Network Management in Emergency Response: Articulation Practices of State-Level Managers Interweaving Up, Down and Sideways

January 2011
JoAnn M. Brooks, The MITRE Corporation
Deborah J. Bodeau, The MITRE Corporation
Jane Fedorowicz, Bentley University
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Large-scale emergency response requires managing inter-organizational networks across federal, state and local levels of government, as well as with non-profit and private sector organizations. Planning for such network management is intrinsically problematic due to the unpredictable nature of emergent crises. Instead, emergency management personnel must respond to each contingency of an emergency in a situated, somewhat ad hoc manner. In this paper, we focus on the centrality of state-level emergency managers as intermediaries between federal and local levels, to answer the research question: What is the role of the state-level personnel in managing vertical and horizontal networks and collaboration during emergency response? In reporting our results, we draw from an ethnographic study of emergency preparedness and response exercises, and use a practice lens for viewing the actions of emergency managers as they construct their emergency response(s). We find that much of what state-level emergency managers do can be explained as articulation practices, constructing the emergency response just-in-time, and further that these practices interweave temporally across logistical, jurisdictional and governance domains. We conclude by discussing theoretical implications for network management and practical implications for understanding and improving emergency response.

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