Accession Number:



Informal Communications and Situation Awareness in C2 Environments

Descriptive Note:

Conference paper

Corporate Author:


Report Date:


Pagination or Media Count:



The paper examines the role of informal information flows and situation awareness in the context of command and control environments for emergency services. The studies are based on investigations into the outcomes for fire brigades dealing with emergencies that exceed their capacity to handle the situations. The objective of the reported research is to design an approach to the effective and complementary use of both formal and informal information flows to enhance situation awareness, and hence effective decision making, at all levels within an emergency organization. The case studies of actual and major wild fires illustrated that there were well-defined limits to an organizations capacity to handle the flow of communications, and that there were no strategies in place to cope when these limits were reached. As a consequence a number of ad hoc peer to peer informal communication strategies were adopted by the operational staff. These practically enforced informal flows have an implication that the senior decision makers at headquarters were no longer in the C2 loop. The paper addresses the reaction of the headquarters to this reality, and proposes a design strategy for a communications network that is a combination of formal and informal flows. This combination is designed to scale seamlessly as the scale of the emergency increases, and is designed to maintain situation awareness at all levels.

Subject Categories:

  • Navigation and Guidance
  • Operations Research
  • Command, Control and Communications Systems

Distribution Statement: