By Allison G. S. Knox
Contributor, EDM Digest
The term isomorphism in public administration studies describes a number of interesting factors that explain how and why organizations are formed the way they are. These concepts can be helpful in tightening policies and procedures for more and better collaboration among first responder personnel, departments and agencies.
For example, isomorphism helps to explain why museums and hotels have a certain similar look. It also could show why coffee shops often include comfortable chairs that look appealing for reading a good book.
In 1977, sociologists John W. Meyer and Brian Rowan wrote in an American Journal of Sociology article that organizations develop rules and procedures based on the rules and procedures of other organizations. Sociologists Paul J. DiMaggio and Walter W. Powell further developed the idea in their 1983 American Sociology Review article, The Iron Cage Revisited. They wrote that organizations will develop similarities based on several different factors, one of which is certifications.
The Link between Emergency Management and Isomorphism
The most successfully managed disasters are often the result of superb collaboration and teamwork. We know that public safety is best handled when everyone is on the same page.
Radio alert codes, for example, often are not effective in emergency management situations when the various responding organizations have different codes for different events. However, the Incident Command System, created by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), has worked particularly well in managing disasters.
Emergency Medical Services and Isomorphism
The National Registry of Emergency Medical Technicians serves as a major vehicle for the adoption of the isomorphism concept in emergency medical services. The registry created a certification standard that many states have accepted, making it easier and quicker for a certified emergency medical technician in one state to gain certification in another state.
The National Registry also created a general across-the-board standard for emergency medical services in the United States. That standard confers legitimacy to the work of the nation’s emergency medical services, an issue that has been a concern for many EMTs and paramedics.
Applying Isomorphism Theory to Tightening Emergency Management Practices
While isomorphism explains how organizations mimic one another, isomorphism can also help policymakers and emergency managers to better understand how to create stronger policies together. Emergency management works best when there is collaboration in leadership. That means agencies should all be on the same wavelength when it comes to their policies and procedures.
It is important to continue to iron out best practices for large-scale disasters. Maintaining those standards under the isomorphism framework will help strengthen and unify the management of future disasters.