Skip to main content
Workforce LibreTexts

3.3: Determinants of Emergency Management Effectiveness

  • Page ID
  • \( \newcommand{\vecs}[1]{\overset { \scriptstyle \rightharpoonup} {\mathbf{#1}} } \) \( \newcommand{\vecd}[1]{\overset{-\!-\!\rightharpoonup}{\vphantom{a}\smash {#1}}} \)\(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \(\newcommand{\id}{\mathrm{id}}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\) \( \newcommand{\kernel}{\mathrm{null}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\range}{\mathrm{range}\,}\) \( \newcommand{\RealPart}{\mathrm{Re}}\) \( \newcommand{\ImaginaryPart}{\mathrm{Im}}\) \( \newcommand{\Argument}{\mathrm{Arg}}\) \( \newcommand{\norm}[1]{\| #1 \|}\) \( \newcommand{\inner}[2]{\langle #1, #2 \rangle}\) \( \newcommand{\Span}{\mathrm{span}}\)

    There has been a significant amount of research conducted over the past 30 years that identifies many conditions influencing the effectiveness of LEMAs. This research will be described in greater detail in the following pages, but it can be summarized by the model depicted in Figure 3-2. This figure indicates that LEMA effectiveness—measured by such organizational outcomes as the quality, timeliness, and cost of hazard adjustments adopted and implemented by the community—is the most direct result of individual outcomes and the planning process. Outcomes for the individual members of the LEMA and LEMC include job satisfaction, organizational commitment, individual effort and attendance, and organizational citizenship behaviors. The planning process includes staffing/equipping, organizational structuring, team climate development, situational analysis, and strategic choice.

    In turn, the planning process is determined by the level of community support from officials, news media, and the public. The planning process is also affected by hazard experience, as measured by direct experience with disasters and by vicarious experiences that reveal potential impact of future disasters. Hazard experience also appears to have an indirect effect on the planning process via its effects on community support. It is important to recognize that even though the model as depicted in Figure 3-2 is static—that is, the arrows begin on the left and end on the right hand side of the figure—the actual process is dynamic because success tends to be a self-amplifying process in which high levels of individual and organizational outcomes produce increased levels of vicarious experience with disaster demands (through emergency training, drills, and exercises), community support, better staffing and organization, and more emergency planning resources.

    Hazard Exposure/Community Vulnerability

    Many studies have found the level of community hazard adjustment is increased by experiencing disaster impact—especially catastrophic impacts. Frequent, recent, and severe impacts make the community’s vulnerability to hazards easier to remember and more likely to stimulate action. In some cases, this leads to the development of a disaster subculture in which community residents adopt routinized patterns of disaster behavior (Wenger, 1978). When disasters are infrequent, long-removed in time, or have had minimally disruptive impacts, hazard vulnerability is likely to elicit little attention from households, organizations, or the community as a whole. However, the community’s exposure to environmental hazards can be made salient by vicarious experience that is gained by reading or hearing about other communities’ experiences with disasters. These can be gained through newspaper articles or television accounts or, most powerfully, through first-person accounts—especially if they come from peers (Lindell, 1994a). For example, a local fire chief is most likely to be influenced by other fire chiefs’ accounts of their experiences, a city manager is most likely to be influenced by another city manager, and so on.

    Chart with three columns.  Left hand is resources and needs, middle is organizations for dealing with emergency management and right are outcomes

    Figure \( \PageIndex{1} \): A model of local emergency management effectiveness

    Hazard exposure can also be affected by salient cues such as the daily sight of the cooling towers of a nuclear power plant, the intricate maze of piping at a petrochemical plant, or the placards on railcars and trucks passing through town. Information from hazard and vulnerability analyses can also have an effect on the community, but this pallid statistical information is likely to have less of an effect than the vivid first-person accounts described above (Nisbett & Ross, 1980). As will be discussed in the next chapter, Risk Perception and Communication, the psychological impact of hazard/vulnerability analyses can be increased by linking data on hazard exposure to likely personal consequences.

