The National Academy of Science's Joseph Henry Press has announced the publication of the final two volumes resulting from a multiyear project--the National Science Foundation-sponsored Second U.S. Assessment of Research and Applications for Natural Hazards. That study, a reassessment of the findings of a similar study conducted 25 years ago, involved more than 100 hazards researchers and addressed the fundamental question: ''Why, despite all our knowledge about the causes of, consequences from, and remedies for disasters, do losses continue to rise?'' In this issue of the Observer, we present the viewpoints of Kathleen Tierney, author (along with Michael K. Lindell and Ronald W. Perry) of Facing the Unexpected: Disaster Preparedness and Response in the United States and Susan Cutter, editor of American Hazardscapes: The Regionalization of Hazards and Disasters.
--an invited comment
When the field of disaster research emerged in the late 1940s and early 1950s, studies focused first on the ways in which communities, organizations, and individuals responded to disasters. In those studies, which typically involved postimpact field work in disaster-stricken communities, researchers addressed such questions as whether panic is a common response when disasters strike, whether community residents are demoralized and unable to respond appropriately in the aftermath of disaster, and whether and under what circumstances organizations and groups cope effectively with the extraordinary challenges disasters present. Many findings from those early studies have endured--for example, that disasters generate an outpouring of altruistic behavior rather than antisocial responses; that rather than declining, community morale actually increases following disasters; and that most individuals behave rationally and adaptively in emergency situations. Many of the insights derived from the first two decades of disaster research are summarized in reports published in the 1950s by the National Academy of Sciences, books such as Barton's Communities in Disaster: A Sociological Analysis of Collective Stress Situations (1969) and Dynes's Organized Behavior in Disaster (1970), and monographs produced as part of the first Assessment of Research on Natural Hazards (see the Observer, Vol. XXIII, No. 4, p. 3), such as Human Systems in Extreme Environments by Mileti, Drabek, and Haas (1975).
Since those early days, research in the disaster and hazards field has expanded to address many new issues and topics spanning the entire hazards cycle, from predisaster mitigation through preparedness, response, and recovery. Researchers have investigated disaster- and hazard-related topics at different levels of analysis, ranging from individuals and households to informally organized groups, communities, various governmental organizations, and multi-organizational networks. As research activities have continued, other important synthesis volumes have been produced, such as Human System Responses to Disaster, Drabek's 1986 compilation of disaster-related research findings.
The Second Assessment of Research on Natural Hazards provided another opportunity to survey the disaster and hazards literature and to evaluate what we now know and what we still need to know about the social, economic, and policy aspects of disasters and hazards, including, importantly, research on disaster preparedness and response. Through the work of the Second Assessment, we now have a much better grasp not only of the very significant progress that has been made in understanding the societal issues associated with preparedness and response, but also of gaps in the literature and new questions posed by recent research findings. Additionally, the framework provided by the assessment, which highlights the societal sources of disaster vulnerability and links disaster management to larger issues of sustainability, provides a new lens through which to view disaster preparedness and response.
One assessment theme that weaves together many recent research findings centers on the importance of population diversity and social inequality in understanding disaster preparedness and response behavior. Which households prepare for disasters and which preparedness measures they are likely to adopt, for example, can be explained at least in part by social status-related variables such as income and education. When warnings are issued and people are told to undertake self-protective actions such as evacuation, what they hear and when, how much of the warning they actually understand, whether they decide to act on the warning and how long it takes to make that decision, and what they ultimately do--for example, where they seek emergency shelter--are all shaped by socioeconomic and sociocultural factors such as household resources, family size, ethnicity, and familiarity with the English language. After disasters strike, these same factors also influence access to postdisaster aid and patterns of short-term and longer-term housing. One clear lesson from the Second Assessment is that in an increasingly diverse society, actions that are undertaken to reduce disaster losses must be based on an understanding of the interplay between hazards, the built environment, and socially structured vulnerability.
Newer research continues to support much of what was already known about how groups and organizations respond in disasters. For example, researchers continue to document phenomena such as mass convergence, the involvement of disaster volunteers and emergent groups, and the mass donation of goods, all of which present both challenges and opportunities for those attempting to manage crisis situations. With the advent of global communications systems, the media explosion, and the Internet, these patterns are certain to intensify in future disasters. Other studies reviewed by the Second Assessment point to new topics that need further investigation. These new areas include the manner in which private-sector organizations prepare and respond, the ways in which gender and cultural differences shape both disaster vulnerability and preparedness and response behavior, and the ways in which the technology revolution influences our strategies for managing emergencies.
The period covered by the Second Assessment has also been marked by scholarly debates on a variety of topics. Researchers continue to differ in their views on how to define disasters and measure their impacts. They also question whether, by characterizing disaster behavior as overwhelmingly altruistic, earlier studies may actually have downplayed the extent to which disasters are also characterized by conflict. Other debates center on the question of whether natural and technological disasters differ in their individual and community effects and on how much additional safety new technologies can provide. Research has answered many questions but has also raised new ones: Are images of disaster behavior developed on the basis of U.S. research equally valid for other societies? Do new technologies actually make our societies safer? Is vulnerability increasing despite technological improvements, and if so, why? How much can technology help in crisis situations, and under what circumstances?
One of the most significant trends affecting disaster preparedness and response is the transformation that has occurred in disaster management since the first assessment. Once focused equally on war readiness and planning for disasters and viewed as the exclusive purview of individuals with military backgrounds, ''civil defense'' has evolved into the profession of emergency management--a profession that requires diverse skills, ranging from the ability to develop formal disaster plans, to skills in community outreach and organizational development, the ability to mobilize political constituencies, and knowledge of new and emerging technologies. The professionalization of the field has been accompanied by the development of new organizations, specialty fields, and credentialing processes, as well as the growth of college and university curricula focusing on principles of emergency management. With this ongoing evolution in disaster management, disaster research must continue to document how and why disasters occur as well as their immediate and long-term impacts.
Kathleen Tierney, Disaster Research Center, University of Delaware
--an invited comment
More than a half century ago, Gilbert White's early floodplain studies surveyed the human occupance of hazard zones and sought to identify the full range of adjustments that individuals and society could make in response to hazards. In the ensuing 50 years, much has changed (technology, the density of development, and the understanding of physical processes), yet we are still stifled by incomplete knowledge regarding the risks and vulnerabilities of specific locations to hazards. Are some places more disaster-prone than others and if so, why? Are we exposed to more hazards now than in the past based on an actual increase in the number and severity of hazard events? Is our vulnerability to hazards simply increasing due to population movements into hazardous locations? Or is it some combination of the two?
There has been a tendency within the hazards community to examine these questions historically but not geographically. The geographic dimensions of hazards--where they occur, why they occur there, who is most at risk, and which places are most vulnerable--provide a much-needed baseline for monitoring the effectiveness of many of our public policies targeted at hazard reduction and disaster-resistance.
American Hazardscapes: The Regionalization of Hazards and Disasters examines geographic variability in hazard events and losses for the past 24 years by state for the entire country. The first half of the book provides an overview of methods, techniques, and innovations in vulnerability and hazards assessment and improvements in the mapping sciences. This is followed by an extensive discussion regarding hazard event and loss data, notably data availability, quality, and usefulness. The remaining chapters describe state-level temporal and spatial trends in events and losses during the past 24 years, culminating in recommendations for reducing future hazard losses.
Two findings are especially relevant in understanding the geography of hazards, findings also highlighted in Disasters by Design (Mileti, 1999). First, there is no systematic accounting of losses by location and by specific hazard for the nation, let alone an integrated, or all-hazards, database of such losses. We have fragmented and incomplete data on hazard events and losses collected by a myriad of state and federal agencies, the private sector, and academics, but we do not really know the full extent of losses from hazards and disasters, nor the true costs of rescue, relief, and recovery efforts in response to them at the national, state, or local levels. Some suggest that disasters make good business, but a full cost accounting of hazard events and disasters for the nation has not been undertaken. The United States must systematically collect, analyze, and store standardized, geo-referenced data on losses and costs (current and past) so we can establish a baseline to monitor the effectiveness of hazard mitigation programs and hazards reduction policies at local, state, and federal levels. The compilation and maintenance of a national geographically referenced inventory of hazard events and losses is one of the most critical needs facing the country. In fact, a National Loss Inventory/Natural Hazard Events Clearinghouse would serve as a data archive and repository for such data and assist in their dissemination to decision makers, practitioners, researchers, and the public.
