Decision-Making as Community Adaptation:The Human Ecology of Emergency Management
Donner, William R.
Disaster Research Center
This paper explores how emergency managers make judgments regarding longterm policy and offers a sociological account of organizational decision making within an ecological context. Discussions with emergency managers focusing on the relative merits of rainfall estimation and tornado detection served as data to address these issues. Among the thirty-nine (n=39) interviewees, a consensus emerged favoring tornado detection over rainfall estimation. From these findings, the paper attempts to a) understand why emergency managers prefer tornado detection over rainfall estimation and b) develop theoretical generalizations explaining trends in these preferences. Concerning the first goal, analysis revealed emergency managers stressed the relative threats of common hazards in Oklahoma, the capabilities of technology in hazard mitigation, and public opinion. Given the environmental, technological, and social concerns reflected in this reasoning, there appears to be a strong ecological context driving the need for tornado detection among emergency managers. Implications and concerns are presented in the final section.