Previous research shows there are persistent challenges with multi-agency response centring on problems of communication and coordination. The Social Identity Approach provides an important psychological framework for analysing relations within and between groups which can be used to understand why challenges in multi-agency response occur, and what can be done to prevent them re-occurring in the future. To explore this issue, we conducted semi-structured interviews with 14 responders from the Police, and Fire and Rescue Services who were involved in Pandemic Multi-Agency Response Teams (PMART) during the initial months of the COVID-19. These teams responded to suspected COVID-19 deaths in the community. Interviews were analysed using thematic analysis. Results show that responders appeared to share the pre-existing superordinate identity of all being members of the blue-light service. This identity was made salient as a result of responders experiencing positive contact with each other. Responders also shared the situational superordinate identity of PMART which was both created, and then made salient, through positive contact with each other, as well as responders sharing difficult experiences. At the same time though, structural factors such as inequalities in building access and different shift patterns increased the salience of sub-group identities in ways that created conflict between these identities, as well as operational challenges for joint working. This research advances our understanding of multi-agency working from a social identity perspective by providing evidence of a shared social identity at an operational level of emergency response. Practical implications of this research are discussed.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information: This research was carried out as part of a PhD project by Louise Davidson at the University of Sussex in collaboration with the UK Health Security Agency ( UKHSA ). The PhD project is jointly funded by the Fire Service Research and Training Trust and the University of Sussex . John Drury and Holly Carter were supported by a grant from UKRI , reference ES/V005383/1 . Holly Carter and Richard Amlôt are funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Protection Research Unit ( NIHR HPRU ) in Emergency Preparedness and Response (EPR), a partnership between UKHSA, King's College London and the University of East Anglia and the NIHR HPRU in Behavioural Science and Evaluation in partnership with the University of Bristol . Louise Davidson is also affiliated to the EPR HPRU. The views expressed are those of the authors and not necessarily those of the NHS, the NIHR, the Department of Health and Social Care or UKHSA . The authors have no conflicts of interest to declare. For the purpose of open access, the author has applied a Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) licence to any Author Accepted Manuscript version arising.
Open Access: This is an open access article under the CC BY license
Publisher Copyright: Crown Copyright © 2022 Published by Elsevier Ltd.
Citation: Louise Davidson, Holly Carter, John Drury, Richard Amlôt, S. Alexander Haslam, Advancing a social identity perspective on interoperability in the emergency services: Evidence from the Pandemic Multi-Agency Response Teams during the UK COVID-19 response, International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction, Volume 77, 2022, 103101, ISSN 2212-4209,
- Emergency response
- Inter-organizational collaboration
- Major incident management
- Social identity