News & media

Crisis management after fire

20 November 2015

A research questionnaire was sent to 129 people with strategically important functions in managing the Västmanland forest fire. Photograph from the municipality of Sala, 3 August 2014.

It is just over a year since Sweden’s biggest forest fire for at least 65 years. It spread fast and more than 1,000 people had to be evacuated. Much has been written in the media about how the crisis was managed. What can we learn from the fire?

Researcher Daniel Nohrstedt of the Department of Government and Centre for Natural Disaster Science is working with Örjan Bodin of the Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, on a study of cooperation during the forest fire in Västmanland county. To collect data, a questionnaire was sent to 129 people with strategically important tasks in the crisis management. Their replies show that those involved think the joint efforts worked well in terms of finding the right partners and identifying common goals. But the respondents are less satisfied with their organisations’ mutual sharing of information during the crisis management. It was also hard to get a joint grasp of how the crisis was developing.

The questionnaire replies show that 32% had no previous experience of major crises. Although crisis and emergency plans are important, research shows that advance planning often proves unworkable when it comes to the crunch.

‘You can distinguish between “hard” factors, such as legislation, crisis plans and materials, and “soft” ones that working together requires. Between crises, it’s important to spend time on the soft requirements, through regular exchange of experience, training and practice in cooperation between different organisations and functions, with various types of crisis scenario,’ Nohrstedt says.