Guidelines show how to achieve successful cooperation between the civil population and the public authorities
Feb 15, 2018
In crisis situations, how can intermediary agencies provide an interface between the emergency and rescue services, on the one hand, and the civil population, on the other? KOKOS, a research project currently under way at the Institute of Human Factors and Technology Management IAT of the University of Stuttgart, is investigating this question. Results of this research are now available in the form of guidelines covering conceptual, legal and organizational issues.
In many places, emergency services struggle to recruit volunteers for civil protection duties. However, in the event of a natural disaster or other crisis situation, there is an impressive willingness to help among those members of the general public not already involved in a voluntary capacity. While this spontaneous readiness to help is welcomed, it presents a major challenge for the emergency and rescue services, such as fire services, aid organizations and the German federal agency for technical relief (Technisches Hilfswerk). What is the best way to coordinate all these voluntary helpers?
Intermediary agencies can take on coordination and communication responsibilities
For the public authorities, it is impossible to know in advance whether, when and how many volunteers might be available in a concrete disaster situation. Furthermore, as a rule, volunteers are not qualified to deal with disaster situations and must therefore be instructed and trained before deployment. This takes time, which is often lacking. Consequently, many emergency and rescue services decline to cooperate with volunteer helpers, with the result that the resources of society remain untapped. To address this problem, the Institute of Human Factors and Technology Management IAT at the University of Stuttgart, which cooperates closely with the Fraunhofer Institute for Industrial Engineering IAO, has developed the concept of the intermediary agency. This is designed to facilitate the structured deployment of spontaneous, unaffiliated helpers, thereby conserving the resources of the emergency and rescue services. In other words, they outsource responsibility for coordinating volunteer help to these so-called intermediary agencies, which therefore function as an organizational and cultural bridge, providing access to spontaneous help from within society.
Guidelines provide legal and organizational assistance
Guidelines now published describe the ideal way of organizing such cooperation, what it demands, and practical experience with the concept of the intermediary agency. They answer the questions frequently asked both by the intermediary agency and the emergency and rescue services: What is the precise nature of the intermediary agency? What different types are there? What is the best way to provide help for the emergency and rescue services, and which legal and organizational issues must be observed? They are available for free download via the link below.
KOKOS (support for cooperation from voluntary helpers in complex missions) is a joint research project of the Institute of Human Factors and Technology Management IAT at the University of Stuttgart together with the University of Siegen and Vomatec Innovations GmbH. It receives funding from the German federal ministry of education and research (FKZ 13N13559-13N13561).