The Cajun Navy: Understanding Integration of Emergent Volunteer Groups into Disaster Response

Thursday, 19 July 2018: 17:45
Oral Presentation
Michelle MEYER, Louisiana State University, USA
Brant MITCHELL, Louisiana State University, USA
Stuart NOLAN, Louisiana State University, USA
This research explored the formation of an all-volunteer emergent group, the Cajun Navy, from Greater Baton Rouge Flood of 2016 and its transition to an extending, emergency response organization that provided life-saving capabilities to overburdened emergency responders following Hurricane Harvey in 2017. The Cajun Navy is the acquired name of outdoorsmen (and potentially women) mostly from southern Louisiana who use their personal flat bottom boats to conduct volunteer rescues during flood events. With increasing frequency of disasters, effective use of the whole community for volunteer response is a growing need for emergency management to ensure the safety and welfare of the public. The unprecedented transition within one year of formation to high functioning life-saving capability that deployed to another state is a new phenomenon in the disaster response community. This presentation will discuss: 1) How the Cajun Navy originally formed and transformed to respond to Hurricane Harvey; 2) How they used technology and social media in operations and dispatching individual boats to citizens in need; and 3) How the informal and unstructured Cajun Navy integrated with the very formal and structured search and rescue operations conducted by federal, state and local response teams. Data were drawn from in-person, in-depth interviews will both Cajun Navy volunteers who responded to Hurricane Harvey and emergency management officials in areas that coordinated with the Cajun Navy. The work contributes to theories on social organization, especially in disaster settings, volunteer behavior and motivations, social capital, and technology and social media adoption for emergency response.