Access Type

Open Access Dissertation

Date of Award

January 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name




First Advisor

Matthew W. Seeger


Recent history has indicated that crises are becoming more frequent rather than exceptional events. Dozens of organizations, often with very different missions, methods, technologies and cultures, are called upon to coordinate activities in order to mitigate the crisis and assist in recovery efforts. Although several interorganizational coordination perspectives and strategies have been proposed, they have neglected to examine how different organizational communication cultures of crisis response organizations involved in an Emergency Operations Center (EOC) may affect crisis collaboration efforts. Previous studies have also disregarded the important distinction between crisis coordination and crisis collaboration and the challenges and benefits of each to crisis response efforts of EOCs.

This study examined in depth two crisis response organizations that are active in most EOCs, a regional chapter of a disaster response organization (DRO) and a metropolitan police department (MPD) in a large U.S. metropolitan city. Data for this instrumental case study was collected using the qualitative approaches of participant observation, interviews, and document analysis.

The findings illustrate that the two different organizational communication cultures of the EMU MPD and the DRO resulted in two different worldviews of how organizations think they should work together and communicate with each other when responding to a crisis. The DRO's humanitarian and service-oriented organizational communication culture defined their crisis response practices as crisis collaboration with all organizations. In contrast, the EMU MPD's bureaucratic and closed organizational communication culture defined their crisis response as crisis collaboration with similar organizational cultures and bureaucratic crisis coordination with others. This suggests that these different worldviews give rise to processes, structures, and procedures of crisis coordination and crisis collaboration that are cultural artifacts of the organizations. Therefore, once cannot assume a crisis coordination or collaboration structure can easily be imposed on an organization as a way to improve interorganizational collaboration, coordination and communication.

This investigation suggests that the different crisis coordination and crisis collaboration worldviews need to first be understood by EOCs and the organizations involved in those groups. Then additional planning and management processes need to be developed in order to ensure effective interorganizational communication and collaboration during a crisis response.

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