Application of Social Network Analysis Methods to Quantitatively Assess Exercise Coordination

By Su, Yee San | Homeland Security Affairs, January 1, 2011 | Go to article overview

Application of Social Network Analysis Methods to Quantitatively Assess Exercise Coordination


Su, Yee San, Homeland Security Affairs


Introduction

Coordination, or lack thereof, has been identified as a key bottleneck in effective management of disasters such as Hurricane Katrina.1 Large-scale events frequently demand more complex forms of organization, larger quantities of resources, and access to specialized equipment and personnel under conditions of decreased situational awareness.2 As a result, the challenge of establishing effective coordination may increase nonlinearly with respect to increases in various event scales (e.g., size, severity). Unfortunately, quantitative metrics for measuring coordination performance do not yet exist. Assessments of coordination performance ? such as those found in after-action reports ? are still predominantly anecdotal. Development of quantitative metrics to characterize coordination would allow for a more robust method of measuring response coordination progress and facilitate our understanding of how coordination is negatively affected by event scales.

Social network analysis is a possible means to obtain meaningful, quantitative metrics. Recent years have seen an increase in the application of social network analysis concepts to homeland security. For example, Naim Kapucu cast the evolution of national response frameworks as a series of network graphs.3 Moreover, researchers have studied coordination and emergent player roles for events such as Hurricane Katrina and 9/11.4 Meanwhile, social network analysis has also seen the development of a variety of new quantitative methods to characterize networks.

To this end, two possible techniques are proposed to generate quantitative measures of coordination: (1) a centrality measure introduced by Stephen Borgatti to address what he called the negative variation of the Key Player Problem (KPP-Negative);5 and (2) a technique for detecting community structure developed in a series of papers by Girvan and Newman.6 Borgatti's technique is used to identify key coordinating agencies and could potentially be used to chart the development of emergency operations centers (EOCs), as well as provide an outcome value for statistical analysis.7 Meanwhile, community sub-group examination via Girvan and Newman's technique could be used to identify potential information stove-piping. The underlying basis and reasons for selecting these techniques are discussed in the Data and Approach section.

These approaches were applied in an analysis of evaluator logs from the Portland, Oregon site of the 2007 Top Officials 4 (TOPOFF 4) exercise. TOPOFF 4 provides a rare opportunity to examine coordination in the context of a large-scale, catastrophic event. Thus far, evaluator records from TOPOFF 4 have been used to support construction of various after-action reports.8 However, the notion was to explore whether additional insights on coordination could be obtained ? given the extensive database of communication-related information collected ? using the frequency of communication as a proxy for coordination effectiveness. While highlighting the potential of social network analysis, this article also points out the need for additional research and validation. Thus, it includes recommendations for improving data collection in future exercises.

Data And Approach

TOPOFF 4 Dataset

TOPOFF 4 is one of what are now designated Tier I National Level Exercises (NLE). Given the infrequent occurrence of catastrophes, few events involve the full spectrum of the response community (spanning vertically across all levels of government and geographically across regions, and involving both non-governmental organizations and the private sector). Tier I NLE provide a rare glimpse of how coordination fairs in a catastrophic context, including participation at local, county, state, and federal levels, as well as private sector and non-governmental organizations (NGO). Since the original TOPOFF in 2000, a primary goal has been "to improve the capability of government officials and agencies, both within the United States and abroad to provide an effective, coordinated, and strategic response to a terrorist attack. …

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