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  1. Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed - Wikipedia
  2. See a Problem?
  3. Product description
  4. Disaster and Emergency Planning for Preparedness, Response, and Recovery

Given that in this instance there was no extreme shift in the island's climate at that time and no hostile invaders, why would any group of people commit "ecocide" in such a dramatic fashion? He advances potential explanations to that question in relation to all the different collapses and near-collapses that he explores in the final third of the book. And several of these explanations have direct relevance to our own ecological crisis: For those interested in the role of big business either as "saints" or as "sinners" in the pursuit of more sustainable ways of creating wealth , Diamond devotes a whole chapter to examining the behaviour of oil, mining and forestry companies around the world.

Their recurring and often egregious "bad behaviour" can indeed be interpreted as "rational", inasmuch as governments have consistently failed to proscribe such behaviour either through legislation or by forcing companies to pay a proper price for the use of the natural world , while the majority of consumers would appear to be relatively indifferent to the environmental damage done in pursuit of their cornucopian fantasies. But Diamond reserves his most insightful analysis for the more "irrational" reasons why we are not as yet responding to the scale and urgency of today's converging environmental problems.

The often irreconcilable clash between the pursuit of short-term gratification and the defence of future generations' long-term interests features prominently in many of his collapse case studies - the concept of "intergenerational justice" was clearly no more compelling to some of these long-gone societies than it is for us today.

What's more, the greater the level of change required to a society's core values , the easier it becomes to lapse into systematic and falsely reassuring denial. Here Diamond finally nails his colours to the mast. Anticipating a wide range of rebuttals to his central hypothesis that the kind of collapse experienced by many cultures and civilisations in the past could easily happen to modern-day societies , he reminds people that we are already witnessing the conditions for collapse in a number of different countries: When people are desperate, undernourished and without hope, they blame their governments, which they see as responsible for or unable to solve their problems.

They try to emigrate at any cost. They fight each other over land. They kill each other. They start civil wars. They figure that they have nothing to lose, so they become terrorists, or they support or tolerate terrorism. Interestingly, however, Diamond chooses not to conclude his arguments on that apocalyptic note. Reverting to the inference of his subtitle "how societies choose to fail or survive" , he briefly reviews the intriguing history of the Netherlands, the country with the highest level of environmental awareness and membership of environmental organisations anywhere in the world. One-fifth of the total land mass of the Netherlands is below sea level, reclaimed from the sea over centuries, and protected by a complex system of dykes and pumping operations.

With respect to other patterns of evacuation behavior when they do evacuate, most people prefer to stay with relatives or friends, rather than using public shelters. Shelter use is generally limited to people who feel they have no other options—for example, those who have no close friends and relatives to take them in and cannot afford the price of lodging. Many people avoid public shelters or elect to stay in their homes because shelters do not allow pets. Following earthquakes, some victims, particularly Latinos in the United States who have experienced or learned about highly damaging earthquakes in their countries of origin, avoid indoor shelter of all types, preferring instead to sleep outdoors Tierney, ; Phillips, ; Simile, The disaster literature shows little support for the cry-wolf hypothesis.

For example, Dow and Cutter studied South Carolina residents who had been warned of impending hurricanes that ultimately struck North Carolina. However, false alarms did result in a decrease in confidence in official warning sources, as opposed to other sources of information on which people relied in making evacuation decisions—certainly not the outcome officials would have intended.

Studies also suggest that it is advisable to clarify for the public why forecasts and warnings were uncertain or incorrect. Based on an extensive review of the warning literature, Sorensen Numerous individual studies and research syntheses have contrasted commonsense ideas about how people respond during crises with empirical data on actual behavior.

Among the most important myths addressed in these analyses is the notion that panic and social disorganization are common responses to imminent threats and to actual disaster events Quarantelli and Dynes, ; Johnson, ; Clarke, True panic, defined as highly individualistic flight behavior that is nonsocial in nature, undertaken without regard to social norms and relationships, is extremely rare prior to and during extreme events of all types.

Panic takes place under specific conditions that are almost never present in disaster situations. Panic only occurs when individuals feel completely isolated and when both social bonds and measures to promote safety break down to such a degree that individuals feel totally on their own in seeking safety.

Panic results from a breakdown in the ongoing social order—a breakdown that Clarke There is a moral failure, so that people pursue their self interest regardless. There is a network failure, so that the resources that people can normally draw on in times of crisis are no longer there. Failures on this scale almost never occur during disasters. Panic reactions are rare in part because social bonds remain intact and extremely resilient even under conditions of severe danger Johnson, ; Johnson et al. Panic persists in public and media discourses on disasters, in part because those discourses conflate a wide range of other behaviors with panic.

Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed - Wikipedia

Often, people are described as panicking because they experience feelings of intense fear, even though fright and panic are conceptually and behaviorally distinct. Another behavioral pattern that is sometimes labeled panic involves intensified rumors and information seeking, which are common patterns among publics attempting to make sense of confusing and potentially dangerous situations. Under conditions of uncertainty, people make more frequent use of both informal ties and official information sources, as they seek to collectively define threats and decide what actions to take.

Such activities are a normal extension of everyday information-seeking practices Turner, They are not indicators of panic. The phenomenon of shadow evacuation, discussed earlier, is also frequently confused with panic. Such evacuations take place because people who are not defined by authorities as in danger nevertheless determine that they are—perhaps because they have received conflicting or confusing information or because they are geographically close to areas considered at risk Tierney et al. These types of behaviors, which constitute interesting subjects for research in their own right, are not examples of panic.

Research also indicates that panic and other problematic behaviors are linked in important ways to the manner in which institutions manage risk and disaster. Such behaviors are more likely to emerge when those who are in danger come to believe that crisis management measures are ineffective, suggesting that enhancing public understanding of and trust in preparedness measures and in organizations charged with managing disasters can lessen the likelihood of panic. Blaming the public for panicking during emergencies serves to diffuse responsibility from professionals whose duty it is to protect the public, such as emergency managers, fire and public safety officials, and those responsible for the design, construction, and safe operation of buildings and other structures Sime, The empirical record bears out the fact that to the extent panic does occur during emergencies, such behavior can be traced in large measure to environmental factors such as overcrowding, failure to provide adequate egress routes, and breakdowns in communications, rather than to some inherent human impulse to stampede with complete disregard for others.

Any potential for panic and other problematic behaviors that may exist can, in other words, be mitigated through appropriate design, regulatory, management, and communications strategies. As discussed elsewhere in this report, looting and violence are also exceedingly rare in disaster situations. Here again, empirical evidence of what people actually do during and following disasters contradicts what many officials and much of the public believe.

Beliefs concerning looting are based not on evidence but rather on assumptions—for example, that social control breaks down during disasters and that lawlessness and violence inevitably result when the social order is disrupted. Such beliefs fail to take into account the fact that powerful norms emerge during disasters that foster prosocial behavior—so much so that lawless behavior actually declines in disaster situations. The myth of disaster looting can be contrasted with the reality of looting during episodes of civil disorder such as the riots of the s and the Los Angeles unrest.

During episodes of civil unrest, looting is done publicly, in groups, quite often in plain sight of law enforcement officials. Under these circumstances, otherwise law-abiding citizens allow themselves to take part in looting behavior Dynes and Quarantelli, ; Quarantelli and Dynes, Looting and damaging property can also become normative in situations that do not involve civil unrest—for example, in victory celebrations following sports events. Once again, in such cases, norms and traditions governing behavior in crowd celebrations encourage destructive activities. The behavior of participants in these destructive crowd celebrations again bears no resemblance to that of disaster victims.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, social scientists had no problem understanding why episodes of looting might have been more widespread in that event than in the vast majority of U. Looting has occurred on a widespread basis following other disasters, although such cases have been rare. Croix engaged in extensive looting behavior following Hurricane Hugo, and this particular episode sheds light on why some Katrina victims might have felt justified in looting.

Hurricane Hugo produced massive damage on St. Croix, and government agencies were rendered helpless. Essentially trapped on the island, residents had no idea when help would arrive. Instead, they felt entirely on their own following Hugo. Croix economy was characterized by stark social class differences, and crime and corruption had been high prior to the hurricane.

Under these circumstances, looting for survival was seen as justified, and patterns of collective behavior developed that were not unlike those seen during episodes of civil unrest. Even law enforcement personnel joined in the looting Quarantelli, ; Rodriguez et al. Despite their similarities, the parallels between New Orleans and St.

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Croix should not be overstated. It is now clear that looting and violent behavior were far less common than initially reported and that rumors concerning shootings, rapes, and murders were groundless. In hindsight, it now appears that many reports involving looting and social breakdown were based on stereotyped images of poor minority community residents Tierney et al.

Extensive research also indicates that despite longstanding evidence, beliefs about disaster-related looting and lawlessness remain quite common, and these beliefs can influence the behavior of both community residents and authorities. For example, those who are at risk may decide not to evacuate and instead stay in their homes to protect their property from looters Fischer, Concern regarding looting and lawlessness may cause government officials to make highly questionable and even counterproductive decisions.

These decisions likely resulted in additional loss of life and also interfered with citizen efforts to aid one another. Interestingly, recent historical accounts indicate that similar decisions were made following other large-scale disasters, such as the Chicago fire, the Galveston hurricane, and the San Francisco earthquake and firestorm. In all three cases, armed force was used to stop. Along with Katrina, these events caution against making decisions on the basis of mythical beliefs and rumors. As is the case with the panic myth, attributing the causes of looting behavior to individual motivations and impulses serves to deflect attention from the ways in which institutional failures can create insurmountable problems for disaster victims.

