An Investigation of the Impact of Social Vulnerability Research on the Practice of Emergency Management

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This dissertation examines the extent to which social vulnerability, as studied by researchers across multiple disciplines, has influenced the practice of emergency management at the local level. This study addresses two major research questions to accomplish this goal. First, how do local emergency managers perceive and define social vulnerability? Second, what strategies do local emergency managers employ to reach and meet the needs of socially vulnerable populations? Semi-structured interviews were conducted in person or by phone with a sample of local emergency managers, city managers, and American Red Cross personnel from the Houston - Galveston and the South East Texas ... continued below

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Williams, Brian Don August 2017.

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  • Williams, Brian Don

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Description

This dissertation examines the extent to which social vulnerability, as studied by researchers across multiple disciplines, has influenced the practice of emergency management at the local level. This study addresses two major research questions to accomplish this goal. First, how do local emergency managers perceive and define social vulnerability? Second, what strategies do local emergency managers employ to reach and meet the needs of socially vulnerable populations? Semi-structured interviews were conducted in person or by phone with a sample of local emergency managers, city managers, and American Red Cross personnel from the Houston - Galveston and the South East Texas regions as defined by the respective Councils of Government. A modified grounded theory approach was used with a constant comparative method to identify themes for each research question. Triangulation was accomplished through secondary census data and supplemental interviews. The interview data reveal that social vulnerability research has had an indirect influence on the practice of emergency management at the local level. This influence is facilitated through state and federal policy, training, and plans development. Based on the interview data, four themes were identified that capture the various ways in which local emergency management officials perceive and define social vulnerability. These include vulnerability as poverty and culture, vulnerability as a lack of security, vulnerability as a moral imperative, and vulnerability as a lack of awareness and knowledge. In terms of strategies employed to address social vulnerability, the data suggest four themes: leaving it to the professionals, bringing in volunteers, leveraging protocols to build buy-in, and fostering flexibility. The findings reveal the importance in closing the knowledge gap between research and practice, because increased damage, harm, and death can occur when the social inequalities of everyday life are not addressed in the planning process by emergency managers. The findings also reveal that state and federal policy, training, and plans development are the most trusted sources by emergency managers to transfer knowledge to practice. Additionally, with the proliferation of emergency management degree programs at the undergraduate and graduate levels, higher education can potentially play a more active and visible role in bridging the gap between research and practice, particularly as it relates to social vulnerability.

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  • August 2017

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  • Oct. 9, 2017, 11:44 a.m.

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Williams, Brian Don. An Investigation of the Impact of Social Vulnerability Research on the Practice of Emergency Management, dissertation, August 2017; Denton, Texas. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc1011783/: accessed December 13, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .