E-IAP: Electronic Incident Action Plan

Streamlining a complex process of coordination for wildland fire incident management teams.

The E-IAP is a digital replacement of the paper-based Incident Action Plan (or IAP) that incident management teams currently work 16 hours a day to create and distribute to firefighters on the field in large wildland fire incidents. This project is the outcome of our Capstone course at MHCI+D advised by Launch Consulting.

My Role

Lead Product Designer

UX Field Researcher

Participant Recruiter

Project Manager

Timeline

5 Months

March to August 2021

Project

MHCI+D Capstone

Design Solution

Final Product Video

Short, three minute summary of our problem space and design solution.

 

Product Roadmap

Portfolio 2021 Roadmap - Wildland Fire Communications Research Timeline (1).jpg

Our research timeline during spring quarter. In addition to our project deliverables, I was responsible for recruiting and building relationships with our participants, primary interview facilitator, managing our research budget, presentations and report visual design, visual design training, as well as planning and calendar.

Portfolio 2021 Roadmap - Wildland Fire Communications Design Timeline, Research Continued

The design was conducted over 9 weeks in summer quarter. In addition to our project deliverables, I continued recruiting and building relationships with our participants, primary facilitator with participants, organizing trips to the field, managing our design budget, product planning, calendar, and planning/shooting/editing the prototype video.

I supported my three teammates who all wanted more design experience by taking a design lead position and giving them ownership of different parts of the design and advising them in weeks six and seven. I took on the video as well as administering the final usability test at the Whitmore Fire on my own.

 

The Problem Space

Wildland Fires are getting more severe and the season gets longer every year due to global climate change. We are maxing out our national wildland fire resources, and having to do more with less which contributes to more problems.

How might we use technology to help make fighting wildland fires more safe and efficient?

 

Research Overview

Wildland Fire Communications and Incident Management

One of the main challenges was quickly learning about the complexities of wildland fire incident management such as the rules, regulations, and stakeholders involved.

Another big hurdle was finding people within wildland fire to help us gain enough insight to understand the human pain points in their industry, and gaining enough trust to talk to us and get on a live wildland fire incident.

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The division supervisor briefs their crew leads on how they will approach the fire before heading out for the day.

Research Methods
Comprehensive Literature Review

We wanted to understand the basics of wildland firefighting, so in our lit review we reviewed government processes and policies like Redbook and Incident Response Pocket Guide, as well as serious accident investigation reports, and academic papers about wildland fire research.

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Literature review included reviewing government policies on fire

Recruitment

The main challenge for research was recruitment in wildland fire as they are a very specialized group of people in a dangerous field. Our team didn't have any connections to wildland fire, so I took it upon myself to recruit through social media posts on Facebook and LinkedIn, cold call people through hundreds of emails, phone calls, and asking people to refer me to others. I built trust through our interviews, phone calls, and following up with people consistently, and that eventually gave our team access to the fireline.

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Covering the incident command system in recruitment

16 Interviews

Conducted 24 interviews that spanned all the sectors of the Incident Command System from operations to planning, logistics, finance, dispatch, etc. to get a comprehensive picture of wildland fire from each person's perspective. We also talked to people that were tangentially related to wildland fire like people working in the private sector for government projects such as Axon and the California Governor's Office.

interviews.png

Interview with Richy, enabled us to do field research

Thematic Analysis of Interviews

Since we were so new to the problem space of wildland fire and there was so much we needed to learn, we decided to take a closer look at the information we were gathering and organize it in a way that we could look for patterns in the data. So we transcribed every interview and coded their statements to research questions and themes.

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Thematic Analysis on Google Sheets

Synthesis / Affinity Diagramming

To synthesize our data, we affinitized pain points and opportunities into categories and subcategories and discussed each of them to pull out main takeaways. We then connected categories and subcategories that were related to each other.

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Affinity Diagramming on Miro

Wildland Fire Conference

To understand what was on the forefront of wildland firefighting community's minds, I coordinated our team's attendance of the week-long Wildland Fire Safety Summit.

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Website of the virtual conference

Competitive Assessment

We did a competitive assessment and found that while all of these products were great, none of them were interoperable and many did not have wide adoption.

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Competitive Assessment

Field Research at Live Fires

Batterman fire: in-depth field research for the incident management team in how they build the IAP and how it's used. Tail end of the fire.

Whitmore fire: usability testing for final prototype and video prototype. Volatile part of the fire, arrived within the first 3 days of the inident management team.

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Whitmore Fire in Nespelem, WA

 

Research Findings

What We Learned

Using the research methods above, we learned a great deal about wildland fire communication. Here's a brief synopsis.

 

Stakeholders

Who they are, what they do, and why they do it

In researching wildland fire communication, we needed to find and understand a great number of people and the positions they held to be able to create a viable product.

The Incident Command System (ICS)

Wildland Fire Incident Management Teams use the Incident Command System (ICS). We talked to people across the incident command system in order to get a holistic view of what information needed to be communicated during a wildland fire.

After research, we decided the most critical information that is the biggest factor in how quickly the fire gets put out is the communication between select groups at the incident command post and the people out on the field fighting the fire.

See below for the Incident Command Structure.

ICS Structure-wht-2.png
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We focused on the Incident Commander, Incident Command Team, Operations Section, Planning Section, and Communications.

These are some of the people we've interviewed and built relationships with over time both over Zoom and in person at the Batterman Rd. Fire in Wanatchee and the Whitmore Fire in Nespelem.

 

Opportunities

Wildland fire needs and pain points organizational chart

Distilled from talking to most of the Northwest 12 Incident Management Team at both the Batterman Rd and Whitmore Fires in Washington State. We couldn't design for everything, but we took the following into account.

wildland fire needs and painpoints.jpg
 

Design Principles

We created design principles from our research insights, to keep them front and center whenever we were designing.

Usable in All Connectivity
Consider Human Factors
Must-Have Interoperability
Be
Redundant

Must be usable in all connectivity situations and bridge the gap between the current paper Incident Action Plan and one that has full connectivity.

Be considerate of the things each category of personnel is dealing with and understanding their particular situations.

Any technology needs to be able to bridge teams and their data together for cross-collaboration.

Any design needs to have contingency plans if it fails: primary, secondary, contingency, and emergency.

 

Concepting

Created 100+ initial concepts from research and design principles.

We came up with 100+ total concepts with different methodologies like braiding, crazy eights, etc.

 

Co-Design
Concept Selection

Narrowing to our final concept of the E-IAP with the Ideation and Downselection Workshop and Wildland Fire Stakeholders as Co-Designers
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Our Downselection Process