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School Districts and Disaster Expertise: What

Types of School Districts Consult Emergency

Management Professionals?
Scott E. Robinson

Bush School of Government and Public Service

Institute for Science, Technology, and Public Policy
Texas A&M University


January 6, 2011

Emergency management calls for collaboration among a wide range
of organizations. Many of these organizations are involved in matters
of emergency management by statute or organizational mission. Other
organizations, however, participate in emergency management as a
task secondary to some other core mission. Why, and to what extent,
these organizations collaborate with emergency management profes-
sionals are key questions in out attempt to build a broad coalition
of organizations to support emergency management activities. School
districts have limited internal capacity to prepare for emergencies and
disasters. Some collaborate with other organizations to overcome this
capacity deficit. Others rely, instead, on their limited internal capaci-
ties. This article examines the relative importance of structural char-
acteristics and perceived vulnerability in predicting which districts are

likely to consult with external emergency specialists. The results show
that the most persistent force behind the decision to engage an emer-
gency management specialist in preparing for emergencies is the size
of the school district.

1 Introduction - School Districts and Pre-

paredness Collaboration
It is now widely accepted that emergency management involves the collabo-
ration of a broad range of actors. The capacity to prepare for and respond
to emergencies and disasters does not reside within any one organization
or even one level of government. Such an insight has led many to study
collaborative practices in emergency management including the the role of
federalism in emergency management (Waugh Jr 1994, Kapucu, Augustin
& Garayev 2009) and collaboration between government emergency man-
agement organizations and nonprofit organizations (Kapucu 2006, Simo &
Bies 2007, Brudney & Gazley 2009). An understudied element of this newly
collaborative vision is the incorporation of organizations in emergency pre-
paredness and response that do not have a traditional role in emergency man-
agement. This article looks at the behavior of a type of organization that is
included in many emergency management activities but is not primarily an
emergency management organization itself: public school districts.
Using data from two surveys (one conducted immediately following Hur-
ricanes Katrina and Rita and one conducted nearly two years later - with
the Virginia Tech shootings taking place early in the administration of the
survey) of Texas public school districts, this article assess the factors related
to collaboration between school districts and emergency managers in emer-
gency planning activities. The results provide insight into the factors that
facilitate collaboration between a non-emergency oriented organization and
professional emergency managers. Larger school districts are more likely to
report the inclusion of professional emergency managers in their planning
processes. Perceived likelihood of a disaster also increases the probability of
reported inclusion of emergency management professionals, but only in the
survey immediately following the hurricanes of 2005.

1.1 Disaster Preparedness Collaboration
Disasters are, by their very definition, events that cross jurisdictional bound-
aries. A prominent textbook states the point clearly.

The term disaster is reserved for events that produce more losses
than a community can handle. A community struck by disaster
can cope only with the help of other communities, state govern-
ment, or the federal government (emphasis in original) (Lindell,
Prater & Perry 2007, 3).

Hazards do not respect jurisdictional boundaries and thereby may affect

multiple jurisdictions 1 As a result, preparing for and responding to disas-
ters and emergencies are “wicked problems” (Rittel & Webber 1973). Such
wicked problems defy simple solutions, especially those implemented by sin-
gle organizations or institutions. The evolving nature of the problem along
with the breadth of their effects requires the participation of a broad range
of actors to implement any solutions. Such wicked problems call for collab-
orative solutions.
In part motivated by the complex nature of disasters and emergencies,
collaboration has become a popular term in emergency management and dis-
aster policy. The FEMA’s Emergency Management Institute popularized a
series of principles to guide emergency managers. These principles empha-
size elements such as collaboration, coordination, and integration (Federal
Emergency Management Agency 2008a). Specifically, its discussion of col-
laboration emphasizes the importance of ”broad and sincere relationships”
in an ”environment” that ”facilitate(s) communication.” Policy documents
including the National Incident Management System (NIMS) also empha-
size collaboration through the integration of a broad range of organizations
through Emergency Support Function (ESF) annexes (Department of Home-
land Security 2008, Federal Emergency Management Agency 2008b)
The complexity of the broad range of actors involved in emergency man-
agement in the US is well illustrated by Kapucu in his study of the National
Response Plan (the predecessor of the current National Response Framework)
(2005). Kapucu mapped the National Response Plan in terms of the vari-
ous organizations named and given responsibility within the document. He
See Kapucu (2008) for a dramatic example of how a series of hurricanes crossed county
jurisdictions within Florida.

found eight organizations (in addition to FEMA) that play a primary role in
disaster operations and 25 others that play roles in emergency support func-
tions (38). Interestingly, all of these units are governmental organizations
except for the American Red Cross in its role related to mass care. Kapucu’s
analysis of the connectivity between the various actors reveals a great deal
of interdependence and complexity in the federal emergency management
It is important to note that this is a conservative statement of the com-
plexity of the system. There are many other actors involved in any particu-
lar activity that were not mentioned by name within the National Response
Plan. Most obviously, state and local actors are specific to the location of a
particular event. A large hazard may impact many jurisdictions with each ju-
risdiction bringing its own array of emergency management actors. Kapucu’s
analysis of the 2004 hurricane season in Florida illustrates the breadth of lo-
cal activation (Kapucu 2008). He found 151 public (meaning: governmental)
organizations as well as 18 nonprofit and 63 private organizations mentioned
within his mixed method assessment of survey, interview, and document anal-
ysis (of situation reports) (249). This study provides a broader (and more
realistic) assessment of how complex emergency management operations can

1.2 Secondary Disaster Organizations

What is often neglected in the burgeoning research into emergency manage-
ment collaboration is that some of the participants are not primarily emer-
gency management organizations (Robinson 2007). Collaboration between a
local emergency management office and their local Red Cross office involves
parties whose primary responsibilities involve preparedness for and response
to emergencies and disasters. This collaboration is quite important, to be
sure. However, it may be of a different character than those organizations
who play important roles in emergency management but are not, themselves,
primarily focused on emergencies and disasters.
These organizations that are often involved in emergency management
but are not primarily emergency management organizations are “secondary
disaster organizations.” The term secondary is not intended to belittle the
role these organizations play but, rather, to refer to the status of emergency
preparedness and response within the organization’s mission. There are many
examples of such organizations. The church who volunteers to house evacuees

or send members to assist with feeding operations is such an organization.
While this church plays a valuable role in sheltering and feeding, most of the
time the focus of the organization is not on emergencies or disasters. Such
activities are simply a secondary role the organization fills in times of need.
Other examples may include housing organizations, transportation agencies,
or – the subject of this study – schools.
Schools play a number of important roles in emergency management.
First, schools provide an important point of access to households. Commu-
nicating with these households, particularly on matters of preparedness edu-
cation for the community, requires just this sort of access. Efforts to educate
children about appropriate protective behaviors in the case of a household
fire (such as “stop, drop, and roll”) serve as one important example of the
use of schools to promote preparedness behaviors. Schools are also involved
directly in various emergency response activities, primarily through their
frequent role as local shelters. In many jurisdictions, local school facilities
represent the core of shelter stock in case that the community needs to open
shelters in the event of severe weather or otherwise must absorb an evacu-
ating population. Finally, schools are involved in evacuations even if their
facilities are not directly used as shelters. When large numbers of evacuees
enter a community (as was the case in many communities following Hurri-
cane Katrina), one of the first points of contacts that the evacuees make with
local officials is with local school districts. Evacuated parents seek to place
their children in schools close to their shelter. Following Hurricane Katrina,
some Texas school districts had hundreds or even thousands of students seek
enrollment after the relocated (whether to a public shelter or to personally
arranged housing).
Given the emphasis on networking and collaboration in emergency man-
agement activities, it is interesting to ask why some school districts engage
emergency management professionals in their emergency planning activities
and why some do not. Schools will be affected by local disasters and emer-
gencies. However, these organizations are not primarily oriented towards
emergency management activity. Their nature as secondary disaster organi-
zations makes their participation voluntary rather than a constitutive part of
their mission. The question is whether they will integrate emergency manage-
ment professional in the creation or revision of the district’s own emergency
plans given their nature as secondary disaster organizations. The next sec-
tion will review some of the theoretical expectations related to collaboration
that may explain why schools’ collaborative behaviors (or their absence).

2 Theoretical Expectations
The core research question for this article is:
What factors influence the likelihood that a school district will
collaborate with emergency management professionals in their
emergency planning activities?
Potential answers to this questions come from two research traditions.
An emerging but already large literature within public administration and
organization theory addresses the question of which types of organizations
are most likely to collaborate. A separate literature has emerged within
emergency management research on the factors related to individual and
organizational preparedness activities. Together, these literatures provide
important guidance in generating hypotheses to answer the core research
question and are reviewed in the following sections.

2.1 Preparedness and Vulnerability Beliefs

Research in emergency management has long been concerned with the low
levels of preparedness observed in diverse settings ranging from the individ-
ual to the organizational and community-levels . This concern has motivated
a great deal of research into how to motivate individuals to prepare for emer-
gencies and how to explain variations in preparedness behaviors (Tierney,
Lindell & Perry 2001).
Lindell & Perry (1992) offer a model to organize the various arguments
related to preparedness behaviors – the Protective Action Decision Model.
The model seeks to explain the decision to take protective action in the
face of potential hazards based on an array of conditions including disaster
experience, individual demographics, and hazard characteristics. In this,
the Protective Action Decision Model reinforces the complexity of individual
decisions to prepare for hazards. A wide range of factors can influence the
decision - and these various factors are themselves interrelated.
Recent evidence has suggested that the primary determinant of individual
preparedness is perceived personal risk (Lindell & Hwang 2008). Individuals
who perceive themselves as vulnerable to specific hazards are more likely to
prepare for those hazards. This predisposition is closely related to a variety
of other factors identified in the research including hazard experience, haz-
ard proximity, and various demographic characteristics (including gender,

ethnicity, and income). If one has recently experienced a hazard, one is more
likely to think that one is vulnerable to a hazard in the future, etc. Once
adapted to the context of a school district official making a decision related
to protective action, this leads to a hypothesis to address our core research

School district officials who perceive that they are vulnerable to

a hazard are more likely to work with emergency management
professional in the development of their emergency plans.

Lindell & Hwang (2008) conclude with a discussion of the importance of

a second consideration: hazard intrusiveness. The amount of discussion and
information about the hazard in an actor’s environment may influence the
actors decisions to prepare (Lindell & Prater 2000). Lindell & Prater (2000)
found the effect of hazard intrusiveness to be independent of personal risk and
thus warrants its own consideration. We will look at survey responses in two
time periods: one in the immediate aftermath of a prominent hazard and one
removed from such events. In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Katrina,
hurricane hazards were quite intrusive in the general media environment.
This leads to a final proposition inspired by the Protective Action Decision

School district officials are more likely to work with emergency

management professional in the development of their emergency
plans when hazards are more prominent in the media environ-

With our pair of surveys, there were intrusive disasters close to both sur-
veys. Neither survey represents a “baseline” state. Instead, we have one
survey (2005) that represents attitudes and reported intentions in the im-
mediate aftermath of a pair of hurricanes that dramatically affected school
districts across the state through storm related closures and a massive evac-
uation of students into the schools. In the other survey, we have an event
(the Virginia Tech shootings) that was distant and did not directly effect the
school districts in the sample but was specific to a school setting. We will
assess the relative propensity to collaborate in the two surveys to compare
the impact of these two decision environments.

2.2 Structural Expectations
The literature in organization theory and public administration emphasizes
factors independent of the context of collaboration. This makes sense given
the aspiration of the literature to speak to collaborative practices across a
variety of policy domains, sectors, and even countries.
While there are a variety of schools of thought on what induces orga-
nizations to collaborate, this model will focus on structural explanations of
collaboration. The structural school of collaboration deemphasizes the role of
individual leaders and focuses instead on semi-permanent characteristics of
the organization including the nature of the organization’s technology (how
the organization carries out its mission – not limited to specific technologies
like computer technology), affluence (how many resources the organization
has access to), and size (the raw number of individuals involved in the orga-
nization’s operations). This approach sees collaborative activity as a costly
activity that is only possible when the organization has both the need and
the capacity to collaborate.
A prominent example of this theoretical approach to collaboration is
Thompson’s rational choice theory of organizational collaboration
(2003 (1967)). Thompson argued that organizational structure is the prod-
uct of rational choice on the part of those that manage the organization. The
internal operations of the organizational will depend on the core task of the
organization. Thompson also argued that inter-organizational connections
will be the product of rational choice on the part of the organization’s man-
ager. When the organization sees a rational purpose for collaboration, they
will create boundary spanning units. There are a variety of purposes for these
boundary spanning units, but one of primary concern for Thompson and for
our current purposes is their capacity to buffer the organization. When out-
side forces can disrupt the core operations of an organization, Thompson
argues that the organization may create boundary spanning units to protect
the core operations from these potential disruptions. This is very much the
purpose of emergency management planning and collaboration.
It is important to note that Thompson sees such collaboration as a costly
activity. Managers will only create boundary spanning units when such units
generate a benefit for the organization. Implicitly, such activities have a cost.
Thompson argued that you are likely to see these investments, then, when
the organization has the slack to invest in such protective behavior. Two
components stand out as generating slack. First, organizations with access

