‘Situational awareness during incident response’ (χ2(6) = 14.572, p =.024). Situational awareness refers to the development and maintenance of dynamic appreciation of a condition and using the knowledge to anticipate subsequent happenings (Siu, Maran & Paterson-Brown 2016). Situational awareness provides pertinent information for emergency responses and contributes to the successful execution of rescue operations (Foresti, Farinosi & Vernier 2015).

Research conceptual framework.
Figure 1: Research conceptual framework.
The Improved UAE ICS system.
Figure 2: The Improved UAE ICS system.

The Implementation and Drivers dimension in the conceptual framework has 9 factors. They include better decision making, minimizing confusion, better coordination, clear roles, and responsibilities, increasing the safety of responders, clarifying leadership and command issue, controlling chaos, better information sharing, and applicability for the type of hazard. On the other hand, the Implementation dimension in the improved framework has 8 factors: organize an incident response, minimize random decision making, avoid unauthorized intervention in command, organize commanders’ roles and responsibilities, improve structural organization, better communication on coordination, best practice of standard operating procedures (SOPs) and minimize negative outcomes. A significant difference existed in the overall impact of Implementation factors (n = 153, χ2(6) = 13.319, p =.038). The difference existed on factor 3 ‘Avoid unauthorised intervention in command’ (χ2(6) = 13.082, p =.042). Introducing a legal standpoint on crisis information management is reported to provide a vital contribution to the crisis management debate (Biersteker et al. 2017).

The Drivers dimension in the improved framework has 9 factors, namely clear roles, and responsibilities, coordination of information sharing, improve outcome or performance, clarity in the command structure, assure safety, better decision making, incident evaluation, incident command achieves its goals, and incident management. The main difference in these dimensions in the two models is the inclusion of the factors best practices of SOPs, incident evaluation, and incident command achieves its goals.

The Organizational dimension in the conceptual framework has 4 factors, whereas the same dimension in the improved framework has 6 factors. The conceptual framework has coordination and the importance of SOPs, which are missing in the improved framework. On the other hand, the improved framework has the factors lack of nomination structure, having structure expert, rigorous regulations, and systematic grading of commanders as unique factors that are excluded in the conceptual framework. The conceptual framework also considers training alone as a factor while the improved model considers training and exercise. The KWt results show a significant difference in the overall impact of Organisational factors (n= 151, χ2(6) = 13.184, p =.040). Factor 5 of the second dimension ‘Rigorous regulation of incident command system’ differed significantly between departments (χ2(6) = 18.307, p =.006). Preparedness endeavors have a high likelihood of success when emergency response teams adhere to a common, rigorous group of standards (Drieu, Sams & Wilson 2017). This approach has been particularly successful when handling hazardous substances.

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The Barrier dimension in the conceptual framework has 8 factors as opposed to 12 in the improved model. Barrier factors that are unique to the conceptual framework include transferring from theory to practice, delays in structure setting, and inflexibility in command and control. Conversely, factors that are unique to the improved model include lack and losing expertise, lack of acceptance and desire, Gold attendance at the scene, the absence of nomination standards, and the lack of coordination and information sharing. The Barrier dimension recorded the highest level of significant differences (n = 150, χ2(6) = 17.819, p =.007) in 4 factors: factor 6 ‘Lack and losing of expertise due to resignations and retirements’ (χ2(6) = 17.341, p =.008); factor 7 ‘Lack of coordination and information sharing between commanders’ (χ2(6) = 14.768, p =.022); factor 4 ‘Overlaps and conflicts in command views’ (χ2(6) = 13.697, p =.033); and factor 2 ‘Lack of commanders’ qualifications’ (χ2(6) = 12.988, p =.043).

Alterations in job responsibilities due to the loss of key personnel as well as modifications in shift hours can have negative outcomes on process safety (Wincek et al. 2015). The loss of personnel may occur through job transfers, resignation, and retirement of experts without appropriate replacements, which can cause grave incidents with potentially dangerous after-effects. This factor is closely related to the lack of commanders’ qualifications. The attrition of experts often leaves gaps in the incident command system, which may be difficult to fill due to insufficient expertise (Flin & Arbuthnot 2017). Key emergencies form team decision-making milieus because they are multifaceted, vibrant, high-stakes, and swiftly monitored occurrences where fruitful resolution is subject to active teamwork (Power 2018). Collaboration, coordination, and communication through information sharing have been identified as pertinent barriers to incident command systems (Van Niekerk et al. 2015), which emphasize the importance of this factor. Responding to emergencies often necessitates collaborative efforts of participants from numerous precincts and levels of government. However, the aims of federal organizations often vary from those of other agencies with respect to the prevailing emergency. Overlaps and conflicts in command views’ are usually evident in apparent mission mismatches among federal, state, and local participants, which lower the effectiveness of incident command teams (Fleming, McCartha & Steelman 2015).

