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date: 09 December 2023

Crisis Coordination in First Responder Organizationslocked

Crisis Coordination in First Responder Organizationslocked

  • Helge RenåHelge RenåFaculty of Law, University of Bergen


Crisis coordination as process can be understood as the adjustment of actions and decisions among interdependent actors to achieve specified goals. Coordination during crises typically involves a broad variety of first responder organizations, from professionals, such as emergency agencies and nongovernmental organizations like the Red Cross, to nonprofessional organizations and individuals, who often play a decisive role in crisis response. Traditionally, research on crisis coordination in first responder organizations seemed to be, broadly speaking, divided into two camps. One strand of literature focused on the formal structures of the government and the established first responder organizations and how they are interdependent via hierarchical relations and unity of command. The other strand of literature, with a long history in the field of disaster sociology, has taken a primary interest in the actual coordination that occurs “on the scene” in the immediate aftermath of crises and disasters. From this perspective, the actors involved in crisis coordination are conceptualized as a network of actors that are interrelated via novel structures and relations that emerge and develop as the crisis response unfolds. In the broader literature on coordination, there has been a shift in focus from explaining why coordination mechanisms work to a growing interest in how coordination happens by focusing on the emergent nature of the process of coordination. Following this shift and the scholarly work on organizational improvisation, there seems to be a growing consensus that crisis coordination is enabled by a combination of routinized practices and improvised action. More generally, recent scholarly work builds on the extant perspectives and literatures by seeing them in combination rather than as opposites. Instead of focusing primarily on the formal hierarchical relations in the established first responder organizations or the collaborative networks that emerge at the incident scene, current research tries to theorize how they are intertwined, and when, how, and why they sometimes reinforce each other and sometimes not.


  • Governance/Political Change
  • Policy, Administration, and Bureaucracy

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