Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

An Examination of Emergency Services Research in Public Administration

Academic journal article Public Administration Quarterly

An Examination of Emergency Services Research in Public Administration

Article excerpt

INTRODUCTION

Emergencies, crises, and disasters have long captured the attention of public administration scholars. Responses to crises and disasters have been the subject an increasing amount of scholarly effort in the field, including examinations responses to natural disasters, terrorism, public health incidents, and other critical events (Comfort, Waugh, & Cigler, 2012). Much of this research has focused on intergovernmental, interorganizational, and networked organizational responses to incidents (Kiefer & Montjoy, 2006; McGuire & Silvia, 2007; Moynihan, 2008), the decisions of key emergency management officials and elected officials (Boin & t'Hart, 2003; Wise, 2006), and the role of communities and social capital in mitigation, planning, and response (Ganapati, 2012). This corpus of research provides critical insight into these large-scale incidents, and has made tangible contributions to both theory and practice. A related body of research examines responses to more "routine" or "everyday" emergencies (e.g., house fires, traffic accidents, and cardiac arrests) that occur with significantly greater frequency, yet are also much smaller in scale (Leonard & Howitt, 2007, 2009; Quarantelli, 2000). These incidents are, when viewed in the aggregate, as crucial as larger-scale incidents.

Both types of emergencies - disasters and more routine, everyday events - are alike in that they pose danger to life and property and require some type of response to remove hazards and reduce the effects of the incident. Both also necessarily require the collaborative efforts of first responders from varying public and private agencies and civil society, and are situated within a complex and multi-level policy context. Yet the responses to these incidents are intrinsically different. Issues of scope and impact of the event (i.e., location, magnitude, and duration), the needs of individuals affected, temporal considerations, training for responders, and the core tasks of emergency services providers are not uniform across large- and small-scale events (Leonard & Howitt, 2009; Quarantelli, 2000). Though much attention has focused on crises and disasters, the body of research in the field of public administration relating to the routine provision of emergency services is not as robust (Whelen, 1999). An appropriate understanding of these services is crucial, and must naturally take these differences in incident type into account.

The purpose of this article is to report on conceptual and empirical treatment of routine emergency services as published in public administration journals based in the United States (US) over a 15-year period from 1999 to 2013. These routine emergencies services, including policing, fire suppression and rescue, and emergency medical services, are crucial in their contribution both to broader societal and community stability and to the needs of individual citizens through the protection of lives and property. Indeed, these services have evolved to become core local government functions, representing in many cases a substantial portion of municipal budgets. Examining research in these service areas highlights the focal topics of scholarly inquiry, the methods used to study these services, and creates a foundation for future conceptual and empirical research. This study contributes to public administration literature by providing an exploration of the empirical character of this realm of routine emergency services, by highlighting trends and gaps in this body of research, and by encouraging future research that examines actual service provision in the service of theory building and testing.

This article will begin with a brief overview of past research examining crisis and disaster response emerging from the field of public administration. Next, key differences between responses to "routine" emergencies and crises and disasters will be outlined. Following this, the findings of a review of public administration journals will be reported, purposefully focusing on conceptual and empirical public administration research over a 15-year period as it relates to the routine provision of emergency services. …

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