Assessing Telecommunication Service Availability Risks for Crisis Organisations

E. Vriezekolk

    Research output: ThesisPhD Thesis - Research UT, graduation UT

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    Protecting the safety of its citizens is the first and foremost responsibility of government. Crisis organisations are public organisations that assist society when safety incidents occur, and help to prevent and limit incidents. Crisis organisations include first responders (police, fire services, emergency medical care, etc), crisis coordination centres and decision makers. Their effective incident management requires rapid information sharing to coordinate operations and expedite decision making. Modern crisis organisations therefore depend on telecommunication services, especially since many have adopted net-centric operations. When telecommunication services are unavailable during an incident, damage will increase and people may die. In order not to be caught unprepared, crisis organisations must know their telecom service availability risks: they need to perform a risk assessment. Risk assessment is challenging in this domain. Telecom services are composed of networks and services of many independent, competing companies which makes it very hard to obtain reliable information about the network. Even if complete information were available, a risk model showing all physical components is difficult to construct because it would be excessively complex. Telecom networks change continuously with serious incidents being relatively rare, which means that data for meaningful statistical analysis of incidents is hard to obtain. Lastly, in this domain risk assessment cannot be based on technological factors only; the priorities and preferences of society are relevant as well. To assess telecom service availability risks for crisis organisations, a risk assessment methodology is needed that handles these complications efficiently and effectively. This research did not identify an existing risk assessment method matching these requirements. To make it possible for crisis organisations to perform a risk assessment, we have developed a method called Raster that is tailored for this domain and its challenges. Raster is based on three principles: ◦ Risk assessment requires collaboration among experts from diverse professional backgrounds. Raster should be easy to use by all, and facilitate teamwork. ◦ Reliable statistical information on faults and failures is often unavailable, making qualitative expert judgment necessary. ◦ Risk prioritisation should be based on objective facts, but should take stakeholder preferences into account as well. Raster creates and uses diagrams of telecommunication services. These diagrams function as a common graphical language among experts. Diagrams need not be specified in detail in advance; details can be added as and when necessary. This explains the Raster name: Risk Assessment by Stepwise Refinement. This thesis describes a design science approach to the development of the Raster method, from its first specification and design through several improvement steps to its final form. Design science creates artifacts that can be used to treat practical problems within some context. In creating Raster, we continuously iterate between answering knowledge questions and solving practical problems. As part of this development several lab experiments were held to validate the usability and reliability of the method. Two field tests were held in which the author applied the new method to help solve practical problems at two crisis organisations. This thesis therefore describes theoretical research, experiments in lab and field settings, as well as technical action research. After each experiment except the last one, improvements were made to the design. The research was carried out in the Netherlands, but the results does not depend on Dutch crisis structures and should be applicable to other countries as well. Using Raster, crisis organisations can now discover, analyse and prioritise the availability risks of the telecommunication services that they use. Crisis organisations can be better prepared, helping society to be safer. The author thanks all participants in this research, in particular the experts at Agentschap Telecom, Safety Region Groningen and Waterschap Hunze en Aa’s, and sincerely expresses his gratitude to Agentschap Telecom for making this research possible.
    Original languageUndefined
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • University of Twente
    • Wieringa, Roelf Johannes, Supervisor
    • Etalle, Sandro , Supervisor
    Award date14 Jul 2016
    Place of PublicationEnschede
    Print ISBNs978-90-365-4141-1
    Publication statusPublished - 14 Jul 2016


    • IR-100713
    • EWI-27093
    • METIS-317135

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