    The importance of hazard exposure and vulnerability for emergency management is well supported by research. For example, Caplow, Bahr, and Chadwick (1984) found emergency management network effectiveness to be greater in communities with recent disaster experience or, for those without recent experience, if there was consensus about the most salient hazard. Moreover, Adams, Burns, and Handwerk (1994) found that one-third of inactive LEMCs in a nationwide survey blamed lack of hazard vulnerability for their lack of progress. This accusation is likely to have some validity because Kartez and Lindell (1990) found that a greater degree of experience with disaster demands such as issuing evacuation orders, searching for mutual aid resources and responding to mass casualties is associated with organizational outcomes such as an increase in the number of good emergency preparedness practices (e.g., establishing citizen emergency information hotlines, establishing equipment rate and use agreements with contractors). Specifically, they found cities that were high in experience adopted 1.5 more preparedness practices than those that were low in experience. Similarly, Lindell and Meier (1994) and Lindell and Whitney (1995) found a previous history of evacuations was positively related to emergency planning effectiveness. Moreover, Lindell, et al. (1996) also found that a recent history of emergencies—as well as the number of hazardous facilities—both had modest but statistically significant positive correlations with LEMC effectiveness.

    Community Support

    Community support from senior elected and appointed officials, the news media, and the public is important because it affects the resources that are allocated to the LEMA and the LEMC. As noted earlier, many researchers have systematically documented what numerous emergency managers have personally experienced—emergency management is a low priority for the local elected and appointed officials who control budgets and staffing allocations (Labadie, 1984; Sutphen & Bott, 1990). As Kartez and Lindell (1990, p.13) quoted one police chief,

    My number one priority is getting the uniforms out in response to calls. The public judges me on that performance, not whether I’m planning for an earthquake that may never happen. If left alone, disaster planning would get even less attention from my office. It requires that the executive clearly make this a priority.

    The importance of community support for emergency management is supported by research. Adams and his colleagues (1994) found that two-thirds of the inactive LEMCs blamed community indifference and more than one-third blamed lack of funding for their lack of achievement. Other studies found community support (official resolutions, media coverage, and community group actions) was positively related to emergency planning effectiveness (Lindell & Meier, 1994; Lindell & Whitney, 1995; Lindell, et al, 1996). For example, community information requests, media coverage, local support, and the backing of local officials all were strongly and significantly correlated with LEMC effectiveness.

    Community Resources

    Differences among jurisdictions in the effectiveness of their LEMAs and LEMCs can be attributed partially to variation in their communities’ resources. Kartez (1992) found inconsistent evidence for effects of jurisdictional size, wealth, growth rate, employment, minority concentration, and industry concentration on compliance with SARA Title III mandates. However, Adams, et al. (1994) reported compliance was significantly correlated with jurisdiction size, median household income, and percent of urban population, The conflict between these two studies probably is attributable to the fact that Adams found the strongest effects in the smallest, poorest, and most rural jurisdictions, which were underrepresented in one of Kartez’s (1992) samples, and altogether absent from his other sample. Nonetheless, the community support variables had stronger correlations with LEMC effectiveness than did any of the community resources variables. Lindell, et al. (1996) reported that jurisdictions’ populations, budgets, police staffing, and fire staffing have statistically significant, but small, influences on LEMC effectiveness

    Extra-community Resources

    Lindell and Meier (1994) found that emergency planning resources obtained from outside the community (guidance manuals, training courses, and computer resources) were positively related to emergency planning effectiveness. Lindell and Whitney’s (1995) study replicated many of these findings, but also found that emergency planning effectiveness was correlated most highly with membership in a statewide LEPC Association, and with state emergency planning resources. Later, Lindell, et al. (1996) reported access to such emergency planning materials as computer software, federal agency technical reports, state emergency planning agency technical support, and Chemical Manufacturers Association materials had a statistically significant and moderately large correlation with LEMC effectiveness. Also, frequency of external contact with federal regional offices, state agencies, and other LEMCs was strongly related to success. Technical materials provided through vertical diffusion by federal agencies (DOT, EPA, and FEMA) also have a positive impact on LEMC effectiveness, as does horizontal diffusion of emergency preparedness practices and resources obtained from private industry and neighboring jurisdictions. These resources can provide vicarious experience with disaster demands and demonstrate the effectiveness of specific innovations including plans, procedures and equipment (Kartez & Lindell, 1987).

