Communication and coordination across event phases: A multi‐team system emergency response

Olivia Brown, Nicola Power, Stacey Conchie

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (SciVal)


This paper explores how multi-agency response teams communicate and coordinate in different phases of a simulated terrorist incident. Procedural guidelines state that responders should coordinate their response to a major emergency across two phases: ‘response’ (when the incident is ongoing) and ‘recovery’ (when the threat has subsided, but the legacy of the incident is ongoing). However, no research has examined whether these phases map to the behaviours of responders in situ. To address this, we used measures of communication and coordination to examine how behaviours evolved during a simulated terrorist incident in the United Kingdom. We grounded our approach within the theoretical literature on multi-team systems. It was found that the current response/recovery classification does not fit the nuanced context of an emergency. Instead, a three-phase structure of ‘response/resolve/recovery’ is more reflective of behaviour. It was also found that coordination between agencies improved when communication networks became less centralized. This suggests that collaborative working in multi-team systems may be improved by adopting decentralized communication networks.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)591-615
Number of pages25
JournalJournal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology
Issue number3
Early online date4 May 2021
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sept 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the Centre for Research and Evidence on Security Threats [ESRC Award: ES/N009614/1]. The authors would like to acknowledge Dr Michael Humann, University of Liverpool for facilitating access to the data used in the study.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 The Authors. Journal of Occupational and Organizational Psychology published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd on behalf of British Psychological Society


  • Multi-team Systems
  • Communication
  • Coordination
  • Extreme teams

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Applied Psychology


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