2015-Stephen Dobson

Understanding the evolution of operational routines in emergency incident response handling

Dr Stephen Dobson, University of Coventry

Project summary: The research proposed here examines the narrative log of calls and incidents in a UK Fire and Rescue emergency service. The narrative log is a computer record which is created automatically as call operatives deal with incidents, and as such it provides a rich source of real-time continuous sequential data. A pilot study examining one month of narrative log data has been completed by the applicant and reported on at the European Academy of Management in 2015 (Best Paper nominee). Through the British Academy of Management Transition Grant, four years of narrative log data will be processed for the purpose of investigating the longer-term evolution of organisational routines. The sequence of these logs form procedural routines for incident handling in real-time which may be compiled through sequence analysis to establish patterns of incident handling behaviour and the evolution of these routines over time. Findings from the pilot work undertaken so far point toward the existence of different patterns of behaviour in emergency call handling between groups. This research is unique in the study of routines due to the extensive nature of real-time operational data available to the project. The impact of such work in practice will be to help understand the limitations of standard operating procedures and how the operational actions of groups may diverge from established ways of doing things in order to achieve results. These actions, expressed as routines, can often evolve incrementally over time and are otherwise only tacitly understood.