to a great deal of capital are likely to invest in such boundary spanning ac-
tivity. This may be the case because either (A) the opportunity cost of the
investment is low due to the access to slack resources or (B) the resources are
in the environment and a boundary spanning unit will improve access to these
external resources. Second, larger organizations have access to economies of
scale such that they can invest in boundary spanning operations and spread
the costs of the unit across a larger organization. This hypothesis is con-
sistent with prior research into collaboration between school districts and
various emergency management organizations (Kano & Bourque. 2007) but
contrasts with findings of no relationship in studies at the campus level (Kano
& Bourque 2008).
The rational choice perspective on collaboration, then, generates two hy-
potheses to answer our core research question:

School districts with access to more resources are more likely

to collaborate with emergency management professional in the
development of their emergency management plans

Larger school districts are more likely to collaborate with emer-

gency management professional in the development of their emer-
gency management plans

3 Data and Methods

To test the hypotheses reviewed in the previous section, we analyze the re-
sponses from two mail surveys of Texas K-12 school superintendents. The
first was in the Fall of 2005 - following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The
second was in the Spring of 2007, approximately eighteen months later. Early
in the administration of the second wave of surveys, the Virginia Tech shoot-
ings shocked education administrators across the country. This section will
provide details on the surveys themselves and the statistical model we used
to test the various hypotheses.

3.1 Survey Methods

In the weeks following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in the Fall of 2005, chil-
dren from evacuated areas sought enrollment in school districts across Texas.
In some cases, pairs or dozens of students sought enrollment a couple of weeks

into the school year. In some cases, districts were asked to admit hundreds of
students. School districts, not often focusing on emergency response, found
themselves confronting needs with which they had little familiarity. As a
result, many school districts sought to collaborate with other organizations.
The uncertainty in the period immediately following the hurricanes pro-
vided an opportunity to study partner selection among these school districts.
To whom did these districts turn for assistance? With the support of the
National Science Foundation, we sent a survey to every K-12 school district
in Texas within weeks of Hurricane Katrina (with Hurricane Rita occurring
in this gap). The survey included a variety of questions about each district’s
experiences during the post-Katrina/Rita period as well as general ques-
tions about collaboration with other organizations and the superintendent’s
beliefs about the district’s disaster vulnerability. The Fall 2005 survey of
approximately 1200 school districts in Texas ended after three waves of self-
administrated mail instruments for a response rate of approximately 60%.
The second survey was administered approximately 18 months later of the
same sample. This survey repeated the questions about disaster vulnerability
and organizational collaborations. After three waves of mail surveys, the
second survey had a response rate of approximately 50%.2
We focus on a specific question included on both of the administrations
of the survey: reported intent to consult with an emergency management
professional during the next revision of the district’s emergency plan. The
question allowed superintendents to report who among many options they
intend to include in the process of reviewing their emergency plans. The
specific question wording follows.

Which groups do you anticipate will be involved in the review

of your disaster/emergency plan? (check all that apply)

o police, fire, first responders o emergency planning

o district officials specialists or consultants
o campus officials
o teachers
o government officials
o parents o other
Assesment of the comparability of respondents to non-responding districts in each
survey shows that responders are slightly larger than non-responders, but not by a sub-
stantively large amount.

