COLLABORATIVE- RAPID: Information processing under stress: A study of Mumbai police control room first responders during terrorist attacks of 11/26/08
H. Raghav Rao Principal Investigator
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The Mumbai attacks of 11/26/08 were one of the worst terror incidents in India. In the modern world, the security of citizens depend upon the success of anti-terrorist operations by security forces in all major countries around the world, not just India. This proposal focuses on a critical operational unit in successful anti-terror response - the police control room. These attacks provide a unique and time-limited opportunity to examine and understand the information processing performed by information first responders under conditions that are far from equilibrium.<br/><br/>Intellectual merit<br/>Though critical to emergency response, little is known about the information processing limitations of trained informational first responders and their supporting technology during a severe, novel and unexpected disaster. Early findings suggest that exposure to terrorist attacks impairs memory performance and raises anxiety levels. This study will inform theory about the emergence of information processing limitations in such situations. The simultaneous terrorist operations at multiple sites in this incident provide an opportunity to understand the consequences of multiple streams of information on information processing in these situations.<br/><br/>Unlike the 9/11 attacks in the US, the 11/26 attacks were an ongoing, drawn out event with the situation unfolding in real time, creating unique decision-making challenges. Further, this proposal looks at information processing within police control rooms in developing countries, an under-studied area with implications for security for US citizens. The project will be completed in collaboration with police research organizations in India. Structural equation modeling will be used to analyze paths and causal relationships from the data. Analysis of variance and covariance, and t-tests would be used.<br/><br/>Broader impact<br/>The broader impact of the research will be to improve society's ability to understand the impact of extreme stress and time pressure on the dimensions of performance of informational first responders. This will help in the development of organizational and technical support systems for processing front-line information to improve our ability to withstand terror attacks and other forms of severe, unexpected disasters.