What Makes Hierarchical Networks Succeed? Evidence from Hurricane Katrina
Moynihan, Donald P.
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This paper examines response problems to Hurricane Katrina from a network perspective, identifying how network task, capacity and coordination factors weakened the response. The impact of Katrina called for a response network of such size and diversity that it was inherently difficult to coordinate. The hurricane also eliminated network communication. At the same time, the task was so urgent that it gave responders little time to adapt. The network response was diminished by capacity problems of key members, whose resource problems led to inadequate numbers of personnel who were poorly prepared for their tasks. These capacity problems also weakened coordination, as did a lack of understanding about new crisis management policies that provided the rules by which networks response were to be guided. These policies called for hierarchical controls over the network of crisis responders, but were unfamiliar to many responders, and never properly implemented during Katrina. As different network members struggled to complete their tasks, trust between network members also declined, weakening another key network coordination mechanism.