Attributes of effective disaster responders: focus group discussions with key emergency response leaders

Disaster Med Public Health Prep. 2010 Dec;4(4):332-8. doi: 10.1001/dmphp.D-09-00059R1. Epub 2010 Jul 6.


Methods: An effective disaster response requires competent responders and leaders. The purpose of this study was to ask experts to identify attributes that distinguish effective from ineffective responders and leaders in a disaster. In this qualitative study, focus groups were held with jurisdictional medical directors for the 9-1-1 emergency medical services systems of the majority of the nation's largest cities. These sessions were recorded with audio equipment and later transcribed.

Results: The researchers identified themes within the transcriptions, created categories, and coded passages into these categories. Overall interrater reliability was excellent (κ = .8). The focus group transcripts yielded 138 codable passages. Ten categories were developed from analysis of the content: Incident Command System/Disaster Training/Experience, General Training/Experience, Teamwork/Interpersonal, Communication, Cognition, Problem Solving/Decision Making, Adaptable/Flexible, Calm/Cool, Character, and Performs Role. The contents of these categories included knowledge, skills, attitudes, behaviors, and personal characteristics.

Conclusions: Experts in focus groups identified a variety of competencies for disaster responders and leaders. These competencies will require validation through further research that involves input from the disaster response community at large.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural

MeSH terms

  • Consensus*
  • Disaster Planning / methods*
  • Disaster Planning / organization & administration
  • Emergency Service, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Focus Groups
  • Health Knowledge, Attitudes, Practice
  • Humans
  • Professional Competence / standards
  • Professional Competence / statistics & numerical data*
  • Texas
  • United States