Redundancy in Disaster Response Systems: A Pathway to Resilience or a Recipe for Disaster?

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Journal of Contingencies and Crisis Management






Public management scholars have long sought to understand design principles that can promote the adaptability and resilience of complex organizational systems operating in uncertain and turbulent environments. Perhaps nowhere is this need more acute than in developing systems for responding to complex disasters. One concept that has received significant attention in discussion of resilient systems design is the notion of redundancy; however, existing literatures offer contradictory theories as to whether redundant designs enhance or undermine system resilience. Using case study data from three large‐scale wildfire events, this article extends the theoretical discussion of redundancy by developing a typology of redundancy strategies and investigating their application and associated consequences in incident response. Our findings reveal four principal ways redundancy can be integrated into system design: backup, cross‐functionality, duplication and cross‐checking. Further, each redundancy type is associated with its own capabilities for enhancing system resilience as well as its own set of risk factors that, if left unmanaged, could undermine system functioning. Findings demonstrate how understanding both the potential value and risk portfolio associated with each type of redundancy clarifies the management challenge for responders when employing these strategies.