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Responding to Terrorist Attacks on Rail Bound Traffic: Challenges for Inter-organizational Collaboration
Umeå University, Faculty of Social Sciences, Department of Political Science. Umeå University, Faculty of Medicine, Department of Surgical and Perioperative Sciences, Surgery.
2015 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Contemporary terrorism is becoming increasingly indiscriminate, and rail bound traffic appears to be vulnerable and at high risk for terrorist attacks. An attack targeting a train or subway system can have enormous implications, both in terms of human suffering and long-term societal consequences. This dissertation aims to analyze how public and private organizations prepare for and respond to crises emanating from terrorism targeting rail bound traffic. It also examines different practices, networks and ideas related to interorganizational collaboration. Contemporary research emphasizes the importance and advantages of collaborative action in crisis management, and the idea of inter-organizational collaboration is also embedded in policy documents and has support among practitioners. Despite this, interorganizational collaboration often turns out to be difficult in practice, and it stands out as a critical factor in many crisis situations. Hence, it is crucial to identify and better understand the challenges associated with interorganizational collaboration in the context of terrorist-induced crises. This dissertation is a contribution to this endeavor. In order to capture the inherent complexity of the topic this dissertation combines and merges literature from three research fields: crisis management research, disaster medicine research and terrorism studies.

The dissertation examines international experiences of terrorist attacks directed against rail bound traffic. It identifies the way in which attacks have changed over time and analyzes the main challenges of providing pre-hospital care following a mass-casualty attack. In addition, Sweden is used to provide empirical focus in an analysis of preparedness. Relying on scenario-based interviews with central crisis management actors and actors from rail bound traffic, current preparedness practices for responding to a multi-site terrorist attack on rail bound traffic in Sweden is analyzed. The research shows that both public and private organizations have developed risk awareness about terrorist-induced crises. However, their preparedness practices are characterized by significant variations and substantial uncertainty. Scare resources are a critical factor, and actors find it difficult to invest in preparedness for seldom-occurring crises. This difficulty is accentuated by the fact that no major mass-casualty attack has taken place in Sweden. A terrorist attack differs from a routine event and poses new and different challenges for inter-organizational collaboration. A large number of organizations are supposed to work together under severe time constraints, and their work can be delayed by particular security concerns. It is assumed that rail bound traffic actors engage in collaborative crisis management; however, there appear to be few mechanisms to prepare them, in a systematic way, for managing this particular type of crisis. Among actors, inter-organizational collaboration is understood primarily from a normative view rather than from the point of view of its practical meaning. As a consequence, it is difficult to turn risk awareness and a commitment to working together into actual practical action. In addition, collaboration between different levels in the crisis management system is particularly challenging. This dissertation also identifies a tension between viewing crisis management as an example of policy-as-usual or from a crises-as-exceptions perspective.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Umeå: Umeå universitet , 2015. , 101 p.
Series
Statsvetenskapliga institutionens skriftserie, ISSN 0349-0831 ; 2015:3
Keyword [en]
crisis management, terrorism, rail bound traffic, interorganizational collaboration, disaster medicine, scenario-based planning, preparedness, response, security
National Category
Political Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-107194ISBN: 978-91-7601-318-2 (print)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:umu-107194DiVA: diva2:847444
Public defence
2015-09-18, Samhällsvetarhuset, Hörsal C, Lindellhallen, Biblioteksgränd 6, Umeå universitet, Umeå, 13:15 (Swedish)
Opponent
Supervisors
Available from: 2015-08-28 Created: 2015-08-19 Last updated: 2017-10-10Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Rail Bound Traffic: a Prime Target for Contemporary Terrorist Attacks?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Rail Bound Traffic: a Prime Target for Contemporary Terrorist Attacks?
2013 (English)In: Journal of Transportation Security, ISSN 1938-7741, E-ISSN 1938-775X, Vol. 6, no 3, 271-286 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The threat of terrorism is a worldwide concern, often discussed in the context of our constantly changing world with new complex threats, risks and crises. This article focuses on terrorist attacks targeting rail bound traffic because of its extreme vulnerability for terrorist attacks. The article provides an empirical overview of the frequency and characteristics of attacks on rail bound traffic. At least in recent years, attacks have been a growing phenomenon. The results are interpreted through the lens of a contemporary terrorism paradigm which revolves around in which way which terrorist organizations organize their activity and if there is an increased religiously motivated terrorism and a presumed shift towards more indiscriminate killing through the use of new tactics and weapons. This article identifies the 20 biggest large-scale attacks on rail bound traffic, and they do resemble contemporary terrorism.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Springer, 2013
Keyword
Rail bound traffic, Terrorism, Mass-casualty attacks, Security
National Category
Political Science
Research subject
statskunskap
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-107190 (URN)10.1007/s12198-013-0116-0 (DOI)
Available from: 2015-08-19 Created: 2015-08-19 Last updated: 2017-12-04Bibliographically approved
2. Preparing and responding to Mass Casualty Terrorist Attacks: a Comparative Analysis of Four Terrorist Attacks Targeting Rail Bound Traffic
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Preparing and responding to Mass Casualty Terrorist Attacks: a Comparative Analysis of Four Terrorist Attacks Targeting Rail Bound Traffic
2015 (English)In: International Journal of Emergency Management, ISSN 1471-4825, E-ISSN 1741-5071, Vol. 11, no 3, 262-281 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

