Decision Support Systems in Crisis Response and Emergency

By Carl Evans,2014-05-13 16:33
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Decision Support Systems in Crisis Response and Emergency

Proceedings of 5th International Symposium on Intelligent Manufacturing Systems, May 29-31, 2006: 1295-1303 ?Sakarya University, Department of Industrial Engineering

    Decision Support Systems in

    Crisis Response and Emergency Management: A Proposal For

    Turkish Emergency Management and Crisis Response System

    Dr. Erman Coşkun

    Sakarya University Economics and Administrative Sciences Department

    Sakarya, Turkey


    LeMoyne College Business Department

    Syracuse, New York

    Sakarya University Economics and Administrative Sciences Department

    Esentepe Kampusu, Sakarya, Turkey


    Dilek Özceylan

    Sakarya University Informatics Department

    Sakarya, Turkey


    Dr. Çiğdem Arıcıgil Çilan

    Istanbul University Faculty of Business Administration

    Quantitative Methods Department

    Avcilar, Istanbul



    Disasters and accidents which result with extreme casualties and losses occur each day

    and since we can not prevent them totally societies must learn to manage and to live with

    them. After disaster happen disaster managers and rescue teams must respond rapidly

    and at an optimal level to save lives and help to victims. While this goal is well achieved

    by many developed nations, developing or underdeveloped nations are still the victim of

    these disasters and accidents. The importance of a well designed and functional crisis

    response and emergency management (CREM) infrastructure and system especially

    shows up when we compare the losses and casualties occurred in similar such

    emergency situations in a developed country and an underdeveloped country. This study

    examines the role of computerized decision support systems for CREM and discusses

    what should be taken into consideration for such systems in Turkey for local level and


    Keywords: crisis response, emergency management, decision support systems

    Submission Area: Decision Support Systems


     Accidents, incidents, crisis, disasters, and emergencies are reality of our daily lives and they result with huge losses in terms of human life, money and environmental damage. Power (2005) classifies these situations as : Recurring emergencies for public agencies (traffic accident, kidnapping, building fire, air plane crash, oil spill), sudden natural catastrophic events (hurricane, volcano, tornado tsunami, earthquake, wild fire), sudden public infrastructure catastrophic events (dam flood, nuclear reactor accident, blackouts), complex and continuing emergencies (desert sand storms, civic events such as marches, unrests), public health crises (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), Ebola Virus, AIDS, Mad Cow, Oriental Rat Flea - The Black Death, Bird Flu), economic/political crises (NYSE 10/29/1929, Famine), terrorist acts (Black September Terrorist, September 11th), company/organizational crises (Bridgestone/Firestone and Ford Motor Company, Enron, McDonalds’s, Union Carbide, Exxon)

    Since we can not prevent them totally, we have to learn to live with them and we need to be prepared all the time and we need to learn how to mitigate risk of losses in such events by managing crisis and emergencies correctly. After disaster happens disaster managers and rescue teams must respond rapidly and at an optimal level to save lives and help to victims.

    As with many other parts of our life, computerized decision support systems can assist in crisis, disaster and emergency planning, response and management. Especially developed countries use computerized DSS to minimize risk of losses and to manage crisis and emergencies. The comparison of losses show the difference of having such systems and not having them at all.

    This study examines different applications of DSS utilization (for communications support, planning and modeling situations, monitoring events using historical and real-time data, sharing knowledge and managing and retrieving data and documents) in different types of emergencies and crisis management. Then, it suggests a plan for an integrated emergency response system for a municipality, a city, and a country.

Decision Support Systems

    Decision Support Systems are interactive computerized information systems and subsystems intended to support decision-making activities by utilizing communications technologies, data, documents, knowledge and/or models to identify and solve problems (Power, 2005). They couple the intellectual resources of individuals with the capabilities of computers to improve the quality of decisions (Turban, Aronson; pg.13). They have been developed and utilized since mid 70s to improve the accuracy, timeliness, quality and overall effectiveness of a specific decision or a set of related decisions.

    The purpose of the DSS are collaboration, data analysis and retrieval, forecasting, knowledge sharing, operations performance monitoring, course of action analysis, action decision support for triage, hazard assessment or verification, contingency planning, and resource allocation and DSS can be used by senior decision makers/managers, operations staff, first responders, and volunteers (Power, 2005).


    There are five categories of Decision Support Systems as communications-driven DSS, data-driven DSS, document-driven DSS, knowledge-driven DSS, and model-driven DSS. Communications-driven DSS primarily derive their functionality from computer and

    networking technologies that support real-time and asynchronous collaboration. Data-driven DSS includes file drawer and management reporting systems, data warehousing and analysis systems, Executive Information Systems (EIS) and data-driven Spatial Decision Support Systems. Business Intelligence Systems are also examples of Data-Driven DSS. Data-Driven DSS emphasize access to and manipulation of large databases of structured historic and/or real-time data. Document-driven DSS help users retrieve and manage unstructured documents. A Document-driven DSS integrates a variety of storage and processing technologies to provide complete document retrieval, analysis and support. Knowledge-driven DSS are suggestion systems, knowledge-based DSS and management expert systems. Knowledge-driven DSS suggest and recommend actions to users. Model-driven DSS include systems that use accounting and financial models, representational models, and optimization models. Model-driven DSS emphasize access to and

    manipulation of a quantitative model. Some Model-driven DSS Application Categories Accounting/Financial including cost-benefit analysis, Decision Analysis, Forecasting, Inventory Control and Stockout, Location, Allocation, Distribution, Manpower Planning and Assignment, Project Planning and Control, Queuing and Congestion, Reliability and Replacement Policy, Sequencing and Scheduling.

