All at sea? A critical appraisal of the C4 framework for the management of major maritime emergencies (MME)

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Astbury, John

This study is the result of nearly four decades of professional practice in the maritime industry and, in particular, dealing with shipping emergencies, including many high profile accidents and several hundred lesser, but potentially life-threatening, emergencies. The study uses this knowledge and experience as a basis for undertaking a critical evaluation of the Command, Control, Communication and Coordination (C4) framework that is typically used in dealing with such emergencies. It begins with a brief history and background to the C4 framework in the context of a major maritime emergency (MME). The components of the framework are defined and an exemplar activity map used to describe the framework in detail and the relationship between its components and external influences.\ud \ud A preliminary evaluation of the C4 framework suggested that while it is largely robust in principle, there is considerable evidence to suggest that its utility in the handling of live emergencies is frequently undermined in practice. This finding led to a second phase of evaluation, which attempted to identify optimal operational principles that can contribute to a more effective implementation of the C4 framework in major maritime emergencies.\ud Six command principles (P1-P6) plus one sub-principle (P1a) developed from the author’s career are described and used as a basis upon which to build additional principles. To determine these additional principles, seven case studies based on experience and professional practice, are examined to identify key statements and observations of Favourable (F) and Unfavourable (U) practice. \ud \ud Evaluation and analysis of the key statements and observations led to thirty additional C4 framework principles. A short cross-sectional (latitudinal) survey was also conducted of emergency service professionals to support the professional practice and the principles derived from the case studies. Given the time constraints of this study and the difficulty in maintaining responses over time from all 395 respondents, a longitudinal survey was ruled out. Analysis of the survey led to a further three principles that included qualities required of a commander, and the selection of potential recruits to emergency response organisations, in particular command positions.\ud \ud The six original principles of command (plus one sub-principle) are matched with extant cognitive decision making studies, together with a limited review of the psychology of decision making outside of the maritime context using real life examples, and evaluated for commonality or otherwise of biases and thinking approach. From these appraisals a further 5 principles were identified. In all, a comprehensive list of 46 C4 framework principles is produced that covers command in terms of people (command, skills and knowledge), Process (Design), Resources (Design), Organisation (Design). The 46 principles are classified under 3 headings: Capability, Readiness, Response, producing 26 consolidated principles under 10 sub-headings. The list is further refined to produce three distinct tables of principles in an operational format that can be used by any emergency response organisation.\ud \ud The study, which is based on practical experience and professional practice supported by academic research, concludes that the implementation of the C4 framework for the management of an MME can be significantly flawed, and would benefit from the adoption of many of the principles derived from the author’s own experiences and also from complementary sources. The study also supports the contention that it is the human element in the implementation of the C4 framework that could be improved and that the framework itself is largely fit for purpose. \ud \ud The refined principles derived require actions to be undertaken, some more extensive than others, by commanders, trainers, recruiters and managers before they can be effective. To aid this approach, the principles are marshalled into three key groups, as commonly used by emergency services, as described above. The key groups can be used to aid the formation of simulated exercises for training purposes and for organisational design. In summary, the principles identified provide a foundation for improving the implementation of the C4 framework for the management of MMEs, and for emergencies across all other fields and in many other contexts.
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