When disasters occur, communications, disaster management, and service delivery systems should remain sufficiently robust that victims will not feel isolated and afraid or conclude that needed assistance will never arrive. More to the point, victims of disasters should not be scapegoated when institutions show themselves to be entirely incapable of providing even rudimentary forms of assistance—which was exactly what occurred with respect to Hurricane Katrina.

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In contrast to the panicky and lawless behavior that is often attributed to disaster-stricken populations, public behavior during earthquakes and other major community emergencies is overwhelmingly adaptive, prosocial, and aimed at promoting the safety of others and the restoration of ongoing community life. The predominance of prosocial behavior and, conversely, a decline in antisocial behavior in disaster situations is one of the most longstanding and robust research findings in the disaster literature.

Research conducted with NEHRP sponsorship has provided an even better understanding of the processes involved in adaptive collective mobilization during disasters. Helping Behavior and Disaster Volunteers. Helping behavior in disasters takes various forms, ranging from spontaneous and informal efforts to provide assistance to more organized emergent group activity, and finally to more formalized organizational arrangements.

With respect to spontaneously developing and informal helping networks, disaster victims are assisted first by others in the immediate vicinity and surrounding area and only later by official public safety personnel. In a discussion on search and rescue activities following earthquakes, for example, Noji observes In Southern Italy in , 90 percent of the survivors of an earthquake were extricated by untrained, uninjured survivors who used their bare hands and simple tools such as shovels and axes….

Following the Tangshan earthquake, about , to , entrapped people crawled out of the debris on their own and went on to rescue others…. They became the backbone of the rescue teams, and it was to their credit that more than 80 percent of those buried under the debris were rescued. Thus, lifesaving efforts in a stricken community rely heavily on the capabilities of relatively uninjured survivors, including untrained volunteers, as well as those of local firefighters and other relevant personnel.

The spontaneous provision of assistance is facilitated by the fact that when crises occur, they take place in the context of ongoing community life and daily routines—that is, they affect not isolated individuals but rather people who are embedded in networks of social relationships. When a massive gasoline explosion destroyed a neighborhood in Guadalajara, Mexico, in , for example, survivors searched for and rescued their loved ones and neighbors. Indeed, they were best suited to do so, because they were the ones who knew who lived in different households and where those individuals probably were at the time of the disaster Aguirre et al.

Similarly, crowds and gatherings of all types are typically comprised of smaller groupings—couples, families, groups of friends—that become a source of support and aid when emergencies occur. As the emergency period following a disaster lengthens, unofficial helping behavior begins to take on a more structured form with the development of emergent groups—newly formed entities that become involved in crisis-related activities Stallings and Quarantelli, ; Saunders and Kreps, Emergent groups perform many different types of activities in disasters, from sandbagging to prevent flooding, to searching for and rescuing victims and providing for other basic needs, to post-disaster cleanup and the informal provision of recovery assistance to victims.

While emergent groups are in many ways essential for the effectiveness of crisis response activities, their activities may be seen as unnecessary or even disruptive by formal crisis response agencies. In the aftermath of the attack on the World Trade Center, for example, numerous groups emerged to offer every conceivable type of assistance to victims and emergency responders. Disaster-related volunteering also takes place within more formalized organizational structures, both in existing organizations that mobilize in response to disasters and through organizations such as the Red Cross,.

Indeed, many individuals persisted in literally demanding to be allowed to serve as volunteers, even after being repeatedly turned away. Some of those who were intent on serving as volunteers managed to talk their way into settings that were off-limits in order to offer their services. Organizations such as the Red Cross and the NVOAD federation thus provide an infrastructure that can support very extensive volunteer mobilization. That infrastructure will likely form the basis for organized volunteering in future homeland security emergencies, just as it does in major disasters.

Helping behavior is very widespread after disasters, particularly large and damaging ones. Activities in which volunteers engaged after that disaster included searching for and rescuing victims trapped under rubble, donating blood and supplies, inspecting building damage, collecting funds, providing medical care and psychological counseling, and providing food and shelter to victims Wenger and James, Thus, the volunteer sector responding to disasters typically constitutes a very large proportion of the population of affected regions, as well as volunteers converging from other locations.

Social science research, much of it conducted under NEHRP auspices, highlights a number of other points regarding post-disaster helping behavior. One such insight is that helping behavior in many ways mirrors roles and responsibilities people assume during nondisaster times. For example, when people provide assistance during disasters and other emergencies, their involvement is typically consistent with gender role expectations Wenger and James, ; Feinberg and Johnson, Research also indicates that mass convergence of volunteers and donations can create significant management problems and undue burdens on disaster-stricken communities.

