Ankara University, Turkey
Dennis S. Mileti
University of Colorado
This is a copy of an article published in Journal of Homeland Security, September 2007.
Cite as: Kasapoglu, Aytül, Mileti, Dennis S., and Mathieu Deflem. 2007. “Is the United States Ready for Future Catastrophes? Estimating the Effectiveness of Organizations for Hazard Mitigation Since 9/11.” Journal of Homeland Security, September 2007. Online: http://www.homelandsecurity.org/newjournal/Articles/displayArticle2.asp?article=164.
From an organizational point of view, the events of
Terrorism as Disaster: Theoretical Perspectives
America’s emergency management community, the central focus of our research, may rightly count among the most professional, technically sophisticated, and capable groups of response and recovery personnel in the world. Emergency management personnel in the United States have worked tirelessly, from well before
Crisis management and emergency response organizations are by definition prepared to handle disasters and crises, but the organizational response to the
From an organizational perspective, we consider it important to investigate various interorganizational and intra-organizational relationships. Most intra-organizational research does not concern emergency organizations but instead studies in industrial companies.
Summing up the characteristics of the interorganizational literature, at least three observations can be made. First, many interorganizational studies focus on conflict,5 while others concentrate on learning strategies.
In our research we will estimate the relative impact of intra-organizational and interorganizational models on the basis of an empirical study without a prior theoretical determination. We broaden this comparative model, moreover, with a focus on the culture of organizations. Culture and structure remain the key concepts in most sociological studies or organizations. This can cause no surprise, as organizations are a basic component of the social structure, reflecting the broader culture of shared belief systems as it is expressed, affirmed, and communicated among organizational members.11 Culture can hereby be understood in terms of values,12 knowledge,13 and practices.14
Applied to organizations, the values specific to organizational life include, as Edgar Schein has argued,15 an emphasis on “doing things correctly” and on identifying and solving problems in a timely manner. Culture can thus be summarized as the mentality of the organization. Thereby, the culture of an organization needs to be an integrated system that can rely on the power of shared visions. An effective organizational culture requires delegation of decisions and effective communications and open and truthful transmission of information. Furthermore, leadership must have a strategic long-range vision, the ability to build a team and to bring out the best in team members, total loyalty to the organization’s primary missions, full commitment from all, professionalism, integrity in dealings with clients, clear rules and an absence of corruption, mental toughness and an ability to absorb failure, openness of communication, and a one-stop service for clients to deal with only one person in the organization.
In many of the existing interorganizational studies, the concepts of organizational culture and climate are used interchangeably. In other studies, however, climate and culture are differentiated, for instance by applying culture at the team level of organizations and, conversely, by linking organizational climate with individual-level variables such as job satisfaction, organizational commitment, and perceptions about work.16 On the basis of the latter distinction, our research would mostly focus on organizational climate rather than culture. Yet, because we focus sociologically on groups instead of on individuals, we consider the concept of organizational culture more appropriate.
With a focus on interorganizational and intra-organizational models and on organizational culture in accounting for disaster response effectiveness, this article seeks to address the following questions:
1. Comparing interorganizational and intra-organizational models of organizational responses, which model is the strongest predictor in the case of the
2. How do “values,” “commitment,” and “work politics” as elements of the organizational culture (see the Measures section below) impact disaster preparedness and mitigation actions following the
September 11 terrorist attacks, and which of these variables is the best predictor of organizational response?
4. Are there differences among organizations in terms of their attitudes and behaviors, ranging from taking no action to discussing action, discussing and planning action, and, finally, discussing, planning, and taking actions? If there are differences among organizations in these terms, what is the predictor of these differences? What is the level of adaptation of organizations to jolted (non-routine) events such as the
Researching these questions, we also seek to formulate suggestions to improve organizational effectiveness in emergency management response and, additionally, to estimate to what extent emergency organizations and their members in the United States are ready to respond to future disasters.
The research subjects in this study are drawn from a nationwide list of subscribers of the bimonthly journal Natural Hazards Observer, published by the Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Among all subscribers, 1,800 were selected who were members of various federal, state, and local organizations and nongovernmental organizations. Indicating the range of organizational representation, 106 readers came from the Department of the Interior (the
The theoretical conceptualizations of this study are based on the organizational culture and effectiveness literature that is well established for the analysis of the objectives of organization. Additionally, we constructed novel measurement devices on the basis of insights in the field of risk management and communication. Thus, our approach relied on the existing literature on the use of scales on organizational politics and organizational commitment,17 but we also seek to contribute to the literature by developing new scales, based on additional statements, that are based on theoretical concepts relating to decision-making processes, interorganizational and intra-organizational relations, and values.
Demographic characteristics of the respondents are derived from questions about age, gender, type of education, years of education, number of years worked in the organization of employment, type of employment (full-time, part-time, or temporary), job status (member, worker, or combination thereof), and information about the nature of the organization (federal , state, county, city government, and national and local nongovernmental organization).