Another notable difference is the division of the first dimension. The UAE improved incident command system ‎framework divides the first dimension into two: implementation and drivers, whereas the conceptual framework maintains the two dimensions as one. This observation can be attributed to the fact that in the UAE and CDGC agency, the responders ‎and senior commanders believe that the implementation dimension with all its factors refers ‎to the reasons for implementing the incident command system. This belief also means that this dimension and its related factors are identified before implementing the Gold, Silver ‎, and Bronze command system from the UK. On the other hand, the Drivers dimension (and all its factors) ‎refers to the practical advantages of the system after implementing it.

There are some differences in the naming and factor terminology between the two models, for example, the inclusion of the Implementation and Drivers sections in the first dimension of the conceptual ‎framework and the separation of the dimensions in the improved model. This observation is attributed to differences in the terminologies used in the literature review. The focus of the literature, in some cases, was unclear when the two terms were used. For instance, using the factor information sharing, an article could refer to it as an ‎Implementation attribute (Allen, Karanasios & Norman 2014), whereas a different paper referred to the same factor as a Driver (Paveglio et al. 2015). Another difference in terminology is in the Individual dimension where the conceptual framework names one of the factors as knowledge and understanding, which is delineated as knowledge and experience in the enhanced model. In addition, the conceptual framework reports commander characteristics, whereas the improved model reports the same factor as individual characteristics. However, the same meaning is maintained. Additionally, the differences add more meaning and value in the UAE context. Another difference is the reporting of some factors in one model as a single entity and recounting the same factor as a combination of two or more entities in the other model. One such case is cooperation and information sharing under the Individual dimension in the conceptual model. This factor is reported as cooperation alone in the enhanced framework.

Similarities Between the Conceptual and UAE Improved Framework

There are similarities between the Implementation factors in the conceptual and improved frameworks. Both frameworks address similar issues except the lack of protection of responders in the improved framework. However, it can be argued that this aspect is covered in the avoidance of negative outcomes factor because any harm to the responders can be considered an undesired upshot. The training and resource logistics factors are also common to both frameworks within the Organisational dimension. The Individual dimension has 8 factors in both frameworks. Out of these, five factors are common: knowledge and understanding, decision making, training and exercise, situation awareness, cooperation, and information sharing.

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Strengths of the UAE Improved Framework

The strength of the improved framework with respect to the Implementation dimension is that it includes the best practice of SOPs. SOPs play a vital role in emergency responses because they help minimize confusion by adhering to a set group of procedures for each hazard. Then again, strict adherence to SOPs in situations where the set procedures are inadequate to meet the situational needs can cause disaster (Jensen & Waugh Jr 2014). Another strength is incidence evaluation as a Drivers factor. Attaining organizational goals entails having appropriate models for the evaluation of institutional performance (Abbasi, Shooshtari & Tofighi 2018). It is impossible to make use of the principles of effective management without outcomes from previous activities, which necessitates evaluation. The improved framework includes this vital aspect, which is going to assist the UAE’s CDGC agency to improve its ‎emergency response capabilities.

The Organisational dimension has additional factors such as having structure experts, rigorous regulations, and systematic grading of commanders. Structure experts contribute to the efficiency of an incident command team by providing specialized help during emergencies (Davies 2015). In contrast, rigorous regulations oversee what is administered, who is regulated, and the objective of that management (Federal Emergency Management Agency 2017). Multifarious disasters have networked and graded features. Disaster management is often challenged by the inability to formulate responses that merge the requirement for consolidated coordination among different responders with the ability to adapt rapidly to changing situations (Nowell et al. 2018). The systematic grading of commanders helps in this regard.

The improved framework has a higher number of dimensions and factors, which provides adequate details to facilitate the implementation and evaluation of the framework. Furthermore, the separation of the dimensions provides sufficient detail to address specific factors that affect the overall effect rather than lumping them up as is the case in the conceptual framework. The Individual dimension considers the commitment to apply the command system as an important factor. Commitment affects the attitudes of staff members, hence their overall efficiency (Shooshtari, Tofighi & Abbasi, 2017).

The Barriers dimension in the enhanced framework identifies 12 factors that are beneficial in enhancing the ICS system. Barrier factors that are unique to this model include the lack of acceptance and desire, Gold attendance at the scene, lack of evaluation, no nomination standard, and lack of coordination and information sharing. Recognizing that the lack of evaluation is a problem is important because appraisals are necessary to ascertain the effectiveness, strengths, and shortcomings of any emergency operations. Without evaluations, there is a likelihood of redundancy and repetition of mistakes over time.

