Article Index

Traditional Societies in the Face of Natural Hazards: The 1991 Mt. Pinatubo Eruption and the Aetas of the Philippines

Authors
Jean-Christophe Gaillard
Issue
March 2006
Description
This article explores the response of traditional societies in the face of natural hazards through the lens of the concept of resilience. Resilient societies are those able to overcome the damages brought by the occurrence of natural hazards, either through maintaining their pre-disaster social fabric, or through accepting marginal or larger change in order to survive. Citing the case of the 1991 Mt. Pinatubo eruption in the Philippines and its impact on the Aeta communities who have been living on the slopes of the volcano for centuries, it suggests that the capacity of resilience of traditional societies and the concurrent degree of cultural change rely on four factors, namely: the nature of the hazard, the pre-disaster sociocultural context and capacity of resilience of the community, the geographical setting, and the rehabilitation policy set up by the authorities. These factors significantly vary in time and space, from one disaster to another. It is important to perceive their local variations to better anticipate the capability of traditional societies to overcome the damage brought by the occurrence of natural hazards and therefore predict eventual cultural change.

Trapped in Politics: The Life, Death, and Afterlife of the Utah Seismic Safety Advisory Council

Authors
Robert A. Olson, Richard Stuart Olson
Issue
March 1994
Description
Utah faces serious earthquake risk from the alignment of its major population centers with the historically active Wasatch fault. This paper identifies the origins and traces the life history of the Utah Seismic Safety Advisory Council, paying special attention to the partisan political shift which contributed to its 1981 legislative failures and organizational demise.

Trauma, Victims, Time, Changing Organizations and the Nepal 2015 Earthquake

Authors
Samantha Penta, Sarah DeYoung, Daryl Yoder-Bontrager
Issue
November 2016
Description
This paper summarizes findings from reconnaissance fieldwork conducted five weeks after the Nepal earthquake in 2015. Data were collected using an exploratory, qualitative, semi-inductive approach. Themes converged through classic disaster research theoretical ideas but were also evident through the unique convergence of globalization and development in Nepal. Findings from informal conversations, photographs, and observations of relief and recovery efforts revealed several key themes: the occurrence of organizational transitions in activities and tasks, psychosocial well-being of Nepalese individuals and communities, issues in qualifying the definition of an earthquake victim, and the importance of chronological and social time in recovery processes. Other findings gleaned from fieldwork included uncovering complexities of cultural and social systems such as caste structure in Nepal, issues related to humanitarian logistics, and the vulnerability of special populations such as new mothers and migrant Nepalese. The massive presence of international non-profit organizations created an interesting setting for relief and recovery, mostly described in the section on organization evolutions and transformation. Finally, we also encountered various perceptions about what it means to shift from “relief” to “recovery”- a notion which intersected with all of the four main themes from our findings.

TV Network News Coverage of Three Mile Island: Reporting Disasters as Technological Fables

Authors
Dan Nimmo
Issue
March 1984
Description
Nightly network news coverage of the accident at Three Mile Island raised questions about the nature of TV news as well as the capacity of the three major networks to inform viewers during disasters. A key emphasis in TV news is story-telling, especially the weaving of fables. Quantitative and qualitative analyses of the content of network news coverage of TMI reveals differences between networks in techniques of newsgathering and reporting, but even more so in stories told: CBS narrated a tale of responsible political and technological elites, ABC a nightmare of common folk victimized by elites, ABC a nightmare of common folk victimized by elites, and NBC a story of resignation and demystification. Coverage of TMI, when compared to network coverage of other crises, suggests that in reporting disasters CBS, ABC, and NBC respectively and consistently construct rhetorical visions of reassurance, threat, and primal assurance.

Uncommon Hazards and Orthodox Emergency Management: Toward a Reconciliation

Authors
Neil R. Britton
Issue
August 1992
Description
Effective emergency management requires a close fit between state of risk and state of hazard management. If these components get out of phase, a marked increase in societal vulnerability is likely to prevail. Recognizing that the major burden for developed societies has shifted from risks associated with natural processes to those arising from technological development and application, disaster-relevant organizational networks have adopted a Comprehensive Emergency Management \\"all-hazards\\" approach.

Understanding Divergent Constructions of Vulnerability and Resilience: Climate Change Discourses in the German Cities of Lübeck and Rostock

Authors
Gabriela B. Christmann and Thorsten Heimann
Issue
August 2017
Description
In social-science based research, it is still an open question how cities cope with the multi-faceted challenges of climate change. Via the example of the German coastal cities of Lübeck and Rostock and on the basis of a discourse analysis (of news articles and expert interviews), this paper contributes to this research question by asking how cities actually perceive their vulnerability and resilience related to climate impacts. The study reveals that perceptions in the two cities differ considerably and are idiosyncratic when compared to each other. This is remarkable because both cities share similar geographic conditions as well as climate forecasts. Furthermore, they both have in common a long history as Hanseatic cities. What makes Rostock special, however, is that it was part of the former German Democratic Republic and that, after the German reunification in 1990, it suffered from socio-economic problems and marginalization. The paper’s findings raise the question of how divergent local knowledge about climate-related vulnerability and resilience can be conceptualized. It is also imperative to consider how local experiences of economic problems and social marginalization influence local knowledge regarding climate change. Consequently, the authors suggest a theoretical approach which is mainly based on social constructionism. Furthermore, they highlight the role that locally shared experiences—such as of social marginalization—play in the emergence of climate change constructions.