Research on public behavior during disasters has major implications for homeland security policies and practices. The research literature provides support for the inclusion of the voluntary sector and community-based organizations in preparedness and response efforts. Initiatives that aim at encouraging public involvement in homeland security efforts of all types are clearly needed. In using that term to refer to fire, police, and other public safety organizations, current homeland security discourse fails to recognize that community residents themselves constitute the front-line responders in any major emergency.

One implication of this line of research is that planning and management models that fail to recognize the role of victims and volunteers in responding to all types of extreme events will leave responders unprepared for what will actually occur during disasters—for example, that, as research consistently shows, community residents will be the first to search for victims, provide emergency aid, and transport victims to health care facilities in emergencies of all types.

These research findings have significant policy implications. To date, Department of Homeland Security initiatives have focused almost exclusively on providing equipment and training for uniformed responders, as opposed to community residents. Recently, however, DHS has begun placing more emphasis on its Citizen Corps component, which is designed to mobilize the skills and talents of the public when disasters strike.

Fire department personnel dispatched in vehicles to the damaged area following the earthquake mistook the structure, a three-story building that had pancaked on the first floor, for a two-story building, and they did not stop to inspect the structure or look for victims. The need for community-based preparedness and response initiatives is more evident than ever follow-ing the Katrina disaster.

Organizational, Governmental, and Network Responses. The importance of observing disaster response operations while they are ongoing or as soon as possible after disaster impact has long been a hallmark of the disaster research field. The quick-response tradition in disaster research, which has been a part of the field since its inception, developed out of a recognition that data on disaster response activities are perishable and that information collected from organizations after the passage of time is likely to be distorted and incomplete Quarantelli, , NEHRP funds, provided through grant supplements, Small Grants for Exploratory Research SGER awards, Earthquake Engineering Research Institute EERI reconnaissance missions, earthquake center reconnaissance funding, and small grants such as those provided by the Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, have supported the collection of perishable data and enabled social science researchers to mobilize rapidly following major earthquakes and other disasters.

NEHRP provided substantial support for the collection of data on organizational and community responses in a number of earthquake events, including the Whittier Narrows, Loma Prieta, and Northridge earthquakes see, for example, Tierney, , ; EERI, , as well as major earthquakes outside the United States such as the Mexico City, San Salvador, and Armenia events.

Many of those studies focused on organizational issues in both the public and private sectors. In many cases, quick-response research on disaster impacts and organizational and governmental response has led to subsequent in-depth studies on response-related issues identified during the post-impact reconnaissance phase. Following major events such as Loma Prieta, Northridge, and Kobe, insights from initial reconnaissance studies have formed the basis for broader research initiatives.

Recent efforts have focused on ways to better take advantage of reconnaissance opportunities and to identify topics for longer-term study. A new plan has been developed to better coordinate and integrate both reconnaissance and longer-term research activities carried out with NEHRP support. Through both initial quick-response activities and longer-term studies, NEHRP research has added to the knowledge base on how organizations cope with crises. Studies have focused on a variety of topics. A partial list of those topics includes organizational and group activities associated with the post-disaster search and rescue process Aguirre et al.

Focusing specifically at the interorganizational level of analysis, NEHRP research has also highlighted the significance and mix of planned and improvised networks in disaster response. It has long been recognized that post-disaster response activities involve the formation of new or emergent networks of organizations. Indeed, one distinguishing feature of major crisis events is the prominence and proliferation of network forms of organization during the response period.

Emergent multiorganizational networks EMON constitute new organizational interrelationships that reflect collective efforts to manage crisis events. Such networks are typically heterogeneous, consisting of existing organizations with pre-designated crisis management responsibilities, other organizations that may not have been included in prior planning but become involved in crisis response activities because those involved believe they have some contribution to make, and emergent groups. EMONs tend to be very large in major disaster events, encompassing hundreds and even thousands of interacting entities.

As crisis conditions change and additional resources converge, EMON structures evolve, new organizations join the network, and new relationships form. This is not to say that response activities always go smoothly. The disaster literature, organizational after-action reports, and official investigations contain numerous examples of problems that develop as inter-.

Such problems include the following: Hurricane Katrina became a national scandal because of the sheer scale on which these organizational pathologies manifested. However, Katrina was by no means atypical. In one form or another and at varying levels of severity, such pathologies are ever-present in the landscape of disaster response for examples, see U. The command-and-control model equates preparedness and response activities with military exercises.

It assumes that 1 government agencies and other responders must be prepared to take over management and control in disaster situations, both because they are uniquely qualified to do so and because members of the public will be overwhelmed and will likely engage in various types of problematic behavior, such as panic; 2 disaster response activities are best carried out through centralized direction, control, and decision making; and 3 for response activities to be effective, a single person is ideally in charge, and relations among responding entities are arranged hierarchically.

