How do local homeland security organizations respond to catastrophic events such as hurricanes and acts of terrorism? Among the most important aspects of this response are these organizations ability to adapt to the uncertain nature of these “focusing events” (Birkland 1997). They are often behind the curve, seeing response as a linear process, when in fact it is a complex, multifaceted process that requires understanding the interactions between the fiscal pressures facing local governments, the institutional pressures of working within a new regulatory framework and the political pressures of bringing together different levels of government with different perspectives and agendas.
This dissertation has focused on tracing the factors affecting the individuals and institutions planning, preparing, responding and recovering from natural and man-made disasters. Using social network analysis, my study analyzes the interactions between the individuals and institutions that respond to these “focusing events.” In practice, it is the combination of budgetary, institutional, and political pressures or constraints interacting with each other which resembles a Complex Adaptive System (CAS).
To investigate this system, my study evaluates the evolution of two separate sets of organizations composed of first responders (Fire Chiefs, Emergency Management Coordinators) and community volunteers organized in the state of Florida over the last fifteen years. Using a social network analysis approach, my dissertation analyzes the interactions between Citizen Corps Councils (CCCs) and Community Emergency Response Teams (CERTs) in the state of Florida from 1996- 2011. It is the pattern of interconnections that occur over time that are the focus of this study.
The social network analysis revealed an increase in the amount and density of connections between these organizations over the last fifteen years. The analysis also exposed the underlying patterns in these connections; that as the networks became more complex they also became more decentralized though not in any uniform manner. The present study brings to light a story of how communities have adapted to the ever changing circumstances that are sine qua non of natural and man-made disasters