We will focus only on whether superintendents reported that they plan to
include emergency planning specialists/consultants in the review of their dis-
trict’s emergency plan. Overall, 39% of superintendents reported such plans
in 2005 while 45% reported such plans in 2007. Such percentages reassure
us that indicating an intention to consult with emergency management spe-
cialists was not so trivial that everyone would report such intention. We are
interested in what distinguished the districts whose superintendents reported
the intention to consult from those those reported no such intention.

3.2 Statistical Model

The survey responses only indicate the presence or absence of an intention
which make the data somewhat complicated to analyze. One ought not
simply apply simple linear regression models because the dependent variable
of interest can only take on values of 0 or 1. Application of a linear regression
may result in predictions for individual districts of greater than 1 or less
than 0, which would be nonsensical. We can instead imagine that there is an
underlying, unobserved propensity to consult with emergency management
specialists. We don’t observe the propensity directly. Instead, we imagine
that there is a threshold above which we will observe a 1 and below which
we will observe a 0. The result is a simple probit regression model with only
a constant term.

P (Y = 1)i = Φ(β + ǫi ) (1)

This is a very simple model that assumes that all school districts have the
same propensity to consult. The hypotheses suggest that this is not the case
at all. Instead, we assumed that some school districts will have a greater
propensity to consult. First, we hypothesized that school districts whose
superintendent reported a higher likelihood of experiencing an emergency are
more likely to consult with emergency management specialists. We wanted
to test this hypothesis by including a term in the probability model that
accounts for these vulnerability assessments (ψi ).

P (Y = 1)i = Φ(β + ψi + ǫi ) (2)

The data for this variable come from the same surveys as the reported
intentions to consult based on a question about whether the district is highly
likely, somewhat likely, somewhat unlikely, or highly unlikely to experience

a disaster in the next 12 months. This question indicates how vulnerable
the actor sees their district is to hazards. Due to low numbers of school
districts reporting that disaster were “highly unlikely”, we collapsed these
responses with responses of “somewhat unlikely”. The result is a three point
scale increasing from “unlikely” to “highly likely”.3 We also considered other
components of the Protective Action Decision model but were limited to the
questions available within the survey. There were no questions related to
tenure expectations or enough variation to differentiate perceived hazard vul-
nerability from hazard proximity and hazard information. Given that Lindell
& Hwang (2008) found that perceived personal risk mediate the relationship
of the other variables and had the strongest direct connection to hazard
adjustment, we opted to limit our model to perceived hazard vulnerability.
We also wanted to assess whether organizational structure was related to
the propensity to consult with emergency management specialists. We have
measured the size of each school district based on the number of full time
equivalent employees. This measure is highly correlated (at > .98) with other
potential measures of district size including budgets and student enrollment
(due, in part, to efforts to equalize funding per pupil across the state). The
raw measure of FTEs is highly skewed so we use the natural log of the total
FTEs of the district. The result is a near normally distributed variable. We
included the impact of organizational size in the propensity equation.
We also included a variable for the affluence of the school district based on
the logged taxable property value per pupil within the school district. This
variable represents access to resources in the school district’s environment.
These structural factors are included in a vector of influences represented by
η̂1 .

P (Y = 1)i = Φ(β + ψi + η̂1 + ǫi ) (3)

Finally, it is likely that the propensity to report an intention to consult
in 2007 is related to the propensity to have reported a similar intention in
2005. To account for this relationship between reported intentions in the
two samples, we included a term (ρi ) to incorporate this pattern into the
probability model.
We considered also including a variable to control for the degree of impact that the
district felt in the 2005 hurricanes. This variable was so highly correlated with perceived
vulnerability in 2005 that it created substantial collinearity problems. We have decided to
retain only the perceived vulnerability as the theoretical construct with greater theoretical
range and note that it is tied to related concepts such as disaster experience.

P (Y = 1)i = Φ(β + ψi + η̂1 + ρ1 + ǫi ) (4)
We performed a series of probit regression analyses in STATA to test the
preceding models (Statacorp 2009). 4 .

4 Results
We will report the results of three core models. First, we considered the
results of the survey in the immediate aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and
Rita based on equation 3. Second, we tested two models using data from the
2007 survey. The first of the 2007 models replicated the 2005 analysis based
on equaiton 3. The second of the 2007 model includes a term for the impact
on having reported an intention to consult in 2005 (as in equation 4.

