“Bureaucracy, meet catastrophe”

Margaret B. Takeda (College of Business Administration, The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Chattanooga, Tennessee, USA)
Marilyn M. Helms (Business Administration Division, Dalton State College, Dalton, Georgia, USA)

International Journal of Public Sector Management

ISSN: 0951-3558

Publication date: 1 June 2006

Abstract

Purpose

An analysis of the way the bureaucratic management system responded to the Tsunami disaster of December 26, 2004 was repeated in handling of the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in the USA at the end of 2005. This research note aims to follow up on the original paper “Bureaucracy meet catastrophe: analysis of the Tsunami disaster relief efforts and their implications for global emergency governance”, to be published in early 2006. It again highlights the severe shortcomings of the bureaucratic model as a paradigm for responding to situations in which the magnitude of the system's task is overwhelmingly complex and the timing process is bounded by urgency.

Design/methodology/approach

Evidence of the findings for this research is driven by primary references, namely news reports and web site information provided in the aftermath of the fall 2005 hurricane.

Findings

Like in the Tsunami disaster, the reports from Hurricane Katrina highlight the key problems of bureaucratic management including slow decision making, inability to absorb and process outside information, and escalation of commitment to failed courses of action.

Research limitations/implications

Suggestions for future research are provided.

Practical implications

It is this very requirement (absorbing and processing outside information and escalation of commitment to failed initial courses of action) which may undermine all relief efforts when such a high magnitude event occurs.

Originality/value

The tragic irony of this analysis is that most emergency relief organizations of the proper size and complexity to effectively deal with “shocking” events must work within the bureaucratic systems created by large federal relief organizations (such as FEMA) as the “price” for staying in operation.

Keywords

Citation

Takeda, M. and Helms, M. (2006), "“Bureaucracy, meet catastrophe”", International Journal of Public Sector Management, Vol. 19 No. 4, pp. 397-411. https://doi.org/10.1108/09513550610669211

Download as .RIS

Publisher

:

Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2006, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Please note you might not have access to this content

You may be able to access this content by login via Shibboleth, Open Athens or with your Emerald account.
If you would like to contact us about accessing this content, click the button and fill out the form.
To rent this content from Deepdyve, please click the button.