Collaborative Research: Organizational development, operations, and new media among civilian flood-rescue groups Grant uri icon


  • In this project, the stability or formalization and growth of volunteer groups and the use of social media in these processes will be investigated. Specifically, processes of conducting volunteer flood rescues, factors that affect immediate decision-making during rescues, decisions about volunteer group development, and use of social media for rescuing and group development will be researched through intense interviewing and participation with rescuers. Disasters are unique opportunities to study social processes, and they are also becoming more frequent social problems. Disasters of recent years have introduced volunteer organizations supported by social media and new technologies. Limited scholarly research has studied this volunteer rescue movement, these volunteers, or these rescue operations. Findings will contribute to scholarly understanding of group formation and development and how this may be affected by new technologies. They also will contribute to public welfare by being integrated in courses such as on emergency management and hazard mitigation and recovery, and by being directly shared with organizations that do rescues as well as the broader emergency management and public communities. To address the research goal, ethnographic research will be conducted that includes participation with volunteer organizations that conduct rescues, 20-40 interviews with emergency management officials, 30-60 interviews with volunteer rescuers, and 20-30 interviews with persons rescued by civilian volunteers. Over the life of the project, this will involve training and traveling with volunteer organizations as they respond to disasters, such as the three to which these organizations responded in 2018, Hurricanes Florence and Michael and floods in Southeast Texas. Participation will be in three different roles: boat rescuer, dispatcher, and leadership coordination. In addition, available social media data and media articles will be collected and analyzed inductively. GIS technology will be used to analyze available geospatial data on rescue locations, which will be related to hazard data. This award reflects NSF's statutory mission and has been deemed worthy of support through evaluation using the Foundation's intellectual merit and broader impacts review criteria.

date/time interval

  • 2019 - 2022