Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography & Environmental Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

Brenda Murphy

Advisor Role



This dissertation outlines the development of a disaster typology that could be used as a tool for developing operational emergency plans for K-8 public schools with the potential to be applied more generally to other facilities that host vulnerable groups. The theoretical framework used to inform this study is the theory of the social construction of disasters. This theory conceptualizes disasters as being the result of the interaction between social factors, such as risk perception and vulnerability, and the hazards.The author of this dissertation is an emergency management practitioner and brought a perspective informed by both theory and practice of emergency management.

This dissertation applied a multi-method approach to the development of the typology. A draft typology was developed based on the results of an extensive literature review on the social construction of disasters and best practices in emergency planning. The next step was to refine the typology based on insights from 10 detailed semi-structured interviews which were conducted with subject matter experts in the fields of emergency management and schools. To ensure that the typology was valid, the components were tested through the use of a survey questionnaire that was distributed to school principals with a role in emergency planning.

The findings of this research support the inclusion of social construction theory as a key element in emergency planning.A typology based on social construction can be used to account for the decisions that must be made during an emergency and which can be embedded within the planning process, thus making it more operational during an emergency. It further supports the theory that disasters are not solely the result of hazards, but rather are the result of the interaction between humans and the environment.

Convocation Year


Convocation Season


Included in

Geography Commons