    Staffing and Organization

    A number of studies have substantiated the impact of an LEMC’s staffing and organization on its effectiveness. For example, the International City Management Association (1981) identified a number of characteristics of effective emergency management organizations. These included defined roles for elected officials, a clear internal hierarchy, good interpersonal relationships, commitment to planning as a continuing activity, member and citizen motivation for involvement, coordination among participating agencies, and public/private cooperation.

    Caplow, et al. (1984) found emergency management network effectiveness was greater in communities with recent disaster experience or, for those without recent experience, if there was consensus about the most salient hazard. The more effective networks had members with more experience and a wider range of local contacts, had written plans and were familiar with them, had personal experience in managing routine natural hazards such as floods, and were more familiar with the policies and procedures of emergency-relevant state and federal agencies.

    Similarly, Lindell and Meier (1994) found the number of members, number of hours worked by paid staff, number of agencies represented on the LEMC, and organization into subcommittees were all positively related to emergency planning effectiveness. Lindell and Whitney (1995) found LEMC staffing and structure lacked a significant correlation with LEMC effectiveness, but was correlated with organizational climate, which did have a very strong impact on LEMC effectiveness. Lindell, et al. (1996) also found the total number of members and—more importantly—the average number of members attending meetings were significant. There also was a significant correlation between effectiveness and the number of agencies and organizations represented on the LEMC. Representation by elected officials and by citizens’ groups was the most important, whereas having representatives from the news media was least important for overall emergency planning effectiveness. Establishment of an organizational structure through subcommittees was significant, probably because this allows members to focus on specific tasks and thus avoid feeling overwhelmed by all the work that needs to be done.

    Planning Process

    The emergency planning process consists of five principal functions: planning activities, team climate development, situational analysis, resource acquisition, and strategic choice.

    Planning activities.

    Kartez and Lindell (1990) found superior planning practices involving key personnel from diverse departments in a participative and consensus-oriented process of horizontal integration—exemplified by such activities as interdepartmental task forces, interdepartmental training, and after-action critiques—had an even greater effect on the adoption of good emergency preparedness practices than did disaster experience. Specifically, cities that had a better planning process adopted 2.5 more preparedness practices than those that had a poorer planning process. Interestingly, as Table \(ref{2} \) indicates, planning activities such as interdepartmental training, reviews with senior officials, and establishment of interdepartmental task forces had especially strong effects on the adoption of good emergency preparedness practices. By contrast, more routine activities such as procedure updates, plan updates, and reviews of mutual aid agreements had small effects.

    Table \( \PageIndex{2} \): Effects of Planning Activities on Good Emergency Preparedness Practices.

    Largest difference

    Smallest difference

    Interdepartmental training
    Reviews with senior officials
    Interdepartmental task force
    Community disaster assistance council
    After action critiques
    Vulnerability analyses
    Meetings with TV/radio managers

    Procedure updates

    Plan updates

    Review mutual aid agreements with neighboring cities

    Source: Adapted from Kartez and Lindell (1990)

    Characteristics of meetings are important influences on organizational effectiveness. These include meeting frequency, formalizing member orientation, formalizing meetings through regular scheduling, advance circulation of written agendas, keeping written minutes, and formalizing overall activities by setting and monitoring progress toward annual goals(Lindell & Meier, 1994; Lindell, et al., 1996). These results indicate the effectiveness of an LEMC and its subcommittees can be increased if they conduct frequent meetings that help them to maintain steady progress and this will work if these meetings are regularly scheduled far enough in advance for members to avoid conflicts with their own calendars. If possible, LEMC meetings should be scheduled monthly on the same day of the week and time of day. The agenda for each meeting should be distributed in advance and written minutes should be kept of each meeting.

    These findings are consistent with more recent research, which shows effectiveness in disaster response is significantly determined by agencies breadth of prior coordination and the depth (both frequency and intensity) of prior contact (Drabek, 2003). In addition, these findings are consistent with research conducted by Gillespie and his colleagues (Gillespie & Colignon, 1993; Gillespie, Colignon, Banerjee, Murty, & Rogge, 1993; Gillespie & Streeter, 1987). Specifically, these researchers documented a need to facilitate effective relations between organizations with full-time staff members and organizations with part-time staff and volunteers by scheduling meetings at times convenient for all staff (full-time, part-time, and voluntary). Such meetings should concentrate on common interests and be guided by agendas. Failure to meet these suggestions usually results in termination by neglect, not by direct confrontation over disparate values.

    Organizational climate development.

