University of Tasmania
Whole_Curnin_thesis.pdf (2.38 MB)

Spanning boundaries to support effective multi-agency coordination in emergency management

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posted on 2023-05-27, 14:37 authored by Steven CurninSteven Curnin
Modern disasters are frequently beyond the management capability of any one organization and repeatedly necessitate an approach requiring multiple organizations such as those witnessed following the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004 and the Haiti earthquake in 2010. An increased susceptibility of societies impacted by natural and man-made hazards consequently requires a coordinated response from public and private organizations in an effort to mitigate the risk to the affected communities. Failure to enact an adequate response to manage the consequences of disastrous events has the potential to create widespread death and injury to an already vulnerable global population. This doctoral thesis by publication draws attention to the specialist workers involved in emergency management arrangements, commonly called liaison officers, from organizations involved in multi-agency coordination efforts. Liaison officers are required to span organizational boundaries to provide linkages between organizations engaged in emergency management events. Consequently, they are deemed fundamental to the success of any multi-agency coordination approach. However, the work of liaison officers is problematic as they are invariably confronted by a myriad of social, organizational and technological complexities. The unique nature of multi-agency coordination in emergency management is generally highlighted by coordination failure and continues to be inadequately addressed in practice and in research. The principal aim of the research was to explore the work of liaison officers involved in multi-agency arrangements and suggest a framework for improving multi-agency coordination in emergency management. The research was thus embedded in human factors drawing on theories that also provided a contextual understanding of dynamic socio-cultural environments. In so doing the research explicitly drew upon the methodology of core-task analysis which is a conceptual modelling approach for the analysis of empirical qualitative data that is typically suited to high reliability environments. The qualitative data used in this research was collected from a series of individual interviews, observational studies and focus group interviews conducted with liaison officers from public and private organizations across three Australian states. The findings are presented in five scientific research papers. Three of the papers have been published in internationally recognized peer-reviewed journals. The final two papers have been submitted for publication and are currently under review. The contributions of this research have enhanced knowledge development and provided insights that can be utilised in evidence-based practice in emergency management. The theoretical contribution provided an insight into the work of liaison officers in the context of emergency management arrangements. The methodological contribution permitted the application of core-task analysis to the domain of emergency management where it had not previously been applied. Finally, facets of this research have recently been implemented by industry into operational doctrine and organizational learning processes.


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  • Unpublished

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Copyright 2015 the author Appendix A appears to be an Accepted Manuscript of an article published by Taylor & Francis Group in the International Journal of Public Administration on 25/03/2014, available online: Appendix B appears to be the equivalent of a post-print article published as: Curnin, S., Owen, C., Trist, C., 2014, Managing the constraints of boundary spanning in emergency management, Cognition, Technology & Work, 16(4), 549-563 .The final publication is available at Springer via Appendix C appears to be the equivalent of a post-print article published as: Curnin, S., Owen, C., 2013, Obtaining information in emergency management: a case study from an Australian emergency operations centre, International Journal of Human Factors and Ergonomics (IJHFE), 2(2/3), 131-158 Appendix D appears to be the equivalent of the peer reviewed version of the following article: Curnin, S., Owen, C., Paton, D., Trist, C., Parsons, D., 2015, Role clarity, swift trust and multi-agency coordination, Journal of contingencies and crisis management, 23(1), 29-35 which has been published in final form at This article may be used for non-commercial purposes in accordance with Wiley Terms and Conditions for Self-Archiving. Appendix E appears to be the equivalent of the peer reviewed version of the following article: Curnin, S., Owen, C., Paton, D., Brooks, B., 2015, A theoretical framework for negotiating the path of emergency management multi-agency coordination, Applied ergonomics, 47, 300-307 10.1016/j.apergo.2014.10.014

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