5. Actors Response and Interaction

A multitude of actors, their perceptions, their knowledge base and value commitments (and political interests) are engaged in processes of risk analysis, decision-making, and disaster management.
The stakeholders usually involved in disaster management are:

  • Authorities; Public administrations play a prominent role at all levels during disaster and public servants or elected officials have the ultimate responsibility for making top-level decisions.
  • Non-governmental organisations: local, national, and international NGOs may also be involved in different aspects disaster. They may be engaged in DRR and in the response phase they may provide emergency and transitional settlement, shelter, water, and sanitation.
  • The community; not a single entity but as noted earlier, a highly diverse range of social actors whose voluntary work actually saves and rehabilitates most people in a disaster.
  • Emergency services; fire, rescue, emergency medical services and law enforcement represent the first institutional response. They, and other emergency responders, might be involved in tackling the emergency on site, warning, evacuation, and communication.
  • Armed forces: in some countries, response to disasters is managed by civil defence or civil protection departments dominated by armed forces personnel. Tasks of the armed forces often include operational and logistical support to civilian teams (Lopez-Carresi et al. (eds) 2013)

In this chapter we ponder what happens when organisational cultures meet when facing an emergency. If they did not know each other all that well before the crisis, misunderstandings, confusion and overload can easily arise. Situational awareness can be substantially improved by understanding the different ways professionals are used to talking to each other, and to disaster-affected people about what’s going on. It takes insight in how organisations understand themselves, their place in the network of actors involved in disaster management, and the nature of that network. We provide a method for Social Network Mapping, seeking to capture not only formal but also informal actors – who they are, with whom they communicate, where they tend to get their information from. The ‘spider web’ this generates (illustrated by L’ Aquila and Lorca) helps us prepare better for the next disaster event. The chapter then zooms in on two key but underappreciated actor groups in the response network: volunteers and ‘gatekeepers’, and how they could be more effective in DRR. Finally, we focus on the role of the military. We discuss how the difference in culture and organisation between civil and military organisations can complicate disaster CIMIC (civil-military cooperation), and what may be done to make things easier.


5.1. Challenges in crisis management
5.1.1. Issues of coordination and organizational cultures
5.2. The role of culture in multi-organizational emergency management
5.2.1. Introducing a culture model: the trading zone
5.2.2. On methodology and methods: a research agenda
5.2.3. The emergency responder as reflective practitioner
5.3. Coordination, communication and decision-making
5.3.1. The role of information systems in crisis management and the inclusion of cultural aspects
5.3.2. Network analysis to identify key actors and key vulnerabilities
5.3.3. Working with volunteers and gatekeepers in DRR: recommendations from five European cities
5.3.4. Organisations as complex networks of interaction
5.4. The role of volunteers and gatekeepers
5.4.1. The role of volunteers in DRR
5.4.2. The role of local leaders and gatekeepers in DRR
5.4.3 Working with volunteers and gatekeepers in DRR: recommendations from five European cities
5.4.4 Actions for improving DRR in the Italian, Swedish, Dutch and Spanish contexts
5.5.  The role of the armed forces and civil-military interaction
5.5.1 Requesting military support
5.5.2 Civil-military coordination