    Lindell and Whitney (1995) found emergency planning effectiveness was greatest in LEMCs that had positive organizational climates, which can be defined as “distinctive patterns of collective beliefs that are communicated to new group members through the socialization process and are further developed through members’ interaction with their physical and social environments” (Lindell & Brandt, 2000, p. 331). Organizational climate presumably affects LEMC effectiveness because it influences the degree to which members’ motivation is aroused, maintained, and directed toward group goals (Lindell & Whitney, 1995).

    Lindell and Brandt (2000) found that three dimensions of leadership climate (leader initiating structure, leader consideration, and leader communication), four dimensions of team climate (team coordination, team cohesion, team task orientation, and team pride), and one dimension of role climate (role clarity, but not role conflict or role overload) were strongly related to each other and can be defined as climate quality. Organizational climate is important because it is positively related to important individual outcomes such as job satisfaction, organizational commitment, attendance, effort, turnover intentions, and organizational citizenship behaviors (performance beyond minimal requirements), as well as organizational outcomes such as product quality, timeliness, and cost. These latter variables were measured in the research studies by LEMC chair ratings and State Emergency Response Commission staff ratings of the organization’s performance.

    Climate quality is consistently related to support from elected officials—especially external guidance and recognition. Climate quality is also positively related to the organization of LEMCs into subcommittees, meeting formalization, and meeting frequency. However, climate quality is unrelated to LEMC size, which suggests that increasing the number of members can increase the range of knowledge and skills on the LEMC without impairing group performance.

    The research findings indicate that LEMC leaders can establish a positive leadership climate within the organization by being clear about what tasks are to be performed, as well as recognizing individual members’ strengths and weaknesses and being supportive of their needs. These two aspects of leader behavior, which are known as leader initiating structure and leader consideration, respectively, have long been recognized by organizational researchers (Stogdill, 1963). The importance of these dimensions in facilitating organizational effectiveness has been recently confirmed in LEMCs (Lindell & Brandt, 2000; Lindell & Whitney, 1995; Whitney & Lindell, 2000).

    In addition to a positive leadership climate, it also is important to foster a positive team climate. Specifically, team members must focus on the tasks to be performed rather than spending all of their time socializing (team task orientation). In addition, they must share information and coordinate individual efforts (team coordination). When these occur, members tend to trust each other and feel that they are included in all activities (cohesion), as well as believe their LEMC is one of the best (team pride).

    Moreover, LEMC leaders need to promote a positive role climate within the organization. Team members must understand what tasks are to be performed and how to perform them, which avoids the stress caused by role ambiguity. Leaders and members must agree on what tasks are to be performed, which avoids the stress caused by role conflict. Finally, members must have enough time to perform the tasks for which they are responsible, which avoids the stress caused by role overload (James & Sells, 1981; Jones & James, 1979).

    LEMC effectiveness is also enhanced when there is a positive job climate, which arises when members have enough independence to do their work however they choose as long as they deliver a quality product on time and within the resources available (personal autonomy). They also should be allowed to perform a “whole” piece of work that provides a meaningful contribution to the group product (task identity). Finally, members should be allowed to perform tasks that exercise a variety of significant skills (skill variety).

    The LEMC will function more effectively when it has a positive reward climate, which is characterized by members having opportunities to perform new and challenging tasks (member challenge), opportunities to work with other people (social contacts), and are told that other people appreciate their work (social recognition). When the leadership, team, role, job, and reward components of organizational climate are positive, there are positive outcomes at the individual and organizational levels. Specifically, there is higher member job satisfaction, attendance, effort, and citizenship behavior (working beyond minimum standards) and lower turnover intentions and actual turnover. These positive outcomes at the individual level also produce positive consequences at the organizational level in terms of greater organizational stability (due to decreased turnover) and greater productivity (due to greater effort).

    Situational analysis.