4.1 2005 Survey Results

The first model, based on equation 3, tests the impact of the perceived vul-
nerability and organizational structure on the probability of reporting an
intention to consult with an emergency planning specialist in future revi-
sions of the district’s emergency plan. The results are reported as “Model 1”
in Table 1.
The basic results are easy to interpret. As expected, larger school dis-
tricts and districts whose superintendents reported a greater likelihood of
experiencing a disaster were significantly more likely to report an intention
to consult with an emergency planning specialist. The model is a significant
improvement over the baseline model including only a constant term (like
equation 1) as indicated by the likelihood ratio test.
The model performs relatively well by improving the percent of cases
correctly predicted over the baseline model by just over 16%.
While we are confident of the statistical significance and direction of the
effects of perceived likelihood of disaster and organizational size based on the
data, post-estimation analysis of the results can provide a visual demonstra-
tion of the size of each effect. We employed the Clarify statistical package
within STATA to simulate the effect of each independent variable (King,
Tomz & Wittenberg 2000, Tomz, Wittenberg & King 2003). As a result,
All regressions used robust standard errors to account for heteroskedasticity

Table 1: Regression Results
Variable Model 1 Model 2 Model 3
ln(Size) 0.216*** 0.144** 0.122*
(4.86) (3.44) (2.19)

ln(Affluence) 0.0270 -0.003 0.077

(0.27) (-0.03) (0.67)

Disaster 0.173* -0.083 -0.077

Likelihood (2.08) (-1.03) (-0.73)

Consultation 0.317*
in 2005 (2.26)

Constant -1.846* -0.819 -1.432

(-2.21) (-1.20) (-1.43)
N 513 548 354

p of LR Test 1.23e-08 0.0005 0.0022

% Correct 65.9 58.8 60.5

Improvement in
% Correct 16.3 8.9 17.2
(Z-statistics in parentheses)
(∗p < 0.05, ∗ ∗ p < 0.01, ∗ ∗ ∗p < 0.001)

we can simulate the expected probability of a reported intention to consult
with an emergency manager for each value while holding other variables at
typical values (the mean for continuous variables and median for categorical
variables). Figure 1 illustrates the effect of organizational size.

Prob. of Consulting

0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8 0.9
Quantile of District Size
Figure 1 - The Effect of Size in the 2005 Survey

Figure 1 shows that expected probability of a school district that is typical

in terms of reported likelihood of disaster and local affluence but is only in
the 10th quintile of size (that is, only about 10% of districts are smaller than
this district) is approximately 25%. The expected probability of reporting
an intention to consult with an emergency planner rises above 50% for those
districts above about the 85th quintile. The dotted lines represent 95%
confidence intervals around these expected probabilities.
The effect sizes of the perceived likelihood of experiencing a disaster are
easier to represent. If a district is otherwise typical (with size and affluence
at their sample mean values), a district with a superintendent who reported a
disaster “highly” or “somewhat unlikely” were 6% less likely than those that
reported a disaster is “somewhat likely” to report an intention to consult. A
district whose superintendent reported that their district is “highly likely” to
experience a disaster were 7% more likely to report an intent to consult than
those whose superintendents reported a disaster was “somewhat likely.”

4.2 2007 Survey Results
The analysis of the 2007 survey produces some surprising results. The typ-
ical expectation is that preparatory activities will be affected by a greater
degree by a local hazard (like the hurricanes and the evacuation associated
with them) then by a distant hazard. What the survey reflects, however,
is an increase in the likelihood of reporting an intention to consult with an
emergency planning specialist from 39% to 45% in the 2007 sample. The
base rate reflects a greater effect of the Virginia Tech shootings, taking place
within an educational setting. Furthermore, the impact of perceived likeli-
hood of experiencing a disaster is no longer statistically significant. Larger
districts are still significantly more likely to report an intention to consult,
as in the 2005 survey. This effect of size remains even when controlling for
whether the district had a superintendent who reported an intent to consult
in 2005, as in model 3. The full model (model 3) performs relatively well.
The model correctly predicts 61% of the cases and improves on the predictive
capacity of the baseline model by 17%.
Figure 2 illustrates the impact of size for districts who had a superinten-
dent who had or had not reported an intention to consult in 2005.

