Saturday, February 24, 2007

Human Factors Analysis Reveals Ways To Reduce Friendly Fire Incidents

Evaluating causes and solutions for friendly fire ...

"One of the most tragic consequences of war is "friendly fire": casualties that result when warfighters mistakenly fire on their own or allied troops. The causes and possible mitigators of friendly fire are being studied by a group of human factors/ergonomics researchers at the University of Central Florida and at the Air Force Research Laboratory. Their findings, to be published in the April issue of Human Factors: The Journal of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society, include a taxonomy by which troop teamwork could be strengthened to reduce confusion and error.

... They began their investigation by examining the literature on friendly fire, then used a human-centered approach to understand errors and create the taxonomy. It contains a list of questions that draw attention to ways in which teamwork breakdown could occur. They concluded that in the absence of adequate shared cognition -- the sharing of information about the dynamic, ambiguous, and time-stressed battlefield environment -- warfighters can have problems interpreting cues, making decisions, and taking correct action. "The battlefield is one of the most difficult operational environments within which to perform cognitive tasks," the researchers state. "[T]herefore, breakdowns in shared cognition are inevitable."

Although technological solutions, such as combat identification systems (e.g., Blue Force Tracker), have been implemented to enhance shared cognition and prevent friendly fire incidents, other factors, such as sleep deprivation and visual misidentification, can still lead to human error. In addition, these technologies can fail or simply be unavailable. What's needed, the researchers say, is a better understanding of specific failures of teamwork, including information transmission, team behavior, and team attitude. "Human solutions cannot be ignored, such as better teamwork...and training to improve communication, coordination, and cooperation."    (Continued via ScienceDaily)    [Ergonomics Resources]

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