Other measures in this research relied on questions and statements that were developed as Likert five-point scale questions, which, unless otherwise noted, were scored as follows: one point for strongly disagree, two points for disagree, three points for neutral, four points for agree, and five points for strongly agree. Following accepted rules of scale construction, reverse items were also taken into consideration. To ensure clarity of the questions upon which the scales were based, additional clarifying statements were provided, such as “Each of the following questions are about the organization that you work or volunteer for. Please indicate how much you agree with each of the following statements.”
The complete lists of statements used in this study are in
To measure organizational commitment, a four-item scale based on Vigoda’s was used to estimate pride in, care for, and satisfaction with the organization. To measure organizational values, statements are used on the basis of Edgar Schein’s conception of organizational mentality that implies a belief and trust in people whereby subordinates know that they are valued and trusted.
The dependent variable of this research—organizational behavior or response to the September 11 terrorist attacks—was measured on the basis of a series of statements that inquired into the response to the
Finally, we designed a question to understand respondents’ level of satisfaction about their respective organization’s behavior on a five-point (strongly agree to strongly disagree) Likert scale: “Please indicate how much you agree with the following statement: Overall, I am very satisfied with the response my organization took because of the
After a pilot study and upon receipt of human subjects approval from the Institutional Review Board of the University of Colorado, requests to complete the survey online were sent out by email to the respondents on
The demographic characteristics of the respondents in our study were as follows. The majority of respondents were government workers (70.7%). There were also
Only 3.7% of the respondents reported that their organization did nothing, while 7.8% only discussed, and 13.3% discussed and planned actions. The majority of the respondents (72.9%) stated that their organization discussed, planned, and took action. The majority of the respondents was satisfied about their organization’s behavior: 22.1% were strongly satisfied and 53.1% were satisfied, while only 2.3% were strongly dissatisfied.
A factor analysis was calculated for the variables of the intra-organizational model, revealing four factor groups (see
As shown in Table 1, organizational politics was related positively only to respondents’ choice about their position (.192). The variable about the respondent’s position (governmental, nongovernmental, or voluntary) was recoded as a dummy variable, whereby governmental workplace was computed as 1 and the alternatives as 0. Therefore, the high positive correlation coefficient between organizational politics and respondents’ choice of their work as governmental or not (“views”) indicates that work politics was higher in governmental organizations than in other types of organizations (NGO and voluntary).
Table 1. Descriptive Statistics, Reliabilities, and Inter-Correlations
|Independent variables||Mean||Std. Dev.||Alpha||1. Intra-organizational||2. Inter-organizational||3. Work politic||4. Commitment||5. Value||6. Gender||7. Education||8. Age||9. Views||10. Behavior|
|1. Intra-organizational||59.4||9.4||.88||–|| || || || || || || || || |
|2. Inter-organizational||15.2||2.2||.51||.524 |
|–|| || || || || || || || |
|3. Work politics||16.5||5.0||.81||–.576 (P<.000)||–.434 (P<.000)||–|| || || || || || || |
|4. Commitment||15.8||2.9||.75||.524 |
|–.457 (P<.000)||–|| || || || || || |
|5. Values||16||2.8||.81||.616 |
|–.659 (P<.000)||.605 (P<.000)||–|| || || || || |
|6. Gender (female=1)||–||–||–||–.016||.125 |
|–.031||–.028||–.009||–|| || || || |
|7. Education||15.3||4.9||–||.024||–.099||.021||–.003||.086||–.157 (P<.000)||–|| || || |
|8. Age||48.9||9.8||–||.150 |
|.121 (P<.01)||–.071||.333 (P<.000)|| || || |
|9. Views (government=1)||–||–||–||–.172 (P<.000)||–.129 |
|.192 (P<.000)||–.179 (P<.000)||–.181 (P<.000)||–.018||–.076||–|| |
|10. Responsive behavior||3.6||.8||–||.103 |
|11. Satisfaction||3.9||.9||–||.528 |
|–.411 (P<.000)||.340 (P<.000)||.457 (P<.000)||.050||–.008||.029||–.149 (P<.000)||.344 (P<.000)|
Intra-organizational attitudes were mostly positively related to interorganizational factors
Interorganizational relations and their correlation coefficients indicate that the patterns were similar to intra-organizational attitudes. Therefore, governmental views and work politics were negatively related to interorganizational attitudes.