Second, vulnerability science is still in its infancy, and there is no standardized technique for determining the vulnerability of a place (and the people who live there) from multiple hazards. We need to know the interactions between natural, social, and constructed systems and how these increase or decrease local vulnerability to hazards. At present, we lack the necessary research capacity to fully implement a national-level hazard and risk assessment for all hazards. We lack consistent and comparable data on expo-sure or risk indicators across all hazards. The same is true for the indicators of social vulnerability. Our science is not sufficiently developed that we can adequately model, let alone predict, future risk exposures or social vulnerabilities. Getting this knowledge to the local level poses yet another challenge.
There were, are, and will be inequities in the patterns of hazard events and losses. These inequities will widen in the foreseeable future and may require substantial resources in some places or for some social groups in order to lessen their vulnerability to environmental threats. Geography and the geographer's perspective will be just as vital to the nation's understanding of hazards in the future as it was during the past half century.
Susan L. Cutter, Hazards Research Lab, Department of Geography, University of South Carolina
The two new volumes from the Second Assessment are:
The other volumes resulting from that study include:
Each of these books is available for $47.95 (significant discounts are available for orders placed via the web), plus shipping and handling. To place an order, contact the National Academy Press, 2101 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Lockbox 285, Washington, DC 20055; (888) 624-7645 or (202) 334-3313; fax: (202) 334-2451; WWW: www.nap.edu.
Information about each volume is available from the NAS publication web site. Indeed, each can be read in its entirety on-line. The web addresses for each volume are:
Finally, a complete, extended bibliography for Disasters by Design is available from the Natural Hazards Center web site: www.colorado.edu/hazards/assessbib.html. This list of references comprises all the citations provided by the many researchers, practitioners, reviewers, and other individuals who contributed to the Second Assessment.
In July, hazards professionals from around the world gathered in Boulder, Colorado, for the 26th Annual Hazards Research and Applications Workshop. Participants at this gathering focused on cutting edge hazards issues, tackling such topics as changes in hazards management in the 21st century, bioterrorism, sharing information world-wide, the evolving profession of emergency management, balancing the environment and the economy in hazard mitigation, and the Gujarat earthquake in India.
To ensure that the ideas and discussions generated are shared with those who did not attend the workshop, the Natural Hazards Center publishes brief summaries of each session, abstracts of the hazards research presented, and descriptions of the projects and programs discussed at the meeting. A set of all workshop materials, including the agenda, participant list, and workshop notebook, costs $25.00, plus $6.00 shipping for domestic orders; $25.00, plus $10.00 shipping for orders outside the U.S. (For more detailed ordering information, contact the Publications Administrator at the address below).
Currently, the list of all session summaries is available on-line at www.colorado.edu/hazards/ss/ss.html. In November, the complete text of all session summaries will also be available at that site, although abstracts of hazards research, programs, and projects will not.
To order these materials, send your payment (checks should be payable to the University of Colorado) to the Publications Administrator, Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, 482 UCB, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0482; (303) 492-6819; fax: (303) 492-2151; e-mail: email@example.com; WWW: www.colorado.edu/hazards. Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Diner's Club cards are also accepted.
Now Available on the Web
In the previous Observer (Vol. XXV, No. 6, p. 5), we announced the availability of the Hazard Center's Special Publication 38, The Storms of '98: Hurricanes Georges and Mitch--Impacts, Institutional Response, and Disaster Politics in Three Countries, by Richard Olson, Ricardo Alvarez, Bruce Baird, Amelia Estrada, Vincent Gawronski, and Juan Pablo Sarmiento Prieto. That work examines the response and ''disaster politics'' (including media coverage) associated with Hurricane Georges in the Dominican Republic and Hurricane Mitch in Honduras and Nicaragua. The focus is the ''marginalization'' of national emergency response agencies. These organizations--typically small national civil defense offices--were quickly shouldered aside when the disasters became major catastrophes demanding international attention and aid. New, temporary offices were established, with consequent duplication of effort, lack of coordination, and poor response.
To deal with this difficulty, Olson and his colleagues offer their ''accordion option'' under which a national emergency organization recognizes its probable marginalization and therefore prepares a plan for the head of state that outlines how national-level disaster response can be expanded to include other ministries and organizations, while the emergency management office itself retains an organizing and coordinating role.