    Figure 1. Main Structure and Components for Decision Support Systems (adapted from

    Power, 2005)


Crisis, Accidents, Incidents and Disasters

    A catastrophic incident results in large number of casualties and/or displaced persons, possibly in the tens of thousands. A catastrophic incident may occur with little or no warning. Some incidents, such as rapid disease outbreaks, may be well underway before detection. A catastrophic incident has unique dimensions/characteristics requiring that response plans/strategies be flexible enough to effectively address emerging needs and requirements. A detailed and credible common operating picture may not be available for 24 to 48 hours (or longer) after the incident. As a result, response activities must begin without the benefit of a detailed or complete situation and critical needs assessment.

    The incident may cause significant disruption of the areas critical infrastructure, such as energy, transportation, telecommunications, and public health and medical systems. The response capabilities and resources of the local jurisdiction (to include mutual aid from surrounding jurisdictions and response support from the State) may be insufficient and quickly overwhelmed. Local emergency personnel who normally respond to incidents may be among those affected and unable to perform their duties. Large scale evacuations, organized or self directed, may occur. The health-related implications of an incident aggravate attempts to implement a coordinated evacuation management strategy.

Attributes of a Catastrophic Incident

    Incidents occur in stages. We can name these stages as pre-event, crisis-event, and post event (Harrald, 2005). The CREM occurs during all these phases. It starts well before the event occurrence with planning, resource preparation, and training. After the event occurs, the first phase is reaction and mobilization. This phase must planned and performed carefully. Since the event is just occurred, and most of the facts are not known, people may be in panic and this can result with late response and more losses. Different teams or rescue groups can be involved and this makes situation management even more difficult. The next phase is integration and it should involve with making people and other resources available for performance and response. Once this phase is completed emergency response team starts to work and perform in production phase. Finally after performing, the demobilization phase starts and rescue teams return complete the job and return to their bases.

    To be successful in each stage several critical success factors (Harrald, 2005) must be considered and the response details must be planned and tested. For pre-event these success factors are having immediate response plans, mobilization capacity, adequate resources, and well planned inter-organizational coordination. The critical success factors for reaction and mobilization phase are situational awareness and sharing this information immediately across distributed decision network, the needs are determined or estimated correctly and the resources are planned and mobilized correctly. The critical success factors for integration phase are integration of resources, information, and communication, coordination, ability to collect to evaluate, and to analyze information obtained, and to monitor and evaluate results of actions and decisions established. The critical success factors for production phase are adaptability, productivity and measuring the productivity level, evaluating response and recovery goals and taking necessary actions. The critical success factors for transition/demobilization phase are making sure that long term recovery is well planned and will be continuing, external resources are de-mobilized, required resources are provided, and organizational learning is achieved.


    Demobilization Production


    S i Performing zReaction & “Transition” Preparation Preparation e “Norming” Mobilization and and “Storming Prevention Prevention / Forming”

    Pre-Crisis Time Event Event Post-Event

    Figure 2. Stages of a Disaster Response: Organizational Size Vs. Time (adapted from

    Harrald, 2005)

Decision support systems can be used in all these disaster response and emergency

    management phases. They can help decision makers, rescue workers, and team

    managers to plan, to control, to calculate, to manage events and resources, to

    communicate, to exercise authority, to mobilize and utilize resources.

Crisis Response and Emergency Management in Turkey

Turkey is a very large country in terms of population and land size. Population intensity is

    not balanced. The crowded cities create a lot of problems and accidents and incidents

    have a big probability to occur. The roads are insufficient, the people are not well

    educated. Traffic accidents occur all the time. The Bosporus is a narrow and dangerous

    waterway and big oil tankers as well as hazardous material ships pass all the time.

    Disasters such as flood, forest fires, and snow storms occur in different parts of the

    country all the time. Most of the cities are not developed under a plan and most of the

    buildings are unlawfully built and violate the code.

Everyday we see people who are injured in traffic accidents carried by citizens without

    considering first aid rules and transported by taxis to hospitals because of late arriving

    ambulances. We see that citizens and neighbors are trying to carry water to extinguish a

    house fire because the fire truck arrives late or can not go close to the home because of

    narrow roads or cars blocking the road. In Turkey there is not a single number for

    emergency calls and police, fire trucks, ambulances, gendarme. Therefore, emergency

    units do not arrive in a timely fashion if we manage to call them and inform them about the



    Big part of Turkey is on earthquake fault line and strong earthquakes should be expected. Earthquakes occurred in Erzincan, Afyon, Marmara, Duzce showed us that Turkey does not have a functioning crisis response and emergency management plan. Especially after the 1999 earthquake some work has begun. In Izmir Province, earthquake scenarios made for a GIS based analysis and an emergency disaster management system. TUBITAK Marmara Research Center developed GIS for Yalova Municipality within the framework of Marmara earthquake rehabilitation program.

