A Meta-Synthesis of Emergency Network Management Strategies and Analysis of Hurricane Katrina


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Virginia Tech


Meta-synthesis is an approach to synthesize qualitative research results. Originally proposed in the medical field and in education, this approach helps to advance current knowledge by generating a new interpretive synthesis. Since current research practices and knowledge development in emergency management is excessively divergent, there has been a need for a synthesis of knowledge from practice and research. One of the main arguments of this study is that the need is met by this study of a meta-synthesis.

In this research, I suggested that many research results dealing with the issue of how to improve the performance of emergency management can be integrated into strategies for network management in emergencies. I used the term strategies in a much more generalized way to capture the idea of managerial/behavioral skills, plans, and insights for emergency management. The meta-synthesis was conducted from a keyword search, surveys, and expert interviews, which identified representative studies in emergency response. The review process of the representative studies is captured in a two-by-two matrix (intervention point axis and planning-improvisation axis) as a way of presenting the meta-synthesis results.

This study then, turned to an analysis of reports of the Hurricane Katrina response using the meta-synthesis results. Qualitative content analysis was used as a method for the analysis. Reports from the White House, the House of Representatives, and the Senate are the target documents of the analysis. While conducting the analysis, I argued that the attempt of interpreting the failures of Katrina response into the failures of network management strategies provides clearer understandings regarding what went wrong and what was lacking. Furthermore, I argued that the way of thinking attempted in the analysis is a constructive one in that it provides an instructive action agenda for future disasters by connecting lessons learned to the strategies for emergency management.



emergency management, network management strategy, emergent network, Hurricane Katrina, meta-synthesis