Understanding Public Response to Increased Risk from Natural Hazards: Application of the Hazards Risk Communication Framework

Authors
R. Denise Blanchard Boehm
Issue
November 1998
Description
For the past four decades researchers in the field of natural hazards have studies extensively how people “hear” warning messages of potential natural disasters and then, eventually, how they “respond” by way of adopting preparation and mitigation measures. Until the 1980s, a single framework did not exist for understanding risk communication as an integrated process. Much of the early research on risk communication was piecemeal and descriptive, and consisted of exploring the details of communicating risk within the events of a particular disaster. The proliferation of research on risk communication over several decades, though, has resulted in the evolution of a general model of hazards risk management. This model presupposes that the process of risk communication in one whereby individuals: (1) hear a warning message; (2) understand its content; (3) internalize or believe the salience of its message; (4) confirm one’s interpretation with others; and (5) act or respond to its message to save one’s life and property. This paper applies the risk communication framework and its principles to a case study where probabilities were increased in 1990 of future earthquakes in the San Francisco Bay area. Following the scientific community’s announcement, a low-key warning was issued to approximately two million residents through a large-scale information campaign. This study demonstrates that the risk communication model is an invaluable tool for helping us to understand the behavior of individuals who must learn of and act upon warning information that could save their lives and property. Further, researchers are urged to find ways to adapt this risk communication model to other types of natural and human-made hazards.

Understanding the Message: Social and Cultural constraints To Interpreting Weather Generated Natural Hazards

Authors
David King
Issue
March 2004
Description
Globally there is an increase in the social and economic impacts of all natural hazards, and especially those that are generated by weather systems. Climate change is a part of this process, but it is most likely that long-term climate change will first become evident as an increase in natural disasters, especially flooding and drought. However, a major cause of increasing nautral disasters is the growth and relocation of population, concentrating into complex urban settlements that proliferate infrastructure and property in vulnerable floodplains and the coastal fringe. While Australia has experienced a decline in the loss of life from natural hazards, the loss to business, agriculture and the economy in general has increased exponentially. Weather generated natural disasters dominate the total disaster bill. Vulnerability to natural hazards may be reduced through hazard education and effective warnings. \r\nThe communication of weather information is inevitably a top down process. Understanding of information and in particular, warning s about hazardous events involves a public safety transfer of knowledge from highly specialized scientists through emergency managers, local politicians and the media, to every member of society. Research shows that selection, interpretation and expression of information and warnings occurs at institutional and societal levels. Both the media and the general public select, re-interpret, and weigh up information about weather and hazards, applying a complex set of attitudes, perceptions experience and misinformation to the initial message. An understanding of how people interpret the message is essential to the accuracy and safety of warnings and forecasts. Examples and case studies from post-disaster and behavioural research carried out by the Centre for Disaster Studies, and hazard events illustrate the issues of understanding the message.\r\n

Unidentified Bodies and Mass-Fatality Management in Haiti: A Case Study of the January 2010 Earthquake with a Cross-Cultural Comparison

Authors
David McEntire, Abdul-Akeem Sadiq and Kailash Gupta
Issue
November 2012
Description
The following paper examines the January 2010 earthquake in Haiti as a case study to better understand what happens to unidentified bodies in mass-fatality management. The paper explores the literature on mass-fatality management, discusses the context of Haiti and the impact of the earthquake in this country, mentions the methods undertaken for this study, and then outlines the key findings from this particular disaster. The paper compares preliminary conclusions in Haiti to other incidents in India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka, and concludes with a discussion of implications for research and practice.

Unpacking Long-term Disaster Recovery Processes: A Case Study of the Healthcare System in Montserrat, West Indies

Authors
V.L. Sword-Daniels, J. Twigg, T. Rossetto and D.M. Johnston
Issue
March 2016
Description
Long-term disaster recovery processes are poorly understood, yet there is a growing imperative to improve knowledge of their complexity and timeframes to inform policy and post-disaster decision-making. This empirical study explores post-disaster change and recovery processes for the healthcare system on the island of Montserrat, West Indies. Taking a systems approach, we adopt a qualitative case study methodology to explore post-disaster changes over an extended timeframe (1995-2012). We identify many different aspects of change, which lends a new perspective on post-disaster change types for complex systems, and an alternative classification for analysis of their recovery. Recovery of the healthcare system is ongoing. We find that recovery is not a uniform process. Different elements of the system show signs of recovery at different times. This exploratory study documents the complex and long-term nature of disaster recovery in this context, which brings new understanding of change and recovery processes and raises important considerations for future studies.