Weaknesses of the UAE Improved Framework

The improved model lacks coordination as a factor in the Organisational dimension. Coordination is a vital requirement in emergency response teams (Griffith & Roberts, 2015). Lacking coordination could hamper the effectiveness of emergency operations. The improved model does not consider commander characteristics in the Individual factors, which may be considered a shortcoming. Commander characteristics play an important role in the functioning of the emergency response teams because the planning and leadership skills of the leaders are reflected in the team performance (Davies 2015). Another pertinent factor that is missing is personal conflicts, which have been demonstrated to affect the cohesion and overall efficiency of the incident command system.

Conclusion

This comparison shows that the improved framework captures many factors that are missing in the conceptual framework model. The details can be used to keep track of the operations of the ICS. The comprehensiveness of the Barrier factors can also be used to improve the operations of the UAE system. Therefore, the proposed framework can assist the UAE’s CDGC agency to improve its ‎emergency response capabilities as indicated by the strengths of the model.

Reference List

Abbasi, S, Shooshtari, S & Tofighi, S 2018, ‘Developing a conceptual model of the hospital incident command system (HICS) via quality improvement models in Iran’, Journal of Research in Medical and Dental Science, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 257-268.

Allen, DK, Karanasios, S & Norman, A 2014, ‘Information sharing and interoperability: the case of major incident management’, European Journal of Information Systems, vol. 23, no. 4, pp. 418-432.

Biersteker, E, Ferguson, JE, Beersma, B & Groenewegen, P 2017, ‘Toward a legal perspective on crisis information management: legal values and privacy-sensitive information at odds?’ Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, vol. 14, no. 1, Web.

Davies, A 2015, ‘Incident command decision-making: perception vs reality’, Australasian Policing, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 32-33, 35-38.

Drieu, M, Sams, M & Wilson, K 2017, ‘One Gulf–commitment to preparedness’, International Oil Spill Conference Proceedings, vol. 2017, no. 1, pp. 2743-2761.

Federal Emergency Management Agency, 2017, National incident management system, FEMA, Washington, DC.

Fleming, CJ, McCartha, EB & Steelman, TA 2015, ‘Conflict and collaboration in wildfire management: the role of mission alignment’, Public Administration Review, vol. 75, no. 3, pp. 445-454.

Flin, R & Arbuthnot, K 2017, Incident command: tales from the hot seat, Routledge, Abingdon.

Foresti, GL, Farinosi, M & Vernier, M 2015, ‘Situational awareness in smart environments: socio-mobile and sensor data fusion for emergency response to disasters’, Journal of Ambient Intelligence and Humanized Computing, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 239-257.

Griffith, JC & Roberts, DL 2015, ‘A meta-analysis of crew resource management/incident command systems implementation studies in the fire and emergency services’, Journal of Aviation/Aerospace Education & Research, vol. 25, no. 1, pp. 1-25.

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Jensen, J & Waugh Jr, WL 2014, ‘The United States’ experience with the incident command system: what we think we know and what we need to know more about’, Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management, vol. 22, no. 1, pp. 5-17.

Nowell, B, Steelman, T, Velez, ALK & Yang, Z 2018, ‘The structure of effective governance of disaster response networks: insights from the field’, The American Review of Public Administration, vol. 48, no. 7, pp. 699-715.

Paveglio, TB, Carroll, MS, Hall, TE & Brenkert-Smith, H 2015, ‘‘Put the wet stuff on the hot stuff’: the legacy and drivers of conflict surrounding wildfire suppression’, Journal of Rural Studies, vol. 41, pp. 72-81.

Power, N 2018, ‘Extreme teams: toward a greater understanding of multiagency teamwork during major emergencies and disasters’, American Psychologist, vol. 73, no. 4, pp. 478-490.

Shooshtari, S, Tofighi, S & Abbasi, S 2017, ‘Benefits, barriers, and limitations on the use of Hospital Incident Command System’, Journal of Research in Medical Sciences: The Official Journal of Isfahan University of Medical Sciences, vol. 22, p. 36.

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Van Niekerk, D, Coetzee, C, Botha, D, Murphree, MJ, Fourie, K, Le Roux, T, Wentink, G, Kruger, L, Shoroma, L, Genade, K, Meyer, S & Annandale, E 2015, ‘Planning and executing scenario based simulation exercises: methodological lessons’, Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, vol. 12, no. 1, pp. 193-210.

Wincek, J, Sousa, LS, Myers, MR & Ozog, H 2015, ‘Organizational change management for process safety’, Process Safety Progress, vol. 34, no. 1, pp. 89-93.

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