Organizational behavior toward the
The positive correlations among satisfaction and several other variables (intra-organizational, interorganizational, commitment, and values), apart from work politics, imply that respondents’ satisfaction with the response of their organization to the
The results of regression analysis supported the zero-order correlations. The structural factors, such as intra-organizational and interorganizational relations, had a higher impact on responsive behavior and satisfaction than did other, attitudinal variables, such as commitment and values (see
Table 2. Regression Analysis on Dependent Variables
|Independent Variables||Response Behavior||Satisfaction|
|Gender (female=1)||.025 (453)||–.005 (–.116)|
|Education (years)||–.023 (–.392)||–.007 (–.148)|
|Age (years)||.036 (.618)||–.028 (–.571)|
|Views (governmental=1)||.016 (.289)||–.090 (–1.960) (P<.05)|
|Intra-organizational||.038 (.514)||.320 (5.177) (P<.000)|
|Interorganizational||.280 (4.115) (P<.000)||.202 (3.548) (P<.000)|
|Work politics||–.019 (–.264)||–.043 (–.705)|
|Values||–.095 (–1.120)||.087 (1.236)|
|Commitment||–.063 (–.901)||.036 (.612)|
|F||2.598 (P<.000)||19.779 (P<.000)|
There were similar findings between interorganizational relations and satisfaction. With interorganizational relations classified as low
Since views of one’s primary job as being in the government sector was found to be related negatively to satisfaction, it can be concluded that respondents in governmental organizations were also less satisfied (as shown in zero-order correlations).
The findings of our research revealed that the interorganizational model is a better predictor for organizational responses to the
On September 11, 2001, the men and women involved in the emergency management community were called upon to show leadership and vision. And, indeed, many of these people once again rose to the occasion. We can find comfort in knowing that many of our relevant organizations have the skills and abilities to deal with the impacts of such events. Looking into the future, we should be aware that there is no completely safe place in the world. Our world is not built on standards of safety. We have to invent safe places and make places safe. From a more realistic point of view, therefore, effective risk communication must be conceived as a continuous process. In this sense, the results of our research can be understood to have contributed to finding ways in which governmental and nongovernmental organizations and their members can prepare for future catastrophes.
The authors are grateful to Thomas Dickinson of the Institute of Behavioral Sciences at the University of Colorado for preparation of the web-based survey. We also thank Diana Smith for providing relevant addresses and the respondents for their kind participation.
Appendix 1: Variables and Statements for Scale Construction
“This organization can adapt to almost anything” (environmental adaptibility)
“Policy decisions are usually made by top level decision makers” (decision making)
“Operational decisions are made in departments and/or those doing the work” (decision making)
“Communication between people in the department I work in is good” (horizontal communication)
“Communication between people in different levels of the hierarchy in my organization is good” (vertical communication)
“There are rules about how people in my department should communicate with each other and with people in different levels of the hierarchy in my organizations” (communication formation)
“There is coordination between the work that different people do here” (work coordination)
“There is coordination between the work that goes on in different departments and/or levels of this organization” (task coordination)
“New ideas from the people who work here are welcomed” (idea innovation)
“New goals for this organization are well received” (goal innovation)
“We have the equipment we need to do our work” (equipment capacity)
“There are enough workers here to get the work done” (employee capacity)
“Our budget is adequate” (budget capacity)
“On the job training is sufficient” (training capacity)
“This organization almost always reaches it goals” (organizational goal performance)
“My department almost always reaches its goals” (department goal performance)
“Most of the workers here almost always achieve their goals” (worker goal performance)
“You have to be qualified to get a job here” (employment professionalization)
“The goals of my organization often overlap with the goals of other organizations” (goal overlap)
“The competition my organization has with other organizations limits our ability to get our work done” (competition)
“My organization actually does cooperate with the other organizations it should cooperate with to get the job done” (cooperation)
“My organization actually does communicate with the other organizations it should communicate with to get the job done” (communication)
“Favoritism rather than merit determines who gets ahead around here”
“Rewards come only to those who work hard in this organization”
“There is a group of people in my department who always get things their way because no one wants to challenge them”
“People in this organization attempt to built themselves up by the tearing others down”
“I have seen changes made in politics here that only serve the purposes of a few individuals, not the work unit or the organization”
“There is no place for yes-men around here: Good ideas are desired even when it means disagreeing with supervisors/leaders”
“I am proud to tell others that I am a part of this organization”
“I really care about the faith of this organization”
“I would accept almost any type of job assignment in order to keep working for the organization”
“For me, this is the best of all possible organizations to work for”
“My organization respects my diversity (age, gender or ethnic) and that of wider society”
“In my organization we are valued and trusted member of the team”
“My organization expects me to exercise total integrity without corruption in dealing with clients/costumers”
“Mistakes are tolerated as long as I learn from them”
Dependent Variable: Response to
“We did nothing in response to the
“People in my organization only discussed possible actions that we should take because of the terrorist act”
“People in my organization discussed and planned actions to take because of the
“My organization discussed, planned and took actions because of the
Appendix 2: Rotated Component Matrix for Intra-Organizational Relations
|Intra-organizational||Factor 1||Factor 2||Factor 3||Factor 4|
|To be qualified||.595|
|Number of workers||.761|
|Top-level policy decisions||.680|
|Cronbach alpha (adjusted)||.8789||.8065||.7571||.3104|
|KMO measure of sampling adequacy||Kaiser-Meyer-Olkin=.891|
|Barlett’s test of sphericity||Chi-square =2796.9||DF=153||P<.000 (P<.000)|
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