Disaster and Disaster Areas: Methodological Issues of Definition and Delineation

November 1995 (VOL. 13, NO. 3)

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We present an extensive discussion of the linguistic, conceptual and practical issues in discussing the category of disaster. It is argued that there are two principle orientations or approaches to research, namely, an applied/ pragmatic one and a theoretical/ conceptual one. These are based on ontological and epistemological grounds, respectively, which serve as the main factors determining the existing differences and variations in the studying and understanding of disasters. The other reason for the variation is the logical and terminological inaccuracy of individual researchers in reasoning on disaster matters. The categories of “ecological disaster” and of “ecological disaster zones” have been selected as critical cases illustrating that issue in the theoretical approach. Also presented is the concept of disaster area as a management objective, and the classification of territories based on the depth of the destructive impact on socioecological systems, and on the types and groups in such territories. Also, briefly discussed within the framework of the pragmatic approach are the principle measures and elements of an organizational system model for mitigating disaster aftermaths.