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Who is in the center? A case study of a social network in an emergency management organization

Rasmus Dahlberg (Copenhagen Center for Disaster Research, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark)

International Journal of Emergency Services

ISSN: 2047-0894

Article publication date: 2 May 2017




The purpose of this paper is to explore the social network in an emergency management organization during a large exercise held in Greenland in 2016. Inspired by approaches in business and organizational studies the aim is to investigate the flow of information through formal as well as informal channels.


Social network analysis is applied to model this flow and the social network is analyzed with regard to core/periphery structure and actor centrality. In order to explore the relationships between actor attributes such as age, years of experience, operational Arctic experience, smoking and personal interests, a regression analysis is employed with membership of the network core as dependent variable.


The findings show that smoking, rank and ad hoc membership of the emergency management organization influence the odds for being in the core of this particular social network most. Finally, some strengths and weaknesses of the approach are discussed as well as implications for future research in the field.


Emergency management tasks are often performed more through informal coordination than “by the book.” A medium for such informal coordination is the social network that emerges among individual actors who like each other, share interests and experience and communicate directly with each other. Emergency managers use that kind of social network to cut red tape and solve urgent problems and share knowledge in ways not mapped in plans or shown in organigrams. Most practitioners are aware of this, but it is a field not well theorized.



Funding: this research was funded by NORDRESS, the NordForsk Nordic Centre of Excellence on Resilience and Societal Security. For more info, please visit

The author wishes to thank all personnel at the JACO in Nuuk, Greenland, during LIVEX 2016 for their kind participation in this study as well as the EXCON for approving of the overall research design. Thomas Bengtsen was most helpful in providing background information about the participants and retrieving the last questionnaires. A big thanks also goes out to Professor Morten Thanning Vendelø, Associate Professor Birgitte Refslund Sørensen and Associate Professor Kristian Cedervall Lauta who, together with the author, formed the LIVEX 2016 field research team in May-June 2016. Professor Thomas Schøtt, University of Southern Denmark, and Assistant Professor Jan Michael Bauer, Copenhagen Business School, provided valuable feedback on the quantitative methods section. An early version of this paper was presented at the Nordic Fire & Safety Days in Copenhagen in June 2016.


Dahlberg, R. (2017), "Who is in the center? A case study of a social network in an emergency management organization", International Journal of Emergency Services, Vol. 6 No. 1, pp. 52-66.



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