    Additionally, important work such as disaster information systems (in İstanbul, Kastamonu,

    Afyon), emergency earthquake management programs, forest fire observation towers, determining traffic accident "black spots" locations by using GIS are being continued.and implemented.

    In summary, Turkey has not still adequate CREM in either local level or countrywide.

What Can Be Done for Turkey’s CREM?

Local Level:

    Majority of the people live in a certain area, and they most need local level emergency response services. Although this is the simplest type of CREM to establish and accomplish, it makes the biggest difference in people’s lives. Police for security related

    calls, ambulance or fire crew for accidents or health related problems, rescue teams for collisions are sample events for local CREM. When we evaluate these kinds of services, we can say that except very few municipalities, these services are uncoordinated, late to arrive to the scene, must perform with very limited resources. Result is tragedies, lost lives, and big damages.

    A single number to dial for all kind of emergencies should be the starting point for local level CREM. Then the dispatcher should alarm required agency (such as police, ambulance, and fire crew). This system can use a decision support system. This system can show information such as:

-The nearest emergency response team

    -Available resources

    -Shortest path to arrive to the scene

    -Information about the surrounding area (for example in case of a fire buildings or factories close to that area and might have or produce hazardous material).

City Level:

    Each city must have a CREM center. This center should be computerized to follow events and emergencies. All kind of communication devices and support systems should be available in this center. Information about city resources (humans, crew numbers, equipment, capabilities and skills, expertise areas), the resource locations should be shown on digital maps or GIS. The decision support systems to plan, to calculate, to communicate, and to help human decision makers should be developed and ready to use. In case of a big emergency this center should be headquarters of operations and crisis response. Emergency response plans should be prepared for different disaster scenarios


    and people must exactly know who will be in charge of what. Real drills must be conducted to educate people and teach them how to coordinate emergency response tasks.

    City level CREM centers must operate under the command of governors and/or mayors. Common subunits such as police, health, fire, traffic, hazardous material must be established as well as unique units such as marital accident or incident response team, oil tanker fire response team, or airport security response teams.


    A CREM agency must be established as an authority to oversee, to plan, and to coordinate big nationwide disasters or emergencies. This agency must serve under the prime-minister. All city level centers and resources must be connected to this agency. Specialized units such as search and rescue, fire, oil and hazardous materials response, infrastructure, housing, mass care, communications, energy, public safety and security, external affairs, terrorism, long term community recovery and mitigation, training must be staffed and must be provided by necessary resources.

    On the technology side this national and local centers must have emerging decision support technologies (Power, 2005) such as scenario databases, web-based planning support systems, instant messaging and collaboration, collaborative environments, agent-based, realistic simulations, real-time datawarehouse using GPS, sensors, knowledge management web portals, command center technology, dispatch center, all kind of regular and digital maps, and mobile computing.


    Local CREM Local CREM Local CREM Local CREM

    City City


    Center Center




    City City


    Center Center

    Local CREM Local CREM Local CREM Local CREM

    Figure 3. Proposed Crisis Response and Emergency Management Structure


In this study, we discussed the issue of using decision support systems to CREM in local,

    city, and country levels. The studies show that such systems can save lives and can be

    used to minimize losses with well planned, fast, and coordinated response to any kind of

    emergencies or disasters.

The current situation in terms of CREM in Turkey has been discussed and a model has

    been proposed for Turkey. It is obvious that the current system is not functioning at all

    and immediate action has to be taken to create CREM centers should be created and

    resourced in towns, cities, and a countrywide CREM for coordination and for big disasters

    should be established. Then, all these centers must be utilizing communication

    technologies, web technology, decision support systems, and automated systems. Expert

    people must staff these centers and training should be provided through classroom and

    drills or simulations.



Harrald, J. "Supporting agility and discipline when preparing and responding to extreme

    events" Keynote presentation. Proceedings of the 2nd International ISCRAM Conference

    (B. Van de Walle and B. Carlé, eds.), Brussels, Belgium, April 2005.

    Power, D. "DSS for crisis planning, response and management" Keynote presentation. Proceedings of the 2nd International ISCRAM Conference (B. Van de Walle and B. Carlé,

    eds.), Brussels, Belgium, April 2005.

Turban, E. Aronson, J.E. Decisison Support Systems and Intelligent Systems, Fifth Edition,

    Prentice Hall.

Wyss, M. Earthquake Loss Estimates Applied in Real Time and to Megacity Risk

    Assessment Proceedings of the 2nd International ISCRAM Conference (B. Van de Walle

    and B. Carlé, eds.), Brussels, Belgium, April 2005.


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