In contrast, the emergent human resources, or problem-solving, model is based on the assumption that communities and societies are resilient and resourceful and that even in areas that are very hard hit by disasters, considerable local response capacity is likely to remain. Another underlying assumption is that preparedness strategies should build on existing community institutions and support systems—for example by pre-identifying existing groups, organizations, and institutions that are capable of assuming leadership when a disaster strikes.

Again, this approach argues against. The model also recognizes that when a disaster occurs, responding entities must be flexible if they are to be effective and that flexibility is best achieved through a decentralized response structure that seeks to solve problems as they arise, as opposed to top-down decision making. For more extensive discussions of these two models and their implications, see Dynes, , ; Kreps and Bosworth, forthcoming. Empirical research, much of which has been carried out with NEHRP support, finds essentially no support for the command-and-control model either as a heuristic device for conceptualizing the disaster management process or as a strategy employed in actual disasters.

Instead, as suggested in the discussion above on EMONs, disaster response activities in the United States correspond much more closely to the emergent resources or problem-solving model. More specifically, such responses are characterized by decentralized, rather than centralized, decision making; by collaborative relationships among organizations and levels of government, rather than hierarchical ones; and, perhaps most important, by considerable emergence—that is, the often rapid appearance of novel and unplanned-for activities, roles, groups, and relationships.

Other hallmarks of disaster responses include their fluidity and hence the fast pace at which decisions must be made; the predominance of the EMON as the organizational form most involved in carrying out response activities; the wide array of improvisational strategies that are employed to deal with problems as they manifest themselves; and the importance of local knowledge and situation-specific information in gauging appropriate response strategies.

For empirical research supporting these points, see Drabek et al. Advancements brought about through NEHRP research include new frameworks for conceptualizing responses to extreme events. Accordingly, effective responses depend on the ability of organizations to simultaneously sustain structure and allow for flexibility in the face of rapidly changing disaster conditions and unexpected demands. Response networks must also be able to accommodate processes of self-organization —that is, organized action by volunteers and emergent groups.

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This approach again contrasts with command-and-control notions of how major crises are managed Comfort, A socio-technical approach requires a shift in the conception of response systems as reactive, command-and-control driven systems to one of inquiring systems , activated by processes of inquiry, validation, and creative self-organization…. Combining technical with organizational systems appropriately enables communities to face complex events more effectively by monitoring changing conditions and adapting its performance accordingly, increasing the efficiency of its use of limited resources.

It links human capacity to learn with the technical means to support that capacity in complex, dynamic environments [emphasis added]. Similarly, research stressing the importance of EMONs as the predominant organizational form during crisis response periods points to the importance of improving strategies for network management and of developing better methods to take advantage of emergent structures and activities during disasters. Planning and management approaches must, in other words, support rather than interfere with the open and dynamic qualities of disaster response activities.

Indicators of improved capacity to manage emergent networks could include the diversity of organizations and community sectors involved in pre-crisis planning; plans and agreements facilitating the incorporation of the voluntary sector and emergent citizen groups into response activities; plans and tools enabling the rapid expansion of crisis communication and information-sharing networks during disasters to include new organizations; and protocols, such as mutual aid agreements, making it possible for new actors to more easily join response networks Tierney and Trainor, In the wake of the Katrina disaster, the need for disaster management by command-and-control-oriented entities has once again achieved prominence.

For example, calls have increased for greater involvement on the part of the military in domestic disaster management. Such recommendations are not new. Giving a larger role in disaster management to the military was an idea that was considered—and rejected—following Hurricane Andrew National Academy of Public Administration, Post-Katrina debates on needed policy and programmatic changes will likely continue to focus on how to most effectively deploy military assets while ensuring that disaster management remains the responsibility of civilian institutions. One issue that has come to the fore with the emergence of terrorism as a major threat involves the extent to which findings from the field of disaster research can predict responses to human-induced extreme events.

Although some take the position that terrorism and bioterrorism constitute such unique threats that behavioral and organizational responses in such events will differ from what has been documented for other types of extreme events, others contend that this assumption is not borne out by social science disaster research. The preponderance of evidence seems to suggest that there is more similarity than difference in response behaviors across different types of disaster agents. Regarding the potential for panic, for example, there is no empirical evidence that panic was a problem during the influenza pandemic of , among populations under attack during World War II Janis, , in catastrophic structure fires and crowd crushes Johnson, ; Johnson et al.

Nor was panic a factor in the bombing of the World Trade Center Aguirre et al. The failure to find significant evidence of panic across a wide range of crisis events is a testimony to the resilience of social relationships and normative practices, even under conditions of extreme peril. Similarly, as noted earlier, research findings on challenges related to risk communication and warning the public of impending extreme events are also quite consistent across different types of disaster events. For individuals and groups, there are invariably challenges associated with understanding what self-protective actions are required for different types of emergencies, regardless of their origin.