    Although this is recognized as an important issue in the strategic management of organizations (Thompson & Strickland, 1996), there appears to have been little or no research on the degree to which situational analysis contributes to the effectiveness of LEMAs and LEMCs. Important components of situational analysis include hazard exposure analysis, physical vulnerability analysis, social vulnerability analysis, evaluation of hazard adjustments, and capability analysis. As Chapter 5 will describe more fully, hazard exposure analysis identifies the natural and technological hazards to which the community is exposed and assesses the specific locations that would be affected by different intensities of impact (e.g., 50- and 100-year flood plains, areas prone to liquefaction from earthquakes); such analyses are frequently documented by maps of geographical risk areas. Physical vulnerability analysis assesses the community’s structures (residential, commercial, and industrial buildings) and infrastructure (fuel, electric power, water, sewer, telecommunications, and transportation) in terms of their ability to withstand the environmental forces predicted by the hazard exposure analyses. By contrast, social vulnerability analysis assesses the community’s demographic segments and economic sectors to identify differences in hazard exposure, occupancy of physically vulnerable structures, utilization of physically vulnerable infrastructure, and limited resources (psychological, social, economic, and political) for recovering from disaster impact.

    The systematic evaluation of hazard adjustments examines alternative hazard adjustments (hazard mitigation, disaster preparedness, emergency response, and disaster recovery) to assess their ability to avoid hazard impacts such as casualties and damage, to limit these impacts when disaster strikes, and to recovery rapidly after disaster. The evaluation of hazard adjustments also examines their resource requirements in terms of the time, effort, money, and organizational cooperation needed to adopt and implement them. The final component of situational analysis, capability assessment, determines whether households, businesses, government agencies, and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have the capacity (i.e., resources) and commitment (i.e., motivation) needed to adopt the available hazard adjustments.

    Resource acquisition.

    Resource acquisition refers to obtaining emergency planning staff, equipment, and information of many different types from a variety of sources. The principal source of emergency planning staff is the LEMA but, as will be discussed below, there are other local government agencies, private sector organizations, and NGOs that can be drawn upon to staff the LEMC. Similarly, the major type of emergency planning equipment—the microcomputer—is usually available at the LEMA but the types of high speed/high storage capacity computers needed for conducting hazard and vulnerability analyses are more frequently located and used in the Land Use Planning Department where Geographical Information Systems (GISs) are routinely used (Lindell, Sanderson & Hwang, 2002). The types of information include data about hazards and population segments at risk, as well as procedures for hazard/vulnerability analysis. Communities can obtain hazard data by accessing Web sites maintained by federal agencies such as the FEMA, USGS, and National Weather Service, as well as state hazard analysis web sites (Hwang, Sanderson & Lindell, 2002) or, for technological hazards, local industry (for fixed-site hazards) and rail or truck carriers (for transportation hazards). In addition, these organizations provide computer software, planning guidance manuals, and training courses that explain how to assess community vulnerability (e.g., FEMA’s HAZUS).

    Strategic choice.

    Organizational scientists generally agree there is no single best way to organize and this proposition has been supported by Drabek’s (1987, 1990) findings of significant variation in the strategies and structures utilized by individual emergency managers. Some successful emergency managers enthusiastically endorse strategies that are explicitly rejected by other equally successful managers. Further support for the contingency principle of organization is provided by Mulford, Klonglan, and Kopachevsky’s (1973) finding that strategy adoption was dependent upon contextual conditions in the community. Nonetheless, the available research indicates there are some structures and strategies that are likely to significantly improve the success of all LEMCs regardless of context—and especially without significant expense. Although this might seem surprising, it is consistent with previous studies showing that external constraints can be circumvented to some extent by a superior planning process that enhances horizontal linkages among agencies within a jurisdiction and with adjacent jurisdictions, downward vertical linkages to households and businesses, and upward vertical linkages to state and federal agencies (Kartez & Lindell, 1987, 1990). Indeed, it is precisely the purpose of an LEMC to establish this planning process.

    As Drabek (1987, 1990, 2003) has observed, disaster researchers have long been interested in the intergovernmental structures and interpersonal strategies adopted by emergency managers. For example, a multiyear research project conducted at Iowa State University found that communities in which local Civil Defense Directors had developed systemic linkages among local groups tended to be the most effective in achieving community preparedness (Klonglan, Beal, Bohlen, & Schafer, 1967). These findings were elaborated by Mulford, Klonglan, and Tweed (1973), who noted the importance of local emergency managers’ horizontal linkages with their colleagues in similar organizations throughout their states, and also their vertical linkages with local elected officials.

