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Professional emergency responders and unorganized volunteers: incident sites as meeting places
Mid Sweden University, Faculty of Human Sciences, Department of Social Sciences.ORCID iD: 0000-0003-1203-1544
2013 (Swedish)Report (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

IntroductionIncident sites, e.g., places where a road traffic accident or a fire has occurred, often become meetingplaces of different kinds of actors. Some of these actors are organized, others are not. The formerconsist mainly of professional emergency responders affiliated with some kind of emergency responseorganization. They are trained and equipped to deal with emergency situations, and the situation atan incident site is broadly familiar to them. The latter, on the other hand, lack relevant organizationalaffiliation, and are unprepared, and in most cases untrained, for the conditions prevailing at incidentsites. Such unaffiliated responders can be there for several different reasons. Some of them are there ashelpers, volunteering to help victims as well as other responders (Fritz & Mathewson 1957).The interaction between these two kinds of actors is the object of study in this paper. The contactbetween them is studied from the perspective of the organized actors. It is a well-known fact among researchersthat unaffiliated helpers are regarded as a mixed blessing, as both a resource and a problem,by professional responders (Barsky et al. 2007). This paradox may, however, be looked at and managedin different ways. Differences in this respect are largely due to organizational factors. The purpose ofthis paper is to investigate how unaffiliated volunteers are managed by different professional responders,with different organizational affiliations, at incident sites.The organizational affiliation of the professional responders is of crucial importance to understand theencounters between the different actors. Therefore, the theoretical point of departure in this paper isorganization theory. The aim is mainly theoretical. My intention is to put the encounters at incidentsites in an organizational context, and to identify similarities as well as differences in the way differentprofessional responders, with different organizational affiliations, relate to unaffiliated volunteers.The empirical data material is limited (since I am in the beginning of the data collection process). It consistsof only three interviews, one for each organization studied. The three most common emergencyresponse organizations at incident sites, at least in Sweden where the study was carried out, are the police,the fire and rescue services, and the ambulance services. Interviews were carried out with personnelfrom these three organizations regarding their interaction with unaffiliated helpers at incident sites.The translations of the interview transcripts are mine.The object of study is delimited in two respects: (1) The “incidents” studied are not “extraordinaryevents” like disasters or catastrophes, but relatively minor “everyday accidents” like fires or road trafficaccidents. This means that the object of study is also much more temporally delimited than a disaster(Dynes 1970). (2) The interactions in focus here include just two parties, professional emergency respondersand unorganized helpers, not all the different parties that often “converge” at the scene of adisaster (Drabek & McEntire 2002; Quarantelli 1993; Rodríguez et al. 2006).The disposition of the paper is simple, and looks as follows: In the second section a theoretical frameworkfor the analysis is presented. In the third section, which makes up the lion’s share of the paper,interaction at incident sites are analysed, under three subheadings. In the fourth and last section sometheoretical conclusions are made.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Östersund: Mid Sweden University , 2013. , 11 p.
RCR Working Paper Series, 2013:2
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:miun:diva-18931ISBN: 978-91-87103-84-1OAI: diva2:621472
Available from: 2013-05-15 Created: 2013-05-15 Last updated: 2013-09-19

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