Considering collaborative incident management: A study of the COVID-19 response and initial recovery in a rural West Virginia community


  • Jeffery W. Harvey, DEL, CEM®
  • Calvin A. Lathan, III, EdD
  • Henry T. McDonald, Jr, AEM®



collaboration, emergency management, incident management, leadership


Hierarchical command-style structures are commonplace in the management of disasters, though researchers have begun to recommend the exploration of networked approaches to incident management. Furthermore, few studies are explicitly looking at the rural context of disaster management. This study seeks to contribute to both topics by examining the motivations for emergent collaboration in the direction of the response and initial recovery to the coronavirus disease 2019 pandemic in a rural West Virginia community. Between March 2020 and March 2022, the primary investigator moderated regular briefings of a community task force convened to coordinate the pandemic response and recovery. As regular operations concluded, members completed a survey, and 10 randomly selected members participated in semistructured interviews regarding their experiences in the task force. Survey responses suggest that common motivations for collaboration in nondisaster contexts (as they appear in the scholarly literature) and potential benefits of networked approaches highlighted in the incident management literature could also serve as motivators within the disaster context. Qualitative interview data extend that discussion and identify the need to gain clear information regarding the concerned authorities and specific local information to better inform the expenditure of limited resources as two additional motivators for collaboration.

Author Biographies

Jeffery W. Harvey, DEL, CEM®

Division of Continuing & Professional Education, University of Charleston, Charleston; JH Consulting, LLC, Buckhannon, West Virginia

Calvin A. Lathan, III, EdD

Division of Continuing & Professional Education, University of Charleston, Charleston, West Virginia

Henry T. McDonald, Jr, AEM®

JH Consulting, LLC, Buckhannon, West Virginia


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How to Cite

Harvey, J. W., C. A. Lathan, III, and H. T. McDonald, Jr. “Considering Collaborative Incident Management: A Study of the COVID-19 Response and Initial Recovery in a Rural West Virginia Community”. Journal of Emergency Management, vol. 22, no. 3, May 2024, pp. 275-90, doi:10.5055/jem.0816.