    Mulford, et al. (1973) identified six strategies used by effective emergency managers. These include a resource building strategy, which emphasizes the acquisition of human, technical, and capital resources needed for effective agency performance, and an emergency resource strategy, defined by securing the participation of emergency-relevant organizations in emergency planning and response. The elite representation strategy involves the placement of members of the focal organization (in this case, the LEMA) in positions or situations where it is possible to interact with influential members of other emergency-relevant organizations, and the constituency strategy consists of the establishment of a symbiotic relationship between two organizations whereby both benefit from cooperation. The cooptation strategy consists of absorbing key personnel, especially those from other organizations, into the focal organization’s formal structure as directors or advisors, while the audience strategy focuses upon educating community organizations and the public at large about the importance of community emergency preparedness. Mulford, Klonglan, and Kopachevsky (1973) noted strategy adoption was contingent upon environmental (jurisdictional size), organizational (funding level) and personal (Civil Defense Director training) characteristics. Some particularly important areas on which interorganizational coordination has focused include increased involvement of private organizations, local public services, elected officials and community leaders, and greater efforts to acquire external funding. (Klonglan, Mulford & Hay, 1973).

    Research conducted at the Disaster Research Center during the same time period found disaster planning requires emergency response organizations to recognize the ways in which community-wide disasters differ from routine emergencies that can be handled by a single agency (Dynes, Quarantelli, & Kreps, 1972). In addition, they encouraged local disaster planners to foster significant predisaster relationships among organizations that must respond to a disaster (Anderson, 1969b). Dynes and Quarantelli (1975) described differences in interorganizational orientation in terms of nine models including the maintenance (acquiring and maintaining human, material, and financial resources), disaster expert (developing knowledge and skill about hazard agents such as hurricanes and hazardous materials), and abstract planner (construction of contingency plans derived from generic planning principles) models. Other models include the military (developing a well-defined hierarchical organization), administrative staff (developing managerial knowledge and skill), and disaster simulation (focusing on the rehearsal of disaster plans through drills and exercises) models. Finally, there are the derived political power (acting as the representative of the jurisdiction’s CAO), interpersonal broker (establishing contacts among emergency-relevant organizations), and community educator (overcoming community indifference through hazard awareness programs) models.

    Table \( \label{3} \) summarizes the research on emergency managers’ strategies in the following way. The first category of strategies is defined by LEMA organizational development, which involves the military and administrative staff models to address the development of clear roles and lines of authority, while the abstract planner model emphasizes the development of coordinated emergency response plans, and the disaster simulation model supports the importance of emergency exercises to test the organizational forms that have been developed. Another strategy involves the resource building strategy and the maintenance model to ensure the acquisition of resources—such as personnel, facilities (e.g., normal office space and emergency response facilities such as EOCs), equipment, materials and supplies, and especially money from local government funding— that will positively affect LEMA effectiveness. Moreover, analysis of the physical environment encompasses the disaster expert model, according to which success will be influenced by interagency coordination in the assessment hazard vulnerability and community resources. Finally, Table 3-2 makes it clear that most of the strategies emphasize management of the social environment. According to the researchers at Iowa State University and the Disaster Research Center, development of an LEMC is facilitated by securing the legitimacy from the CAO (derived political power model), establishing the collaboration among emergency-relevant organizations (emergency resource strategy and interpersonal broker model), and placing LEMA staff in positions to influence important others (the constituency, elite representation, and cooptation strategies). Finally, influence is magnified by engaging in outreach to community groups and news media (the audience strategy and community educator model).

    Table Emergency Management Development Strategies.

    Strategy Type

    Iowa State University

    Disaster Research Center

    Organizational development

    Administrative staff
    Abstract planner
    Disaster simulation

    Resource acquisition

    Resource building


    Physical environment analysis and management

    Disaster expert

    Social environment analysis and management

    Emergency resource
    Elite representation

    Derived political power

    Interpersonal broker

    Community educator

    More recent studies have examined these ideas in further detail by studying the ways in which local emergency managers implement these strategies. Drabek (1987, 1990) integrated the findings of previous disaster researchers with theoretical principles derived from the broader organizational literature (e.g., Pennings, 1981; Osborne & Plastrik, 1998) to identify strategies and structures used by successful managers. Similarly, Gillespie and his colleagues (Gillespie & Colignon, 1993; Gillespie, et al., 1993; Gillespie & Streeter, 1987) conducted an intensive study of a single disaster preparedness network that had not coalesced into a formally designated LEMC. In addition, Lindell and his colleagues (Lindell, 1994b; Lindell & Brandt, 2000; Lindell & Meier, 1994; Lindell & Whitney, 1995; Lindell, et al., 1996a, 1996b; Whitney & Lindell, 2000) reported a series of studies conducted on nearly 300 LEMCs in three Midwestern states.

