Emergency Response Organizations


A Contingency Theory of Organizational Response to Paradoxical Requirements:
A Study of Emergency Response Organizations

This programme studies how emergency response organizations in the Netherlands and the United States cope with the demands they must address while responding to crises. The main goal is to study how professionals in each country manage the challenges that they face in order to identify strategies in use and evaluate the advantages and disadvantages of those strategies. This project contributes through basic research that develops a more general theory of paradox, response and organizational change.  The research also has the potential to ground the development of more systematic instruments for assessing paradox, moderating contingencies, and responses. The project also contributes to our understanding of emergency response organizations, an important type of organization that is representative of networked organizations and fluid organizational forms. Emergency response is a critical function in society.  By furthering our understanding of emergency response the project can yield practical advice on how to cope with conflicting demands in emergency situations.  This can inform design of structures and processes for emergency response organizations. The programme intents to perform multidisciplinary research towards the crisis management domain at several levels (multi-level research) and share the findings with practitioners and scholars in the U.S.A. and the Netherlands.


  • dr.ir. Kees Boersma, project leader AREA (Amsterdam Research on Emergency Administration), VU University Amsterdam
  • prof.dr. Peter Groenewegen, VU University Amsterdam
  • dr. Pieter Wagenaar, VU University Amsterdam
  • prof.dr. Marshall Scott Poole, University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign
  • dr. John C. Lammers, University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign
  • Brian Bauer, assistant director and researcher at the Illinois Fire Service Institute at Urbana/Champaign


  • Jeroen Wolbers, VU University Amsterdam (started 2009)
  • Rianne Gouman, VU University Amsterdam and D-CIS Thales (started 2011)
  • Willem Treurniet, external PhD candidate, TNO (started 2011)
  • Remco Groet, external PhD candidate, RB&W (started 2012)
  • Elizabeth Carlson, University of Illinois at Urbana/Champaign (started 2011)

KNAW (the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences) student assistants:

  • Jan Bim (2012)
  • Allen Grabo (2011)
  • Julienka Mollee (2011-2012)
  • David Passenier (2011-2012)
  • Anne-Meike de Wiljes (2012)

External parties and sponsors:

  • National Science Foundation (Division of Social and Economic Sciences, project #0964908)
  • Organizational Communication , University of Illinois (Champaign-Urbana, U.S.A.)
  • KNAW, the Royal Netherlands Academy of Arts and Sciences, as part of the programme Student Assistants: Social Network Analysis, headed by prof.dr. Peter Groenewegen
  • Crisisplein (Netcentric Work), the Netherlands Institute for Safety (NIFV), sponsor of research into Multi-disciplinary coordination in emergency response: an organizational cultural study

Members of the research team have already conducted research related to Dutch and American emergency response information systems, training exercises and incident command teams.

Timeframe: 2010-2013 (research will be continued after 2013)

further information
AREA: Amsterdam Research on Emergency Administration