The Disaster Center Field Studies of Organized Behavior in the Crisis Time Period of Disasters

March 1997 (VOL. 15, NO. 1)

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Between its formation in 1963 and until 1989, the Disaster Research Center (DRC) conducted more than 450 field studies of community crises, the great bulk of them involving natural or technological disaster agents. The major focus was on organized behavior whether in formal organizations or information and emergent groups, and usually about the social entities involved in the preparedness and response activities in the crisis. After noting the background context within which the center operated, this paper summarizes the general methodological approach taken in the work. It depicts the substantial attention DRC paid to the prefield training that was given to the graduate students who did most of the field work. Also described are the in-field procedures followed, particularly the open-ended type of interview-document collecting that was done. Finally, we note certain postfield procedures systematized by the center to measure the quantity and to insure the quality of the data gathered.