    Drabek (1987, 1990) found the most effective of the local emergency managers he interviewed emphasized the development of constituency support by actively trying to increase the resource base of all local agencies—not just their own. To do this, they relied on committees and joint ventures to involve other community organizations. Consistent with the organizational development strategy, some of them attempted to manage conflict over controversial issues before they got out of control. In particular, they achieved more consensus with other community agencies on the mission of the LEMA. In a variation on the disaster expert strategy, some of them brought in outside experts.

    Drabek found that local emergency managers’ reliance on these strategies varied with community size. Successful directors in small communities used them less frequently than successful directors in large communities but more frequently than unsuccessful directors in either small or large communities. Successful directors had more frequent contacts and more formalized interagency agreements such as MOAs. Although all successful emergency managers gave considerable emphasis to coordination with other emergency-relevant agencies, they tended to give less emphasis to local businesses and (except in the smallest communities) to elected officials.

    In the studies conducted by Gillespie and his colleagues (Gillespie & Colignon, 1993; Gillespie, et al., 1993; Gillespie & Streeter, 1987), the researchers found a large proportion of the organizations relevant to disaster response were not linked to the preparedness network—which indicates some deficiencies in the local emergency managers’ strategies for social environment analysis and management. Gillespie and his colleagues expanded the utility of the research on social management strategies by noting interorganizational linkages consist of informal contacts, verbal agreements, and written agreements. In addition, they emphasized that the existence (or even the frequency) of interorganizational contacts does not measure the importance of the relationship (i.e., that needed information, services, or resources have been established or transferred). This argument points to a logical connection between social environment analysis/management and resource acquisition. That is, the low priority given to local emergency management often makes it impossible for LEMAs to purchase needed resources outright. Consequently, local emergency managers must build capacity by collaborating with other organizations that do have those resources or that have the influence to obtain the funding that will allow them to make those purchases.

    Of course, organizations are more likely to collaborate with the LEMA if there are compelling reasons for them to do so. Consistent with this notion, Gillespie and his colleagues found interorganizational linkages were initiated by awareness of potential disaster demands and by recognized needs for avoiding gaps in services or duplication of effort. Other reasons for collaboration included ensuring timely access to information, services, or resources; development of internal organizational response capability; and development of political influence to enhance organizational autonomy, security, and prestige.

    Gillespie and his colleagues also found interorganizational linkages are developed through active and personable individuals, but pre-existing personal and professional contacts are important, as well as routine interagency and interjurisdictional meetings, drills, and exercises. However, these linkages are impeded by geographical distance, lack of funds, lack of staff, incompatible professional perspectives and terminology, lack of trust in an organization or its representative, overconfidence in one’s own capability, and unequal rewards and costs of participation for those in different organizations.

    Individual Outcomes

    As noted earlier, individual outcomes include job satisfaction, organizational commitment, attachment behaviors (effort, attendance, and continued membership), and organizational citizenship behaviors. Some of these variables were studied by Whitney and Lindell (2000), who noted that research on motivational factors involved in staffing voluntary community organizations suggests people participate in these organizations when they perceive social and environmental problems within a community to which they are attached and find organizations they expect to be successful in mitigating these problems (Chavis & Wandersman, 1990; Florin & Wandersman, 1984). Such studies have found that participation in community groups is significantly related to three types of benefits (personal, social, and purposive) and their corresponding costs (Prestby, et al., 1990). Moreover, members’ sense of individual and collective self-efficacy, and thus their motivation to participate, is enhanced when these organizations are empowered by successfully influencing actions taken by the community.

