Effects of networks on learning during emergency events

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Community Safety
TitleEffects of networks on learning during emergency events
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2012
AuthorsHamra, J, Hossain, L, Owen, C, Abbasi, A
JournalDisaster Prevention and Management
Start Page584
Date Published2012
KeywordsAdaptability, Australia, Bushfire, Emergency management, Fire, Learning, Social networks
AbstractPurpose – This paper aims to explore the relationship between learning and the social networks employed within the context of emergency management. It hypothesises, using social network theory as a framework for analysis, that changes to interconnectedness between actors are implicated in the potential for those actors to learn and improvise in dynamically changing and emergent conditions. Design/methodology/approach – To test the hypotheses, survey data were investigated which were collected as part of a research study with the support of the Australian Bushfire Co-operative Research Centre (CRC). This survey was completed by experienced personnel reflecting on a number of indicators in an emergency event. Findings – Results show that increases in actors’ involvement within the social emergency management network influences the ability of those actors to engage in learning-related work activity. The paper infers that by developing learning related resources within the context of their social interactions these emergency personnel are better able to adapt and improvise in complex emergency events. Research limitations/implications – As an area of further research, it would be useful to apply the existing theoretical model to the context of another domain, preferably one that shares characteristics of uncertainty and unstable environments. Originality/value – Most existing studies of learning theory in human networks have focused on learning in situations requiring stable working relationships with no environmental uncertainties. In this paper, it is argued that the designs of existing models are useful as a building block, yet flawed for application within the context of disaster management. By presenting a model of learning-related work activity, as an ongoing aspect of network connectedness, personnel within emergency services organisations can strengthen their capacity to be flexible and adaptable.