This paper addresses the challenging task of responding to terrorist attacks targeting rail bound traffic and provides a multi-level framework for analysis of such complex attacks. Major mass-casualty attacks are particularly challenging to emergency management and there is a knowledge gap concerning how to prepare for and respond to such extraordinary events. This paper categorises a rich empirical material from four major attacks on rail bound traffic and concludes that decisive components of the emergency management response in the four cases are related to ‘agent-generated demands’. Additional complicating factors emerge since each response is carried out in a specific terrorism context. Examples include sense-making difficulties, scene safety and terrorism-specific injuries. Another conclusion is that the development of knowledge and awareness about such challenges and the incorporation of such knowledge in training and response plans are pivotal to future emergency management.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Inderscience Enterprises Ltd., 2015
National Category
Political Science
Research subject
statskunskap
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-107191 (URN)10.1504/IJEM.2015.071709 (DOI)2-s2.0-84942082699 (Scopus ID)
Available from: 2015-08-19 Created: 2015-08-19 Last updated: 2017-12-04Bibliographically approved
3. Swedish Counterterrorism Policy: An Intersection Between Prevention and Mitigation?
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Swedish Counterterrorism Policy: An Intersection Between Prevention and Mitigation?
2015 (English)In: Studies in Conflict and Terrorism, ISSN 1057-610X, E-ISSN 1521-0731, Vol. 38, no 5, 359-379 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

The aim of this article is to analyze how and why Swedish counterterrorism policy has changed since 2001. It raises the issue of how counterterrorism interacts with other factors on the governmental agenda, which priorities are made, and how these can be understood. Although much empirical evidence on the real political influence of emergent interagency networks is still lacking in the case of Sweden, an attempt is made here to analyze the importance of focusing events. In the light of the Swedish national strategy for counterterrorism, the article analyzes the content of annual reports from the Swedish Security Service. The article also explores linkages between the counterterrorism and crisis management literatures, and argues that the reassuring overtones in Swedish counterterrorism policy of late can be understood not only as the result of changes in threat perception and policy, but also in institutional change.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Taylor & Francis, 2015
National Category
Social Sciences
Research subject
statskunskap
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-101224 (URN)10.1080/1057610X.2015.1009799 (DOI)
External cooperation:
Available from: 2015-03-25 Created: 2015-03-25 Last updated: 2017-12-04Bibliographically approved
4. Sweden's Capacity to Prepare and Respond to a Terrorist Attack on Rail-Bound Traffic: Promising Practices and Obstacles to Inter-Organizational Collaboration
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Sweden's Capacity to Prepare and Respond to a Terrorist Attack on Rail-Bound Traffic: Promising Practices and Obstacles to Inter-Organizational Collaboration
2015 (English)In: Journal of Risk Analysis and Crisis Response, ISSN (print): 2210-8491/ ISSN (on-line): 2210-8505, Vol. 5, no 4, 215-225 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Paris: atlantis press, 2015
National Category
Political Science
Research subject
statskunskap
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-107192 (URN)
Available from: 2015-08-19 Created: 2015-08-19 Last updated: 2017-05-02
5. Exploring vulnerabilities in preparedness: rail bound traffic and terrorist attacks
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Exploring vulnerabilities in preparedness: rail bound traffic and terrorist attacks
(English)In: Journal of Transportation Security, ISSN 1938-7741, E-ISSN 1938-775XArticle in journal (Refereed) Epub ahead of print
Abstract [en]

Railway and subway systems are regarded as being vulnerable to terrorism. This article examines different kinds of vulnerabilities in preparedness for terrorist-induced crises targeting rail bound traffic. Many discussions about critical infrastructures and their vulnerability to breakdowns and certain hazards are often discussed from the perspective of technical control systems or advanced mitigation efforts. This article contributes with another perspective. It is suggested that a wider perspective on what constitutes vulnerability is needed and the literature on disasters and crises is therefore informative. Relying on 20 interviews with actors from rail bound traffic and Sweden’s crisis management system, the article focuses on different actors’ own perceptions of their preparedness. The results show that the involved actors not only understand vulnerabilities in preparedness to be a matter of shortcomings in technical security systems or in the ability to secure trains from acts of antagonistic violence. Rather, they identify two additional significant vulnerabilities. First, increased organizational fragmentation in the sector is perceived as creating vulnerability in crisis management preparedness. Second, the failure to ensure that relevant actors have a cognitive and mental preparedness is seen as creating vulnerability.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
New York: Springer
Keyword
terrorism, crisis management, rail bound traffic, vulnerability, security, public-private partnerships
National Category
Political Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:umu:diva-138282 (URN)10.1007/s12198-017-0178-5 (DOI)
Available from: 2017-08-16 Created: 2017-08-16 Last updated: 2017-10-10Bibliographically approved

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