    Other research has found that people often join and remain in a voluntary organization because they are attracted to its activities, and that volunteers are more likely than paid workers to have high intrinsic satisfaction (Pearce, 1983). These findings indicate volunteers’ experiences may differ from those of their compensated counterparts and suggests it is important to examine members’ organizational commitment. Porter, Steers, Mowday, and Boulian defined this construct as “the strength of an individual’s identification with and involvement in a particular organization” (1974, p. 604) and characterized it as including: a) strong belief in, and acceptance of, the organization’s goals and values, b) willingness to exert considerable effort on behalf of the organization, and c) strong desire to maintain organizational membership. Meyer and Allen (1984) noted research on organizational commitment has examined two different types of commitment: affective and continuance. Affective commitment, which is seen in terms of an emotional orientation to the organization, is likely to be expressed in high levels of employee performance (Meyer, et al., 1989). By contrast, continuance commitment is conceptualized as an accumulation of “side bets”, which are anything of value individuals have invested in an organization that would be lost if they were to leave. Continuance commitment motivates employees to remain in the job but fails to elicit performance beyond minimum requirements. Organizational commitment is important in understanding LEMC effectiveness because it has been found to predict a variety of participation behaviors. In an analysis of over 200 articles pertaining to organizational commitment, Mathieu and Zajac (1990) concluded that organizational commitment has a weak but positive correlation with attendance, but it has very strong negative correlations with two turnover-related intentions: to search for job alternatives and to leave one’s job.

    Whitney and Lindell (2000) discovered LEMC members’ attachment behaviors (attendance, effort, and continued membership in the organization) were positively related to their affective commitment but not their continuance commitment. In turn, affective commitment was significantly influenced by effective LEMC leadership (the ability to structure team tasks, communicate clearly, and show consideration for team members) and the LEMC members’ job related self-efficacy (perceptions of their own competence) and role clarity (clear sense of direction in which to allocate one’s efforts). Other factors affecting commitment included members’ identification with an LEMC’s goals (perceived hazard vulnerability and perceived effectiveness of emergency planning) and perceived opportunity for reward (public recognition and personal skill development). The negative findings regarding continuance commitment do not mean that this variable is altogether irrelevant because the study assessed members’ commitment to the LEMC (which lacks the tangible rewards used to secure compliance commitment), not to their normal jobs (which can provide such rewards). Based on the research reviewed by Mathieu and Zajac (1990), one should expect compliance commitment to significantly predict performance on these other jobs.

    Organizational Outcomes

    Organizational outcomes such as the quality, timeliness, and cost of plans and procedures are the most direct results of individual outcomes and the planning process but there also are intermediate results that are indicative of organizational effectiveness. These include the production of hazard and vulnerability analyses, public information briefings, brochures, and Web sites.

    Lindell and Whitney (1995) and Lindell and Meier (1994) examined different indexes of LEMC effectiveness—chair judgments of effectiveness on six planning activities and submission of completed plans to the State Emergency Response Commission—and found these were significantly correlated, but nonetheless distinct. Later, Lindell, et al. (1996) examined LEMC effectiveness in terms of four criteria: chairs’ judgments of their LEMC’s quality of performance on 13 emergency planning activities, the percentage of vulnerable zones computed, the number of talks given by the LEMC to community groups, and whether the LEMC had conducted an emergency exercise. This study also found the level of LEMC performance varied significantly from one activity to another. Specifically, LEMCs were generally effective in collecting and filing hazard data, inventorying local emergency response resources, acquiring emergency communications equipment, and developing training for local emergency responders. By contrast, LEMCs were relatively ineffective in developing protective action guides, analyzing air infiltration rates for local structures, analyzing evacuation times for vulnerable areas, and promoting community toxic chemical hazard awareness.

    There are significant correlations between organizational and individual outcomes (Lindell & Brandt, 2000). This suggests increasing members’ job satisfaction, effort, attendance, and citizenship behaviors and reducing their turnover intentions will improve the organization’s performance. In addition, organizational outcomes had significant correlations with external contextual variables (such as community resources, emergency experience, and elected official support) and internal structural variables (such as LEMC size, subcommittee structure, meeting formalization, meeting frequency, role formalization, and computer technology). Finally, the organizational outcomes had significant correlations with organizational climate variables (such as leader, team, role, job, and reward characteristics). All of these correlations identify ways in which emergency managers can work with LEMC members to improve organizational performance. In particular, emergency managers’ knowledge of these relationships can serve as a basis for expert power in persuading other LEMC members to change the conditions within the organization.

    3.3: Determinants of Emergency Management Effectiveness is shared under a Public Domain license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by LibreTexts.

    • Was this article helpful?