Using the Viable System Model (VSM) to structure information processing complexity in disaster response

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Earthquakes, hurricanes, flooding and terrorist attacks continue to threaten our society and, when the worst happens, lives depend on different agencies to manage the response. The literature shows that there is significant potential for operational research (OR) to aid disaster management and that, whilst some of this potential has been delivered, there is more that OR can contribute. In particular, OR can provide detailed support to analysing the complexity of information processing – an essential topic as failure could cause response agencies to act on low quality information or act too slowly – putting responders and victims at risk. However, there is a gap in methods for analysing information processing whilst delivering rapid response. This paper explores how OR can fill this gap through taking a Viable System Model (VSM) approach to analyse information processing. It contributes to the OR literature by showing how VSM can support the analysis of information processing as well as how the OR modelling technique can be further strengthened to facilitate the task.

Bibliographical metadata

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)209-218
Number of pages9
JournalEuropean Journal of Operational Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2013