In all types of disasters, organizations must likewise face a common set of challenges associated with situation assessment, the management of primary and secondary impacts, communicating with one another and with the public, and dealing with response-related demands. The need for more effective communication, coordination, planning, and training transcends hazard type. Although recent government initiatives such as the National Response Plan will result in the incorporation of new organizational actors into response systems for extreme events, most of the same local-, state-, and federal-level organizations will still be involved in managing extreme events of all types, employing common management frameworks such as.

Social scientific studies on disasters have long shown that general features of extreme events, such as geographic scope and scale, impact severity, and speed of onset, combined with the overall quality of pre-disaster preparedness, have a greater influence on response patterns than do the specific hazard agents that trigger response activities. Regardless of their origins, very large, near-catastrophic, and catastrophic events all place high levels of stress on response systems. In sum, social science disaster research finds little justification for the notion that individual, group, and community responses to human-induced extreme events, including those triggered by weapons of mass terror, will differ in important ways from those that have been documented in natural and technological disasters.

Instead, research highlights the importance of a variety of general factors that affect the quality and effectiveness of responses to disasters, irrespective of the hazard in question. With respect to warning the public and encouraging self-protective action, for example, warning systems must be well designed and warning messages must meet certain criteria for effectiveness, regardless of what type of warning is issued.

Members of the public must receive, understand, and personalize warning information; must understand what actions they need to take in order to protect themselves; and must be able to carry out those actions, again regardless of the peril in question.

Community residents must feel that they can trust their leaders and community institutions during crises of all types. For organizations, training and exercises and effective mechanisms for interorganizational communication and coordination are critical for community-wide emergencies of all types. When such criteria are not met, response-related problems can be expected regardless of whether the emergency stems from a naturally occurring event, a technological accident, or an intentional act.

Individual and group responses, as well as organizational response challenges, are thus likely to be consistent across different types of crises. At the same time, however, it is clear that there are significant variations in the behavior of responding institutions as opposed to individuals, groups, and first responders according to event type. In most technological disasters, along with the need to help those affected, questions of negligence and liability typically come to the fore, and efforts are made to assign blame and make responsible parties accountable.

In terrorist events, damaged areas are always treated as crime scenes, and the response involves intense efforts both to care for victims and to identify and capture the perpetrators. Further, although as noted earlier, scapegoating can occur in disasters of all types, the tendency for both institutions and the public to assign blame to.

Finally, with respect to responses on the part of the public, even though evidence to the contrary is strong, the idea that some future homeland security emergencies could engender responses different from those observed in past natural, technological, and intentional disasters cannot be ruled out entirely.

The concluding section of this chapter highlights the need for further research in this area. Like hazards and disaster research generally, NERHRP-sponsored research has tended to focus much more on preparedness and response than on either mitigation or disaster recovery. This is especially the case with respect to long-term recovery, a topic that despite its importance has received very little emphasis in the literature.

However, even though the topic has not been well studied, NEHRP-funded projects have done a great deal to advance social science understanding of disaster recovery. As discussed later in this section, they have also led to the development of decision tools and guidance that can be used to facilitate the recovery process for affected social units.

It is not an exaggeration to say that prior to NEHRP, relatively little was known about disaster recovery processes and outcomes at different levels of analysis. Researchers had concentrated to some degree on analyzing the impacts of a few earthquakes, such as the Alaska and San Fernando events, as well as earthquakes and other major disasters outside the United States.

Generally speaking, however, research on recovery was quite sparse. Equally important, earlier research oversimplified the recovery process in a variety of ways. First, there was a tendency to equate recovery, which is a social process, with reconstruction, which involves restoration and replacement of the built environment.

At the same time, consistent with positions taken elsewhere in this report, it is important to recognize that in crises of all kinds, blame and responsibility are socially constructed. For example, although triggered by a natural disaster, the levee failures during Hurricane Katrina are increasingly being defined as the result of human error. The disaster itself is also framed as resulting from catastrophic failures in decision making at all levels of government Select Bipartisan Committee to Investigate the Preparation for and Response to Hurricane Katrina, While the connections are obviously clearer in crisis caused by willful attacks, it is now widely recognized that human agency is involved in disastrous events of all types—including not only terrorist events but also technological and natural disasters.

Since the inception of NEHRP and in large measure because of NEHRP sponsorship, research has moved in the direction of a more nuanced understanding of recovery processes and outcomes that has not entirely resolved but at least acknowledges many of these issues. The sections that follow discuss significant contributions to knowledge and practice that have resulted primarily from NEHRP-sponsored work. Those contributions can be seen somewhat arbitrarily as falling into four categories: Owing in large measure to NEHRP-sponsored efforts, the disaster field has moved beyond equating recovery with reconstruction or the restoration of the built environment.

