A social identity perspective on interoperability in the emergency services: Emergency responders' experiences of multiagency working during the COVID-19 response in the UK

Louise Davidson*, Holly Carter, Richard Amlôt, John Drury, S. Alexander Haslam, Matthew Radburn, Clifford Stott

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


Recent research has shown that multiagency emergency response is beset by a range of challenges, calling for a greater understanding of the way in which these teams work together to improve future multiagency working. Social psychological research shows that a shared identity within a group can improve the way in which that group works together and can facilitate effective outcomes. In the present study, 52 semistructured interviews were conducted with 17 strategic and/or tactical responders during the COVID-19 pandemic to understand the possible role of shared identity in the multiagency response to COVID-19 and whether this was linked to factors that facilitated or challenged interoperability. Findings show evidence of a shared identity at a horizontal intergroup level among responders locally. However, there was limited evidence for a shared identity at the vertical intergroup level between local and national responders. Three key factors linked to shared identity appeared to contribute to effective multiagency working. First, pre-existing relationships with other responders facilitated the ease with which responders were able to work together initially. Second, a sense of ‘common fate’ helped bring responders together, and finally, group leaders were able to strategically reinforce a sense of shared identity within the group.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)353-371
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Contingencies and Crisis Management
Issue number3
Early online date26 Dec 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 26 Dec 2022

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The Funding for this manuscript came from Spinal Cord Injuries Australia through PhD scholarship support of PW. Four state-based organisations contributed funding to undertake the Aus-InSCI survey. The coordinating National Study Centre in New South Wales based at the John Walsh Centre for Rehabilitation Research at The University of Sydney received funding from Insurance and Care NSW (icare NSW). The site in Victoria received a grant from the Spinal Research Institute (SRI) and Australasian Spinal Cord Injury Network Ltd. (voluntarily revoked, effective 31 July 2019). The site in South Australia received funding from Lifetime Support Authority South Australia. The site in Queensland was supported by the Division of Rehabilitation, Princess Alexandra Hospital and The Hopkins Centre, Griffith University. The funder was not involved in the study design, collection, analysis, interpretation of data, the writing of this article or the decision to submit it for publication.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2022 Crown copyright and The Authors. Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd. This article is published with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the King's Printer for Scotland.


  • COVID-19
  • emergency response
  • interoperability
  • multiteam systems
  • social identity


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