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Abstract

Interagency Emergency Response Teams (IERTs) play a crucial role in times of disasters or large scale emergencies. In a period of modern history where natural disasters are increasing and are having widespread community impacts, especially on vulnerable communities, there appears to be a lack of in-depth knowledge at the micro level of how IERTs work, particularly from a communication perspective. This paper critically reviews the literature on interagency communication, with a focus on what is known about IERT communication during emergencies and disasters and the communication competencies necessary to effectively manage the interagency interfaces in these interactive systems. The aim is to create an agenda for future research on IERT communication, especially in relation to vulnerable populations.

The examination concludes that, while there are some useful reviews of interagency communication in multi-system teams, most of the research addressed in these reviews is focused on participating organisations at the macro level. There is a paucity of empirical studies that address micro-level dynamics in IERTs and how these dynamics are experienced from the viewpoint of individual members. Not only is there scope to understand more thoroughly the communication roles and responsibilities of interagency team members and to examine how individual members communicate within a complex, evolving, and unstable environment but there is also considerable scope to explore further how different organisational identities and their spatial geographiesh contribute to the interactional dynamics. There is also significant scope to explore further the unique demands placed on the interfaces in those IERTS set up to respond to vulnerable sectors of the population.

KEY WORDS: disaster, IERT (Interagency Emergency Response Team), interagency communication, interface, vulnerable people