Date of Conferral

2018

Degree

Ph.D.

School

Public Policy and Administration

Advisor

Mark Gordon

Abstract

A lack of effective communication structures within local communities could have devastating consequences during an emergency. Therefore, the key problem addressed in this study was that the most effective methods (channels) of communication between law enforcement officials and the general public in the event of a natural disaster has not been studied. The purpose of this study was to weigh the benefits of three types of communication mediaâ??social media, radio, and word-of-mouthâ??to provide a framework for promoting effective communications between local government emergency responders and civilians. This single case study focused on a large county in the State of Virginia. The chosen instruments were a survey of 25 community leaders and semistructured interviews with 10 members of local governance and law enforcement (all participants were over the age of 30). Thematic analysis was conducted using NVivo software. Additionally, supporting documentation from open-access governmental or law enforcement websites were collected and analyzed. Collated data and findings were compared across the surveys, interviews and documentation. The notions of community resilience, adaptive capacity and coping capacity were the theories used to frame this research. Six themes emerged from the data, these were (a) involving the public, (b) availability of public information, (c) being more proactive than reactive, (d) collaboration among stakeholders, (e) proper emergency management system, and (f) avoiding miscommunications. The results are relevant to local government officials and law enforcement leaders when they consider various methods of communication. This will assist law enforcement officials to organize the community and minimize damage in the event of a natural disaster.

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