More usefully, research has moved in the direction of making analytic distinctions among different types of disaster impacts, recovery activities undertaken by and affecting different social units , and recovery outcomes. Although disaster impacts can be positive or negative, research generally tends to focus on various negative impacts occurring at different levels of analysis.

As outlined in Chapter 3 , these impacts include effects on the physical and built environment, including residential, commercial, and infrastructure damage as well as disaster-induced damage to the environment; other property losses; deaths and injuries; impacts on social and economic activity; effects at the community level, such as impacts on community cohesiveness and urban. Such impacts can vary in severity and duration, as well as in the extent to which they are addressed effectively during the recovery process. An emphasis on recovery as a multidimensional concept calls attention to the fact that physical and social impacts, recovery trajectories, and short- and longer-term outcomes in chronological and social time can vary considerably across social units.

Recovery activities constitute measures that are intended to remedy negative disaster impacts, restore social units as much as possible to their pre-disaster levels of functioning, enhance resilience, and ideally, realize other objectives such as the mitigation of future disaster losses and improvements in the built environment, quality of life, and long-term sustainability.

In some circumstances, recovery activities can also include the adoption of new policies, legislation, and practices designed to reduce the impacts of future disasters. Recovery processes are significantly influenced by differential societal and group vulnerability; by variations in the range of recovery aid and support that is available; and by the quality and effectiveness of the help that is provided.

For example, insurance is an important component in the reconstruction and recovery process for some societies, some groups within society, and some types of disasters, but not for others. Outcomes can be assessed in both the short and the longer terms, although, as noted earlier, the literature is weak with respect to empirical studies on the outcomes of longer-term disasters.

Such decisions and actions can be made by governments, private sector entities, groups, households, and individuals. For example, the provision of government assistance or insurance payments to homeowners may make it possible for them to rebuild and continue to live in hazardous areas, even though such an outcome was never intended.

Keeping in mind the multidimensional nature of recovery, post-disaster outcomes can be judged as satisfactory along some dimensions, or at particular points in time, but unsatisfactory along others. Outcomes are perceived and experienced differently, when such factors as level of analysis and specific recovery activities of interest are taken into account. With respect to units of aggregation, for example, while a given disaster may have few discernible long-term effects when analyzed at the community level, the same disaster may well be economically, socially, and psychologically catastrophic for hard-hit households and businesses.

The degree to which recovery has taken place is thus very much a matter of perspective and social position. In a related vein, research has also led to a reconsideration of linear conceptions of the recovery process.

Disaster and Emergency Planning for Preparedness, Response, and Recovery

Past research tended to see disaster events as progressing from the pre-impact period through post-impact emergency response, and later recovery. In a classic work in this genre— Reconstruction Following Disaster Haas et al. In this and other studies, the beginning of the recovery phase was generally demarcated by the cessation of immediate life saving and emergency care measures, the resumption of activities of daily life e.

After a period of time, early recovery activities, such as the provision of temporary housing, would give way to longer-term measures that were meant to be permanent. Next comes the restoration period—when repairs to utilities are made; debris is removed; evacuees return; and commercial, industrial, and residential structures are repaired. The third phase, the reconstruction replacement period, involves rebuilding capital stocks and getting the economy back to pre-disaster levels.

This period can take some years. Finally, there is the development phase, when commemorative structures are built, memo-. In another stage-like model focusing on the community level, Alexander identified three stages in the process of disaster recovery. First, the rehabilitation stage involves the continuing care of victims and frequently is accompanied by the reemergence of preexisting problems at the household or community level. During the temporary reconstruction stage, prefabricated housing or other temporary structures go up, and temporary bracing may be installed for buildings and bridges.

Finally, the permanent reconstruction stage was seen as requiring good administration and management to achieve full community recovery. The idea that recovery proceeds in an orderly, stage-like, and unitary manner has been replaced by a view that recognizes that the path to recovery is often quite uneven. While the concept of disaster phases may be a useful heuristic device for researchers and practitioners, the concept may also mask both how phases overlap and how recovery proceeds differently for different social groups Neal, Recovery does not occur at the same pace for all who are affected by disasters or for all types of impacts.

Put another way, as indicated in Chapters 1 and 3 , while stage-like approaches to disasters are framed in terms of chronological time, for those who experience them, disasters unfold in social time. Researchers studying recovery continue to contend with a legacy of conceptual and measurement difficulties. One such difficulty centers on the question of how the dependent variable should be measured. This problem itself is multifaceted. Should recovery be defined as a return to pre-disaster levels of psychological, social, and economic well-being?

As a return to where a community, business, or household would have been were it not for the occurrence of the disaster? The study of disaster recovery also tends to overlap with research on broader processes of social change. Thus, in addition to focusing on what was lost or affected as a consequence of disaster events and on outcomes relative to those impacts, recovery research also focuses on more general post-disaster issues, such as the extent to which disasters influence and interact with ongoing processes of social change, whether disaster impacts can be distinguished from those resulting.

