Improving emergency response through cognitive task analysis

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingPaper in conference proceeding


Society has a responsibility to aid its citizens in case of emergency. This calls for planning
and preparations. However, societal emergency response activities are not always fully
effective. This might be due to suboptimal emergency planning and preparations, with some
planned response actions not working as intended. For example, it is possible that some
actions show to be ‘over-planned’ with too much content detail, while other actions show a
lack of adequate drill or information support. Each emergency has its own specific
characteristics, and good emergency response demands conscious thought processes for
guiding the interaction between the response and the dynamic course of events. Yet, some
response generated demands almost always arise during emergencies (Quarantelli, 1997), and
such demands should preferably be handled automatically. Thus there is a need for a mix of
conscious and automatic processes during emergency response. Conscious processing has the
ability to adapt to the present situation, but is relatively slow and confined to one thing at a
time. Automatic processes are relatively fast and can operate in parallel, but can not be
adapted to the situation. The question is which task belongs on which level. Rasmussen
(1983) described a model over different cognitive performance levels, linking control mode
(automatic vs. conscious) to situation (routine vs. novel problems). We believe that
Rasmussen’s ideas can be used throughout the emergency planning and response processes to
sort tasks in accordance with their probable optimal mental control modes. Based on a study
of emergency planning and response activities in the Swedish city of Malmö we propose and
discuss an algorithm for guiding the selection of appropriate competence types for different


Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Other Civil Engineering
  • Production Engineering, Human Work Science and Ergonomics
  • Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
  • Building Technologies


  • planning, conscious processes, emergency response, training, automatic processes, task analysis
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication14th TIEMS Annual Conference 2007 Book of Proceedings
EditorsAlan Jones
PublisherThe International Emergency Management Society
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Publication categoryResearch
Event14th TIEMS Annual Conference, 2007: Disaster Recovery and Relief: Current & Future Approaches - Trogir, Croatia
Duration: 2007 Jun 52007 Jun 8


Conference14th TIEMS Annual Conference, 2007
Abbreviated titleTIEMS 2007

Total downloads

No data available