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Hastily Formed Networks

The Hastily Formed Networks (HFN) project addresses the issues arising in emergency response to crises such as the 9/11 attacks and natural disasters such as the Indian Ocean tsunami, Pakistan earthquake and Hurricane Katrina. 

These demand the combined actions of people in a network of multiple organizations with no common authority, who 
must cooperate and collaborate. 

Hastily formed networks is an area where advanced networking technology and human organization issues meet. They 
can work well together, or they can clash. Our research combines work in diverse areas including networking technologies, 
sensor systems, autonomous coordination, human communication, improvisation, organizational theory and trust.


Core questions arising in the study of HFNs include:
  • How is trust quickly established among disparate groups that haven't previously worked together and may have differing cultural norms, decision making styles, organizational structures and technical system incompatibilities?
  • How do responders establish mobile communications and sensor systems across organizational boundaries? 
  • How do they conduct interorganizational operations? 
  • How do they establish common goals, collaborate on action plans and coordinate execution?

Characteristics of situations in which HFNs are necessary to include:

  • Genuine surprise. The precipitating event is in no known category. There has been no advance planning,training,
    or positioning of equipment.
  • Chaos. Everyone is overwhelmed. No one understands the situation or knows what to do. People are frantic and panicky.
  • Totally insufficient resources. Available resources and training are overwhelmed by the magnitude of the event.
  • Multi-agency response. Several agencies must cooperate in the response, including military, civilian government,
    and private organizations. These groups have had little or no prior reason to collaborate. The shock of moving from
    a state of "coexistence" to a state of "collaboration" can be overwhelming.
  • Distributed response. The response is distributed over a geographical area into many local jurisdictions. The
    authority to allocate resources and reach decisions is distributed among many organizations. Decisions by
    command-and-control do not work.
  • Lack of infrastructure. Critical infrastructures like communications, electricity, and water do not work. Makeshift infrastructures need to be deployed quickly

"Rakesh Bharania, Cisco Engineer, Tactical Operations group, giving a talk on securing hastily formed networks"

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