Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy in Marine Affairs


Marine Affairs

First Advisor

Robert Thompson


Impacts from major storms, floods, hurricanes, and heavy precipitation events disturb the lives of millions of people around the world every year, causing billions of dollars of damages and economic losses. As the number and destructiveness of natural disasters increase, the study of resilience offers possible solutions for minimizing loss of life and damage from disasters. Resiliency of communities and organizations in the face of global climate change is attracting increasing attention as a way to slow or reverse the increasing costliness and disruption of natural disasters. Despite the growing interest in resilience, no research focuses on the particular resilience challenges facing emergency response organizations (EROs), police, fire, emergency medical service, emergency management agencies, and departments of public work, which communities rely on for critical life-safety services during and after disasters.

The first portion of this study uses the Delphi method to build a list of expertderived factors contributing to emergency response organization (ERO) resilience, including ranking and rating the factors to develop an expert consensus-based set of factors composing the ERO Resiliency Framework. This framework supports decision making and planning priorities to develop stronger, more resilient, emergency response agencies. The second stage of this research uses the ERO Resiliency Framework to develop a reference mental model of ERO resilience and compares 41 ERO leaders in three coastal municipalities to the reference model and each other. The gaps in the ERO leaders’ mental models revealed by this assessment provide insights into how ERO leaders understand resilience in their organizations and highlight opportunities for tailored education and outreach efforts, as well as suggesting future research areas.

The third portion of this research focuses on the role of social capital in ERO resilience, analyzing the ERO leaders’ levels and types of social capital. Social networks of relationships between individuals within the same organization form more resilient teams, while strong network relationships between organizations provide essential resources, support, and information during times of crisis.

This research provides key insights into the factors contributing to ERO resilience, ERO leaders’ mental models of resilience, and how social capital can contribute to building strong, more resilient response organizations. Building resilient EROs is an essential component in the development of resilient communities, and the results of this research highlight key areas to focus future education and planning efforts as well as suggesting areas for future research.



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