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Applying information technology to the presentation of emergency operating procedures: implications for usability criteria

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As a result of their increasing complexity, modern industrial systems have come to rely on written procedures for dealing with various emergencies that might be encountered. Despite the significant effort invested in developing emergency operating procedures, traditional hard-copy procedures have been found inadequate in presenting complex instructions, handling cross-references, tracing suspended or incomplete steps, and in general, monitoring user progress. Developments in information technology have presented new opportunities for resolving these problems in using and adapting procedures. This article reviews current developments and problems with computer-based procedures and proposes a framework for specifying usability aspects of their use. The usability framework addresses critical cognitive activities involved in managing system emergencies and draws upon empirical studies of 'official' and 'selective' uses of procedures in actual practice. Finally, information technology applications are considered within the wider organizational context, such as compliance with procedures, crew communication, and retention of skills.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: July 1, 1999

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