Seen in this light, the study of recovery can become indistinguishable from the study of longer-term social change affecting communities and societies. While these distinctions are often blurred, it is nevertheless important to differentiate conceptually and empirically between the recovery process, specific recovery outcomes of interest, and the wide range of other changes that might take place following or as a consequence of disasters.

Following from the discussions above, it is useful to keep in mind several points about research on disaster recovery. First, studies differ in the extent to which they emphasize the objective, physical aspects of recovery—restoration and reconstruction of the built environment—or subjective, psychosocial, and experiential ones. Second, studies generally focus on particular units of analysis and outcomes, such as household, business, economic, or community recovery, rather than on how these different aspects of recovery are interrelated.

This is due partly to the fact that researchers tend to specialize in particular types of disaster impacts and aspects of recovery, which has both advantages and disadvantages. While allowing for the development of in-depth research expertise, such specialization has also made it more difficult to formulate more general theories of recovery. Third, the literature is quite uneven. Some aspects of recovery are well understood, while there are others about which very little is known.


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Even with these limitations, more general theoretical insights about recovery processes and outcomes have begun to emerge. Key among these is the idea that disaster impacts and recovery can be conceptualized in terms of vulnerability and resilience. Social vulnerability is linked to broader trends within society, such as demographic trends migration to more hazardous areas, the aging of the U. Similarly, resilience , or the ability to survive and cope with disaster impacts and rebound after those events, is also determined in large measure by social factors.

According to Rose , resilience can be conceptualized. For an influential formulation setting out the vulnerability perspective, see Blaikie et al. As subsequent discussions show, the concepts of vulnerability and resilience are applicable to individuals, households, groups, organizations, economies, and entire societies affected by disasters.

The sections that follow, which are organized according to unit of analysis, discuss psychosocial impacts and recovery; impacts and recovery processes for housing and businesses; economic recovery; and community-level and societal recovery. Psychological Impacts and Recovery. There is no disagreement among researchers that disasters cause genuine pain and suffering and that they can be deeply distressing for those who experience them. Apart from that consensus, however, there have been many debates and disputes regarding the psychological and psychosocial impacts of disasters.

One such debate centers on the extent to which disasters produce clinically significant symptoms of psychological distress and, if so, how long such symptoms last. Researchers have also struggled with the questions of etiology, or the causes of disaster-related psychological reactions. Are such problems the direct result of trauma experienced during disaster, the result of disaster-induced stresses, a reflection of a lack of coping capacity or weak social support networks, a function of preexisting vulnerabilities, or a combination of all these factors?

Related concerns center on what constitute appropriate forms of intervention and service delivery strategies for disaster-related psychological problems. Do people who experience problems generally recover on their own, without the need for formally provided assistance, or does such assistance facilitate more rapid and complete recovery? What types of assistance are likely to be most efficacious and for what types of problems?

Research has yielded a wide array of findings on questions involving disaster-related psychological and psychosocial impacts and recovery.

Emergency Preparedness Workshop

Findings tend to differ depending upon disaster type and severity, how disaster victimization is defined and measured, how mental health outcomes are measured, the research methodologies and strategies used e. Rose was referring specifically to economic resilience, but the concepts of inherent and adaptive resilience can be and indeed have been applied much more broadly. With respect to the controversial topic of post-traumatic stress disorder PTSD , for example, well-designed epidemiological studies have estimated the lifetime prevalence of PTSD at around 5. An important epidemiologic study on the incidence of trauma and the subsequent risk of developing PTSD after various types of traumatic events estimates the risk at about 3.

NEHRP-sponsored surveys following recent earthquakes in California found PTSD to be extremely rare among affected populations and not significantly associated with earthquake impacts Seigel et al. Other studies show immense variation, with estimates of post-disaster PTSD ranging from very low to greater than 50 percent. Such variations could reflect real differences in the traumatic effects of different events, but it is equally likely that they are the result of methodological, measurement, and theoretical differences among investigators.

One key debate centers on the clinical significance of post-disaster emotional and mental health problems. Research is clear on the point that it is not unusual for disaster victims to experience a series of problems, such as headaches, problems with sleeping and eating, and heightened levels of concern and anxiety, that can vary in severity and duration Rubonis and Bickman, ; Freedy et al. Perspectives begin to diverge, however, on the extent to which these and other disaster-induced symptoms constitute mental health problems in the clinical sense. In other words, would disaster victims, presenting their symptoms, be considered candidates for mental health counseling or medication if those symptoms were present in a nondisaster context?

Again, as with PTSD, findings differ. While noting that many studies do document a rise in psychological distress following disasters, Shoaf et al. They also note that these findings are consistent with research on suicide following the Kobe earthquake, which showed that the suicide rate in the year following that quake was less than the average rate for the previous 10 years Shoaf et al.