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Learning from failures in emergency response: Two empirical studies

Sidney W. A. Dekker, PhD, Magnus Jonsén, MSc, Johan Bergström, MSc, Nicklas Dahlström, PhD


Recent high-visibility disasters have fueled public and political awareness of the importance of managing and mitigating their consequences effectively. In response, various countries have enacted legislation that demands the evaluation of emergency responses so that lessons for improvement can be learned. A series of field and experimental studies were conducted from 2005 to 2007 to assess the ability of firstresponder organizations (eg, fire departments) to learn from failures that occurred during their emergency responses. The departments studied often lacked basic organizational requisites for effectively learning from failure (eg, mutual trust, participation, knowledge of possible learning mechanisms). Further, neither firstresponder training, nor daily practice, seems supported by knowledge of generic competencies necessary for effective crisis management. This not only hampers coordination during a response, but also keeps its evaluation from using a language that could help organizations learn and improve.


learning, failure, emergency response, safety culture

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