Crisis response tools: a layered model of communication support



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Texas Tech University


Organizational crises such as the Bhopal gas leak and the Valdez oil spill are becoming alarmingly frequent. In the last few years, there has been a significant increase in the number of devastating crises experienced by American corporations. In fact, some researchers have gone so far as to characterize organizational crises as inevitable.

The product of this dissertation is a relevant understandable theory of crisis response resulting in prescriptive statements regarding the investment in and development of crisis information systems. This theory is built from a synthesis of primary data gathered from personal interviews of crisis decision makers and examination of dedicated crisis response tools, and secondary data obtained from published case studies of organizational crises and relevant technical literature bases.

Current research in the area of crisis response support focuses either on the narrow pockets of public relations and disaster recovery, or on the support of task performance. However, interviews with crisis decision makers reveal the disparate need for supporting the crisis communication process. Thus, this dissertation contributes to the literature by recognizing the need for and providing a theory of crisis communication support.

Theory development begins with the realization that crisis response efforts are driven by communication centered around the crisis management team and their performance of crisis triage, i.e., the allocation of scarce resources to potential actions according to crisis priorities. This dissertation develops a layered model of tools that support the communication necessary for the effective performance of crisis triage. The lowest layers manage and support the faithful transmission of data. The middle layers manage and support the transmission and sharing of meaningful messages. Provided the functionality of the lower layers, the highest layers then are able to directly facilitate the process of crisis triage.

Through the layered model of crisis communication support, this dissertation offers pragmatically sound principles for organizing crisis response systems, and captures a comprehensive view of the crisis response process; that is, this work offers a system architecture. As an architecture, the model enumerates all the functions necessary to adequately support crisis communication linkages.