The Society for Social Work and Research

2014 Annual Conference

January 15-19, 2014 I Grand Hyatt San Antonio I San Antonio, TX

Attention to Disability Issues in Disaster Services Planning: The Importance of Interorganizational Coordination

Saturday, January 18, 2014: 8:00 AM
HBG Convention Center, Room 003A River Level (San Antonio, TX)
* noted as presenting author
Michael J. Zakour, PhD, Associate Professor & Director, NOVA Institute, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV
HaeJung Kim, PhD, Assistant Professor, West Virginia University, Morgantown, WV
Disasters such as Hurricane Katrina and the derecho storm of summer, 2012, emphasize the vulnerability of persons with a disability. People with disabilities are highly vulnerable in disasters and are more likely to suffer from a lack of disaster prevention and relief services (Peek & Stough, 2010; Jagger, 2011). Although social work has long been involved in disaster response, little research has been conducted on organizations' disaster preparedness planning for disability services. Coordination of the disaster interorganizational network has been shown to improve the effectiveness of disaster response (Drabek & McEntire, 2002). Therefore, this study will examine the relationship between interorganizational coordination and organizational planning for response and services for persons with disabilities.

Using a cross-sectional design, representatives of 507 organizations (51% response rate) in 6 US states responded, through telephone interviews, to questions about organizational services for persons with disabilities. Given that no standardized questionnaires were available, most survey questions were developed by researchers based on previous studies and literature (Gerber et al., 2010). Interview items assessed (1) level of attention to disability issues in organizational disaster plans, (2) coordination of organizations with disability services organizations, (3) coordination with other types of services organizations, (4) adequacy of organizational resources for disaster services provision, and (5) number of organizations’ volunteers. Descriptive statistics, correlations, and a least-squares regression analysis were performed using SPSS 20.0.

City government organizations rated the level of attention of their written plans to disability issues the least adequate (49.2% reported “fair” or “poor”) while healthcare organizations gave the highest ratings (91.4% responded “excellent” or “good”). Other types of organizations most likely to give their emergency plans ratings of excellent or good are nonprofit (70.5%) and mental health organizations (75.0%). In a regression equation (n = 279) the variables of coordination of network organizations with disability services organizations (β = .311), adequacy of funding and staff (β = .381) and number of trained volunteers (β = .218), were significantly (p < .001) and positively related to level of attention of emergency plans to disability issues. When all three independent variables were entered into the regression equation in a single step, the linear combination of the independent variables predicted 29% of the total variance (R2= .289, p < .001). Controlling for coordination with human service organization, faith-based or other nonprofits, and other organizations, the standardized betas and R2-change for the original 3 variables remained significant (p < .001).

These results indicate that interorganizational coordination is an important variable for increasing level of attention in organizational disaster emergency plans to disability issues.  As hypothesized, adequacy of funding and staff resources is an important independent variable. Finally, the number of volunteers available to organizations during disaster is an important predictor of level of planning for disability services. Volunteerism represents a capacity variable, and use of volunteers as boundary personnel in disaster services networks. Disaster services organizations should pay special attention to coordinating their disaster services provision with disability services organizations, and to increasing the level of volunteerism of their organizations.