Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Four degrees of proximity: Key factors that influence private sector preparedness and continuity planning
by Dunaway, W. Michael, D.Sc., The George Washington University, 2010, 268; 3386954
Abstract (Summary)

Numerous federal documents issued since September 11, 2001 have emphasized that private sector business and industry share equal responsibility with government for the security of the nation's critical infrastructure and key assets. The National Response Framework (2008) further states that private sector entities have a role in the safety, security and resilience of their communities. Yet, eight years after 9/11, only a fraction of U.S. businesses and non-profits have taken adequate measures to protect their assets, property and employees from the threat of harm from natural disasters or human-caused incidents. To understand this disparity, this dissertation examined four factors that influence the adoption of business continuity planning and emergency preparedness measures within the private sector. The study conducted an online survey of 145 businesses, industries and non-profit organizations to assess the adoption of 12 specific preparedness measures. From this data, the study developed a cognitive model highlighting four "degrees of proximity" that could influence the commitment of a business or organization to adopt continuity planning and emergency preparedness programs: (1) Geographic proximity (exposure): the physical proximity or exposure of a private sector entity to hazards or threats that affect the organization and its environment. (2) Temporal proximity (experience): whether—and if so, how recently—a private sector entity had experience with a disaster or emergency that affected the organization. (3) Proximity of capability (capability): whether the private sector entity has at hand the capability to manage a threat to its viability assessed as a function of the entity's size. (4) Organizational proximity (collaboration): whether or not the private sector entity participates in a collaborative organization for regional emergency planning and preparedness.

The results confirm earlier research—and much of the experiential and anecdotal information in the disaster and risk literature—that two key factors affect decisions of private sector entities to adopt continuity planning measures: previous experience in a disaster and the size of the organization. Owing to the varied level of survey participation and the intervention of two natural disasters during the survey, the direct influence of geographic exposure to hazards was less clear. However, the data did reveal that participation in an organization dedicated to collaborative planning and mutual support can have a motivating effect on preparedness equivalent to past experience in a disaster or an increase in capability equal to the difference between a small and a medium-size business. The data further identified a consistent hierarchy among the 12 preparedness measures, indicating a strong prevalence or preference among private sector businesses and non-profits for certain types of preparedness measures over others. Lastly, the research identified a strong concern among business owners regarding hazards and threats to organization viability that originate from natural disasters or that threaten physical or intellectual property. There was relatively little concern exhibited for the threat posed by terrorism.

The results of this study shed light on perceptions of risk and priorities for preparedness measures within the private sector. The study further provides information relevant to government policies and programs aimed at increasing continuity planning within the private sector and specifically identifies the value of public-private partnerships for encouraging participation in efforts that protect business interests while building community resilience against hazards and disasters.

KEYWORDS: Business continuity planning; Emergency management; Continuity of operations; Private Sector; Disaster preparedness; Resilience.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Shaw, Gregory L.
Commitee: Harrald, John R., Mazzuchi, Thomas A., Ryan, Julie C., Smarick, Kathleen C.
School: The George Washington University
Department: Engineering Mgt and Systems Engineering
School Location: United States -- District of Columbia
Source: DAI-B 70/12, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Business administration, Public administration, Systems science
Keywords: Business continuity planning, Continuity of operations, Disaster preparedness, Emergency management, Private sector, Resilience
Publication Number: 3386954
ISBN: 978-1-109-52805-3
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