To make this important work available as widely as possible, The Storms of '98 (67 pp.) is now posted on the Hazard Center's web site at www.colorado.edu/hazards/sp/sp.html, where it can be read and/or downloaded for free.
Persons desiring a printed copy can still purchase The Storms of '98 for $20.00, plus shipping ($5.00, U.S.; $8.00, Canada; $12.00, Mexico; $18.00, beyond North America) from the Publications Administrator, Natural Hazards Research and Applications Information Center, University of Colorado, 482 UCB, Boulder, CO 80309-0482; (303) 492-6819; fax: (303) 492-2151; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.
An Invitation to Join
Are you interested in studying a disaster within hours or days of the event? If so, here's an opportunity for you. The Natural Hazards Center is now soliciting proposals for its FY 2002 Quick Response (QR) Research Program, which enables social scientists from the U.S. to conduct short-term studies on site immediately after a disaster in order to collect data that would otherwise be lost.
Applicants with approved proposals are eligible to receive funding to carry out their investigation should an appropriate disaster occur in the coming 12 months. Grants average between $1,000 and $3,000 and essentially cover only food, lodging, and travel expenses. In return, grantees must submit reports of their findings, which are published by the Natural Hazards Center both on the World Wide Web and in hard copy.
Details about proposal submission can be obtained from the center's Web site: www.colorado.edu/hazards/qr2002.html, or by requesting a 2002 QR Program Announcement from Mary Fran Myers, Co-Director, Natural Hazards Center, 482 UCB, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0482; (303) 492-2150; fax: (303) 492-2151; e-mail: email@example.com. The deadline for proposal submission is October 15, 2001.
The full texts of Quick Response reports published since November 1995 can be obtained from the Natural Hazards Center's web site: www.colorado.edu/hazards/qr/qr.html. A complete list of all past Quick Response reports and all our other publications, along with their prices, is available at no charge from http://www.colorado.edu/hazards/pubs. This list can also be purchased for $4.00 from the Publications Administrator at the address below.
The Natural Hazards Center's Quick Response Program discussed above has resulted in over 100 reports on disasters of almost all kinds. The newest studies include:
Quick Response Report #135: ''We Want Work'': Rural Women in the Gujarat Drought and Earthquake (24 pp.), by Elaine Enarson, Institute for Women's Studies and Services, Metropolitan State College.
In March, the Disaster Mitigation Institute (DMI) in Ahmedabad, India, assessed the compound effects of sustained drought and January's massive Bhuj earthquake on the livelihoods of poor women in the district of Surendranagar. DMI approaches disasters as ''unresolved problems arising from the very processes of development,'' and women's livelihoods in disaster-vulnerable regions and their roles in disaster recovery are a particular concern. This report provides the major findings of the DMI study. It addresses, in turn, indicators of gender vulnerability in India and Surendranagar, the guiding research questions, the research method and study site, findings and implications, future research needs, and final observations.
Quick Response Report #136: South Carolina Drought Mitigation and Response Assessment: 1998-2000 Drought (31 pp.), by Cody L. Knutson, Water Policy Consultant, and Michael J. Hayes, National Drought Mitigation Center, University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
This study is an assessment of the effects of a once-in-a-hundred-year drought in South Carolina, beginning in June 1998 and continuing into this year. The study was undertaken to provide a ''snapshot'' of the state's primary drought concerns, impacts, and mitigation and response measures. It includes its own general findings and recommendations, the recommendations of the state's Drought Response Committees (DRCs), and more specific recommendations regarding tourism and recreation, agricultural production, water suppliers, rural water, environmental issues, and forest and timber reserves.
A complete list of Quick Response reports is available on-line from www.colorado.edu/hazards/qr/qr.html. Printed copies can be purchased for $5.00 each, plus shipping ($5.00, U.S.; $8.00, Canada; $12.00, Mexico; $18.00, beyond North America). Orders should be directed to the Publications Administrator, Natural Hazards Center, 482 UCB, University of Colorado, Boulder, CO 80309-0482; (303) 492-6819; fax: (303) 492-2151; e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Prepayment is required, and checks should be payable to the University of Colorado. Matercard, Visa, American Express, and Diner's Club cards are also accepted.
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