A year ago, Antwerp Management School and the fire department Zone Antwerp (BZA) embarked on a 4-year research project to better prepare the fire department for the future. What are the first results?

The fire department as a network organization

Major Bert Brugghemans, Fire Commissioner/CEO of BZA and alumnus Master in Public Management: ‘The research concentrates on the fire department as a network organization. How do you manage a network of networks? We want to use these insights in our organization and in our training.’ In addition, BZA collaborates in a research project on artificial intelligence. ‘We hope to learn from the optimal operations of courier companies: what are successful strategies to get to a location as quickly and efficiently as possible? How can we better integrate technology in our processes? We used to go with our gut feeling, now we use scientific insights.’

vlog Bert Brugghemans

Focus on current trends

The research also focuses on other current trends, like smart homes. ‘In time, it will be possible that you are notified of a fire by your virtual assistant. How do we make sure this notification reaches us and is a high-quality notification?’

Training and coaching of managers

In addition to the research on efficiency and technological innovation, the collaboration also focuses on the training and coaching of managers. What triggered the choice to work with AMS? ‘We wanted a scientific business partner who is in close contact with everyday practice and has good connections with the Port of Antwerp and the City of Antwerp. Moreover, AMS is ideally positioned thanks to its contacts with businesses, it is a win-win for all organizations involved.’

First results

Meanwhile two partial research results have already been presented to international scientific panels. Early June, a case study about a network of networks for relief operations was presented at the Public Management Research Conference 2019 (Chapel Hill, North Carolina, USA). Researchers from AMS, UAntwerp and BZA have contributed to this case study.

A second research explains how you get information from data, and how that helps you to make better decisions during a crisis. Executive PhD students from the Middle East and the US took part in this research, together with researchers from AMS and BZA. On June 27, the research was be presented at the EURAM Conference in Lisbon, which is considered to be one of the most prestigious scientific conferences in Europe in the field of management science. In the coming months, a few more research projects will be finalized.

These projects shed light on the role of paradoxical leadership in the fire department, a vision on a safety network in the Port of Antwerp and the well-being of fire professionals during interventions.

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