Prob. of Consulting

0 0.1 0.2 0.3 0.4 0.5 0.6 0.7 0.8 0.9
Quantile of District Size
Figure 2 - The Effect of Size in the 2007 Survey

The impact of size is similar, though of a smaller magnitude, as that found

in the 2005 survey results. The solid line represents the expected probabilities

for districts for which a superintendent reported an intent to consult in 2005.
The dashed line represent the expected probabilities for those districts for
which there was no reported intent to consult in 2005 . The gap between the
lines illustrates the impact of previous reported intentions to consult. The
slope of each of the lines is not quite as steep as in Figure 1 reporting on the
2005 sample. 5 . Figure 2 demonstrates that the size effect remains in the
period removed from the salient disaster event while the impact of perceived
vulnerability has faded.

5 Discussion and Conclusion

The results are somewhat surprising but generally support established expec-
tations related to structural determinants of collaboration generally. There is
considerable variation among school districts as to whether their superinten-
dents report intentions to consult with emergency management professionals
in reviewing their emergency plans. Whether the middling percentages are
encouraging or not depends on the expectations one brings to the results.
The percentages went up in the period associated with the Virginia Tech
shooting but the process became decoupled from perceived likelihood of vul-
nerability to a hazard. The difference in these two periods suggests that there
we need to further investigate the mechanism of hazard intrusiveness. In this
sample, the hazard that occurred exclusively within an educational setting
was associated with a higher level of reported intentions to collaborate with
emergency management professionals. It may have been the close connec-
tion between the exclusively educational setting of hazard at Virginia Tech.
It may have been the broad nature of the hurricane hazards and their im-
pact on a broad range of social institutions. Future work should investigate
how hazards intrude in decision making in ways independent on perceived
vulnerability to those hazards.
The impact of organizational structure is interesting and can direct our
attention to potential strategies to increase preparedness in schools. Most
directly, understanding the relationship between organizational size and in-
tentions to collaborate with emergency management professionals may help
us target efforts to encourage these collaborations. If we want to see more
collaborations, we may most efficiently target efforts at those districts least
We have omitted the confidence intervals on Figure 2 to avoid clutter (with four
additional lines that overlap at points

likely to do so without intervention. This correlation also raises questions
of mechanism. Thompson’s structural explanation related to organizational
slack. It may be that larger organizations are simply better able to afford
such efforts by spread costs over a larger revenue pool. It could, however,
be that the larger school districts – more often situated within urban en-
vironments – have greater access to emergency management professionals.
Depending on the operative mechanism, different intervention strategies are
likely to work to encourage collaboration.
In terms of the academic literature, there are alternative theories of col-
laboration that are not tested within this model. A particularly popular
approach neglected here are personality and leadership oriented approaches
to collaboration (Waugh & Streib 2006). This school of thought emphasizes
the personal nature of collaborative practices. In this view, collaborative ac-
tivity is the product of the predispositions of individual leaders (Miles, Snow,
Meyer & Coleman Jr 1978). A collaborative leader – that is, one who pos-
sess a specific array of beliefs that predispose the leader to seek partnerships
with other organizations – will direct an organization to act collaboratively.
Collaboration is seen as the product of a leadership style. Proponents of this
school tend to emphasize how this style can be taught or voluntarily adopted
like other organizational strategies. Such proponents see the path to a more
collaborative policy area as one of education and awareness raising. This
study has not included measures of leader attitudes towards collaboration
for two reasons. First, the data are not available within the disaster plan-
ning surveys used here. The integration of surveys of Texas school districts
that included measures of leader attitudes related to collaboration brought
the number of respondents with responses to all three surveys (the 2005 and
2007 surveys used here plus a 2005 survey on managerial attitudes) to an
unacceptably low number and response rate. Furthermore, previous research
has suggested that the attitudinal variables do not significantly contribute to
an explanation of other measures of collaboration related to disaster planning
in school districts (Robinson 2008).
The generalizability of the results to other types of secondary organi-
zations is still an open question. Will organizational size and field specific
disaster intrusiveness have a similar impact on local food banks supporting
emergency management operations as they do schools? Will these factors
play as important a role in explaining preparedness consultation on the part
of private sector organizations? This questions remain open. However, this
study of a specific type of secondary organization is a start to addressing

the vital question of why some organizations choose to engage emergency
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